South Westland – 12-19 December 2021
Backcountry Trust board member Geoff Spearpoint has had a long association with the Paringa Valley, and over the last seven years has completed several maintenance trips to Tunnel Creek Hut. It lies near the head of the Paringa River, beneath Mt Zeilian and the impressive Douglas Spur, and provides important shelter for hunters, and trampers heading into the Hooker-Landsborough Wilderness Area.
Geoff has an ongoing management agreement to maintain the hut and Paringa Valley tracks with DOC Franz, which began in 2014. In December 2021, he was back at the hut with three other volunteers: Sven Brabyn, Raymond Ford and Jane Morris.
On 12 December 2021, the crew flew in with helicopter pilot James Scott. Three of the team tramped up to the Paringa Rock Bivouac, then cut and marked the track back to the hut. From 13-19 December, most of the team worked on the hut, with some also doing track cutting. On the 18th, James flew in to remove a slingload of gear and rubbish. Three of the team walked out the following day, en route doing track work down the valley.
Work on the hut included: removing any remaining lead nails and replacing them with were tek screws. The team water-blasted and scraped the roof, treated any rust spots with rust-kill primer and repainted it with two coats of Dulux paint.
Both window boxes were water-blasted, scraped down and repainted, as well as repairs made to a Louvre window handle. The external cladding and chimney also got fresh paint, and the team put in a concrete footing on the chimney.
The volunteers constructed two stool seats to replace the existing rickety stool, installed a new stainless steel bench, replaced all the mattress covers and fitted some blocks for easier access to the top bunks. The longdrop also got some attention, including replacing lead nails with tek screws, fresh paint, and a new toilet seat platform.
The track between the Paringa Rock Biv and Tunnel Creek Hut is now in reasonable shape. The hut environs were all cleared of fern, long grass, with some scrub cut back from near the hut. The track to the toilet was cleared right back, partly gravelled and track/toilet signs refurbished. The main valley track had significant work, particularly the upper part. However, some sections need further work, particularly lower down. The team placed a small sign near Ben Monk’s hut (with his permission) indicating where the track to Tunnel Creek Hut begins.
Altogether, the team spent 430 hours completing this work, including planning and sourcing materials, travel and writing the report. Many thanks to the BCT for funding the transport and materials, to Jeff Rawles at DOC Haast for organising a new logbook, mattress covers, and Dulux paint through the DOC partnerships programme. Thanks also to the ongoing support of Ben Monk, who farms the lower Paringa, and to James Scott for his professional flying.