Showing posts with label DOC Huts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DOC Huts. Show all posts

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Hut bagging....200+ backcountry huts visited!!!

Breaking the hut bagging double century.....

As you may know I am a member of the Hut Bagger website....this is a place where you can keep a record of the back-country huts you have visited over the years. In recent years I have tailoring a number of my trip towards acquiring more is an excellent way to motivate you to visit places outside your usual orbit. 

Rakuira Track Biodiversity 199th hut visited!!!

On my recent trip to Rakuira I achieved a milestone of sorts...I visited my 197, 198, 199 and 200th back country huts. Two hundred sounds like a lot of huts but it pales in comparison to other notable people on the Hut Bagger site who have visited 800-900 huts over the years.

Jacks Hut in Arthurs Pass National first back-country hut

The first back-country hut I ever visited was Jacks Hut in Arthur's Pass National Park in 1981 or 1982. Back then school groups used to visit the park on the regular passenger train to Greymouth. I think the train cost about $20-30 dollars return...unfortunately it is now $300 since it became a tourist focused 'Great Journey". 

We went to Arthur's Pass in Standard 3/4 (year 5/6 I think...) and one of the things we did while there was to walk up to the then extant Bealey Glacier going past Jacks Hut. Jacks Hut has been a roadman's hut, trampers hut, personal holiday home and historic site over its 100+ years. 

The 200th hut I visited was North Arm Hut on Rakuira/Stewart Island about as far removed in age, size and form as you can get. They are both still shelter from the storm so their function is exactly the same. 

North Arm Hut on the Rakuira Track was my 200th hut visited...

Anyway I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the interesting and or significant huts I have visited over the years. 

Other notable huts in my tramping history...

Here are a few other notable huts I have visited over the years..

My latest hut bagged: Kohanga Atawhai/Manson-Nicholls Hut, Lake Daniels, Lewis Pass
Scenic Reserve (3rd July 2020)

The newest DOC hut in New Zealand, Kohanga Atawhai/Manson-Nicholls Hut

This hut will change with every new hut I bag going forward......

Most nights spent in: Magdalen Hut II, Lake Sumner Forest Park

This is the hut I have stayed the most nights in...9 nights in total...I really love this 6 bunker just off the St James Walkway and always schedule a night in the hut if I am visiting the area. 

Magdalen hut on the St James Walkway

The hut I have spent the second most nights in is Lakehead Hut at Nelson Lakes NP which I have slept in for nine nights as well.

Most visited: Packhorse Hut, Banks Peninsula

Every tramper I know has a special hut that they return to often, one that just gets under your skin and compels you to visit on a regular basis. Some people have more than one hut they feel this way about. For me that hut is the Packhorse on Banks Peninsula...I have only spent four nights in the hut but have visited it 11 times now.

Packhorse Hut, Kaituna Saddle, Banks Peninsula

Packhorse Hut is now more than 110 years old...originally built as part of Harry Ells plan for a tramping route right around Lytellton Harbor. It has had a renovation and new lease of life with the growing interest in Te Ara Pataka a multiday track from Hilltop Tavern to Gebbies Pass. With four tracks to the hut and awesome views from its perch on Kaituna Saddle it is a must visit for any Canterbury tramper. 

Oldest hut visited: Westlawn Hut, Mt Tongariro National Park

I have visited a number of huts which are more than 100 years old over the years...usually they are old musterer's huts that came into the DOC estate during tenure review. Some of them are also dedicated recreation huts that were built by various tramping clubs over the years.

The grand old lady....Westlawn Hut, Tongariro National Park

The oldest hut I have stayed in is Westlawn Hut...officially in Tongariro National Park although actually it is on the Waiouru Army Training Area in the Central North Island. Westlawn was built in the early 1890's as a farm house but is now used as a recreation hut by trampers and hunters in the military services. Other notable old huts I have been to are Bealey Spur Hut (1895), Whawharangi Hut (1905), Old Waihohonu (1903) and Lake Emma Hut (late 1890's).

