Ivory Lake Hut Restoration
Ivory Lake Hut has long been a destination on every dedicated hut baggers list. It was built in 1970 from a standard NZFS S70 kitset hut that was ordered by Trevor Chinn for the team that planned to study the small Ivory Glacier. This team first went in to survey the area in April 1968. In the preceding years the NZFS had already built the first hut in the Waitaha Valley – Top Waitaha Hut which opened up the huge hunting basins in the upper valley. In those days there were no tracks in the lower valley and the standard access was up over the main divide via the well established network in the Whitcombe and Prices Basin.
Trevor's team of scientists arrived at Top Waitaha Hut somewhat weather beaten on the night of the 8th of April 1968 in the midst of a quickly developing storm. For the next three days they would be pinned down by this storm. It would be the storm that sunk the Waihine as it entered Wellington Harbour.
After the storm passed they carried on up to the glacier at the head of the valley and chose a spectacular site to make camp on the edge of the polished rock shelf near Ivory Lake. It became obvious, after the first season's work, that more permanent shelter would be required and the NZFS agreed to supply the standard hut. In true standardised fashion, the hut turned up complete with it's normal firebox and chimney even, though there was no firewood around for miles. At nearly 1400 meters it would be the highest and most extreme environment in New Zealand where anyone would build a standard S70 hut, a design meant for the shelter of the bush and valleys.
Later the 1970s scientists would build a storage site on the side of the hut and, by the 1990s after the work had finished, the hut was still full with much of the equipment left behind once the study was completed. The hut had stood the test of time quite well with very little maintenance, but by 2015 visitors were starting to notice that it was in need of a major round of maintenance.
In April 2016 Keith Riley and Martyn Bisdee flew in with Andersons Helicopters, completed some urgent repairs and did a baseline inspection of the hut. The door had blown off during the summer, letting water into the entry, and they replaced this with a temporary door to seal the hut for winter. During the inspection it was found the lean to that had been added to the hut had suffered snow loading damage and numerous rafters had cracked or bent.
The final trip to complete the restoration happened in March 2019. Marty Bisdee, Roo Riley (Keith's brother), Rory McDougall, Dennis and Justin Venable completed all the interior work over a few days which included new linings, architraves and skirting, shelves and coat racks and a few nice touches like a perspex protector for the historic map on the wall.
Fifty years on, this much loved old NZFS S70, never meant for such an extreme environment, looks set for another 50 years.
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