Largest Hut visited (non Great Walk): Carrington Hut, Arthur's Pass NP

Most backcountry huts are quite modest in size...usually from 2-16 bunks with the majority either 6 bunks or 10/12 bunks. There are some much larger buildings though...Great Walk Huts, guided walk lodges and the odd DOC monster like the infamous 80 bunk Pinnacles Hut in the Coromandel.

Carrington Hut, Arthur's Pass National Park...gateway to the Three Passes, Barker Hut and Waimakiriri Falls

I have stayed in several large huts for example West Sabine Hut (32 bunks), McKellar (28 bunks) and Mintaro/Clinton/Dumpling Hut (at 40 bunks each). The largest non great walk hut I have stayed at is actually Carrington Hut in Arthur's Pass NP. This beauty is at the head of the Waimakiriri River and at 36 bunks is one of the largest non bookable Standard/Serviced huts in New Zealand.

Largest Hut visited (Great Walk): Clinton/Mintaro/Dumpling Huts

Great Walk huts are all about excess...because they are catering for a lot of international visitors they tend to be newer, larger and more lavishly appointed than your old NZFS 6 bunker. I have stayed in a number of Great Walk Huts now but the largest I have yet visited are Clinton, Mintaro and Dumpling Huts on the Milford Track

Clinton Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

Mintaro Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

Dumpling Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland National Park

All of these huts are 40 bunkers with Mintaro the oldest of the three having been built in the late 1980's. Both Clinton and Dumpling are huts from the 2000's and have the amenities you would expect...separate bunk-rooms, large living spaces, large decks, flush toilets and cooking facilities. It is a unique style suited to mass tramping and has a charm of its is interesting how they have adapted a basic design to fit the space at each hut site. 

Highest Hut visited: Mueller IV Hut, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

New Zealand is a high mountainous country with a long and distinguished history of climbing facilitated to a large part by the Southern Alps. With several mountains over 3000 meters and dozens of others over 2000 meters they have always acted as a training ground for those with a passion for heights. Because of this interest there are a number of high altitude mountain huts scattered around the country. 

Mueller IV Hut at Aoraki/Mt Cook NP

I am not a climber so I have not visited many of our high altitude huts...but I have been to a couple. The highest hut I have ever stayed in was the fourth Mueller Hut (1957-2003) in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Resting at 1820 meters this is by far the highest hut I have has spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers and is a hard but not technical spot to visit over the summer months.

Other notable high huts I have visited are the Temple Basin ski huts at 1600 asl and some of the Mt Ruapehu/Wakapapa Ski Field huts at between 1600-1700 meters. 

My favorite hut:John Tait Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson Lakes NP is my favorite tramping destination in New Zealand...I love its long golden valleys and high mountains peaks crossed by a number of passes and saddles. Behind Arthur's Pass it is really my tramping home ground. My favorite hut in the park is mid way up the Traver's Valley it is John Tait Hut. 

John Tait Hut, mid region of Travers Valley, Nelson Lakes NP

Interior of John Tait Hut, Nelson Lakes NP

John Tait is not the largest, newest or most picturesque hut but I just love is a great example of the old style mid sized tramping hut. I like the platform bunks...the centrally located wood burner..the awesome river views from the hut. It is a real cracker!!! 

John Tait is right in the middle of a avalanche chute so it is slated for removal and a new hut is going to be built a bit further down river. It is a damn shame....I have had some great nights in this hut.

Bark Bay Hut on the Abel Tasman is my second favorite hut....

Bark Bay Hut, Abel Tasman National Park

Best hut converted from another structure: Otamahua/Quail Island Hut, Quail Island, Banks Peninsula

Otamahua is not a brand new is an old farm cottage renovated in late 2019 in fine fashion to provide an easy introductory tramping experience for people in Canterbury. It opened for visits in January 2020 and is already wildly popular with families, groups and individuals....

Otamahua Hut on Quail Island, Banks Peninsula

Otamahua/Quail Island is in the middle of Lytellton Harbor and has been used over the years as a penal colony, leper colony, quarantine station and farm. It is now owned by DOC but administered by a trust who are in the process of re-foresting the island in the native bush it was once covered with.

Interior of the Otamahua Hut on Quail Island, Banks Peninsula

Quail Island can be reached by water-taxi from the Port of Lytellton and should be a must visit location for anyone who lives in Canterbury. 

Most recently built hut: Kohanga Atawhai/Manson Nicholls Hut, Lake Daniells

The original Manson-Nicholls hut was a memorial hut built but the family and friends of three Canterbury Tramping Club members who perished when the old Lake Daniells Fishing Hut was destroyed in a landslide back in 1974. Brian and Sharon Manson and Philip Nicholls were killed instantly while a fourth person was seriously injured. 

A group of close friends and family decided to build a new hut in memory of the victims and it faithfully served as a treasured tramping destinations for over 40 years. 

The Manson-Nicholls Memorial Hut back in 2016...

Back in 2017 DOC did a survey of the hut and decided that it needed to be replaced as it had multiple serious problems with the structure. It was not going to be cost effective to repair the hut and it was not configured well for the needs of modern families and school groups who often used the hut. A decision was made to replace the structure...the new hut named Kohanga Atawhai/Manson-Nicholls Hut is the result.

The brand new Kohanga Atawhai/Manson-Nicholls Hut at Lake Daniells

The new hut is an absolute is a 20 bunker with a generous dining/living area and has a dedicated Hut Wardens quarters, a new covered campsite shelter and several other out buildings. It has been built to allow expansion in the future as required and I am sure it will be a much treasured asset for many decades to come. I am pleased they kept the Manson-Nicholls name as it is important to treasure our tramping history. 

Kohanga Atawhai/Manson-Nicholls Hut: the new campsite cooking shelter

Kohanga Atawhai/Manson-Nicholls Hut: interior of the dining/living space

DOC took the bold decision to enlarge the clearing the hut was in...I think it was a good choice. It is now much more airy and the hut will be bathed in sunlight for most of the day. There is also more dry land for tents thus allowing more people to enjoy the area. There is firewood from the downed trees for at lest 5 years as a by product.

Other recent hut additions are Otamatua/Quail Island Hut (2019),  Packhorse Biv (2018), Rod Donald Hut (2018) and Rakuira Track Biodiversity Biv (2017)...

Huts I have visited that are no longer with us: Various locations

Some were removed, others were destroyed in fires, slips or floods etc...all sadly missed!!

Mueller IV, Aoraki/Mt Cook NP...removed in 2003

Hawdon Hut I, Arthur's Pass NP...burnt down in 2003

Casey Hut, Arthur's Pass NP...burnt down in 2015

Howdon Hut, Routeburn Track, Fiordland...hit by landslide in 2020..she is a goner!!!

Nina Hut I, Lake Sumner FP...removed in 2005

Rollo Wilkinsons Hut in the Abel Tasman being removed in 2017

Manson-Nicholls Memorial Hut replaced with Kohanga Atawhai/Manson Nicholls Hut

I am now on my way past my 210th back-country my current rate of hut bagging (roughly 10 huts a year) I should be up around 300 by the time I am 62....something to look forward too!!!

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

The newest DOC hut: Otamahua...

Otamahua Hut opens on Quail Island

New Zealand's newest DOC hut opened over the weekend, it is Otamahua Hut on Quail Island in the centre of Lyttleton Harbour.

The recently restored Otamahua Hut on Quail Island

This is another step in the Department of Conservation/Rod Donald Trust's long term plan to provide more opportunities for Christchurch residents to enjoy outdoor pursuits on Banks Peninsula.

There are now three DOC huts within an hours drive of the city, all on the DOC Hut booking site. The other two are Rod Donald Hut overlooking Little River/Western Valley and Packhorse Hut on Kaituna Pass.

Conversion of an older building

The hut is a conversion undertaken on the old rangers house located on the northern western side of the island, it was also previously the Heritage Centre for Quail Island. The new hut has been configured as a serviced 12 bunk hut, with a separate hut wardens quarters so it can be used for work parties to the island.

It has all the features of a DOC serviced hut: bunks, tables, water source, toilets and wood burner with wood provided.

I mentioned the ongoing conversion in a post I wrote after visiting Quail Island in January 2018, it has taken nearly10 months to be completed but is now open and ready to be used over the 2018/19 Christmas period.  

The hut can be booked on the DOC hut booking page, you can book out the whole hut or just the number of beds you need.Good back-country hut etiquette is to only book the number of places you need, so just do that!

Please don't book out the whole hut so you and the missus can have some 'private time' on Quail Island...other people will want to us it as well. 

Materials waiting inside Otamahua Hut for the conversion to begin in 2017

The hut is great news as it allows people the chance to visit the island and stay overnight while experiencing what it is like to stay in a DOC hut. The track to the hut is very easy to negotiate so this hut can be used by people of all ages: families, children and older folk included.

I can see the hut being used by groups ranging from families, school groups, guides/scouts and groups of older trampers reliving their glory days...

DOC Otamahua/Quail Island Brochure

You can check out the useful brochure about visiting Otamahua/Quail Island on the DOC website...

The completed hut, cica 2019...

I recently visited Otamahua/Quail Island and took some photos of the completed hut. DOC have done a magnificent job of converting the building and a half full intentions bock attests to the popularity of the experience.

Otamahua/Quail Island Hut: a Scout group arriving at the hut

Otamahua/Quail Island Hut: interior photo of the dining area

Opening plaque at Otamahua/Quail Island Hut

Otamahua/Quail Island Hut: interior view of the kitchen

Bunkroom 1 in Otamahua/Quail Island Hut

Bunkroom 2 in Otamahua/Quail Island Hut

Otamahua/Quail Island Hut: excellent wood burner installed

Otamahua/Quail Island Hut: I love those unique and super funky shelf support arms

Rodent proof boxes for your food at Otamahua/Quail Island Hut

Otamahua/Quail Island Hut: beautiful location, excellent hut. 

The new hut is a real jewel and I imagine it will become the first back country hut many, many Cantabrians visit over the coming years...

Damn fine job to all the participants in the build!

A joint venture...

The new hut is a joint venture between the Department of Conservation, Quail Island Ecological Restoration Trust and the Rod Donald Trust. The two trusts largely raised the funds for the renovation while DOC provided the builders to undertake the work. All three will contribute to the upkeep of the hut. 

Map: Otamahua/Quail Island...The new hut is located where the old Heritage Centre was...

Collaborative joint ventures are the way forward when it comes to building new huts and tracks, this one is no exception. DOC are interested in promoting recreation while the Rod Donald Trust is doing a fantastic job of promoting outdoor pursuits on Banks Peninsula. The Ecological Trust have been working for 25 years replanting Otamahua with native trees to restore it to its pre European condition.

All three of their interests dovetail here therefore providing the motive power to get this project off the ground.

View of the interior of Otamahua Hut while under renovation, photo from Rod Donald Trust site

Here is a blub from the DOC page about the history of the hut and Otamahua/Quail Island:


┼îtamahua/Quail Island has a rich history and culture. The Island has been used as a quarantine station for sick immigrants before they were allowed on the mainland. It has also been used to house New Zealand’s only leper colony as well as training animals for early Antarctic expeditions.
The hut was built in approximately 1910, mostly by prisoners of the Lyttelton Jail. It was used as a caretaker’s cottage up until the early 1980s. Between 1906 and 1925, the caretakers provided cooked food for the lepers. In 1982, the hut was converted into the Island’s interpretation centre.

Since being converted into overnight accommodation, the interpretation panels will now be housed in the Immigrant Barracks on Whakamaru Beach (Swimmers Beach).

Completed Otamahua Hut, repainted and ready to be used...

If you would like more information check out this report on the Rod Donald Trust website or have a look at the Otamahua page on the DOC site

Go there and enjoy the views!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

A curious pastime....Hut Bagging!

"It's all about bagging those huts, baby....!!!"

Hut Bagging:  I have talked about this subject before but I thought a more in depth exploration could be useful.

Newest public hut in New Zealand...Rod Donald Hut on Banks Peninsula

We are very lucky in New Zealand to have a collection of huts available for the public to use at a minimal charge,  at last count there were over 970 huts. These range from tiny 2 person bivouacs or "dog boxes" (they look like a doghouse),  right up to Great Walk monster huts which sleep 50-100 people. They have a varied background: DOC huts, ex New Zealand Forestry Service huts, miner's huts, research stations, climbing/skiing/tramping club shelters or ex farm accommodation.

How about bagging John Tait Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park?

These are mostly managed by the Department of Conservation or DOC as we call it.
No one including DOC are exactly sure how many huts exist as a variety of factors effects what you class as a hut. Huts are constantly being added and subtracted from the equation.

Hut bagging: the hobby!

Because of this profusion of huts we have a peculiar outdoor hobby in New Zealand of visiting or "bagging" as many of them as possible. There are many trampers who have visited over 400 huts and there several people close to reaching all 970+ huts. I would be surprised if anyone has visited all of the potential huts but a lot of people must be close.

Coldwater Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park

My personal hut bag is now 122, by the end of 2017 I hope to have passed the 130 mark. (As of January 2019 I am up to 151 huts visited....) I don't usually tramp just to claim a hut but I have pointed my trips towards this end on occasion. For example, I have the Windy Point-Hope River-Doubtful River-Nina River circuit on my to do list both as a great trip and an opportunity to bag 6 new huts....Harpers Pass route equals 8 new huts etc.

There is a website called Hut Bagger NZ where you can collate information about your particular bag. This can be shared with others on the site or kept personal, you should check it out if interested.

My favourite North Island Huts

I don't often get up to the North Island, so haven't done that much tramping north of Wellington. When I was in the Army in the late 1980-1990's I did a few trips, mostly in the Lake Waikeremoana/Kaimaniwa's/Central Plateau regions. 

One of my most memorable trips was the Lake Waikeremoana circuit, it is a Great Walk now but back then it was less developed. 

You stay for a night at Panekire Hut on the bluffs high above Lake Waikeremoana. 

Panekire Hut high on the Lake Waikeremoana Great Walk

Awesome views of the surrounding wilderness from the bluffs, really spectacular.

The famous view from the Panekire Bluffs, from Wilderness Magazine

Another oddity I have visited is Westlawn Hut which is a historic 1890's station house deep in the back blocks of the Army Training Grounds, Waiouru. It is used by military personal as a hunting/tramping hut now. This charmer is a bit draughty but still keeps out the rain by the way, it is the oldest hut I have ever visited in New Zealand. 

Historic Westlawn Hut built in the 1890's

One more from the North Island is Ketetahi Hut on the Tongariro Crossing. It used to be a 20 bunk hut, but it was damaged in a volcanic eruption in 2012 and is now only a day shelter.  

Back in the 1990's I stayed here with some army buddies for a night. 

Ketetahi Hut on the flank of Mt Tongariro from NZ Trampers

My favourite South Island Huts

I live in the South Island of New Zealand and have done most of my tramping here so it is difficult for me to chose a best hut. Some are best for location, some are best for scenery some for the memories I have of them.

The first hut I visited after DOC was formed was the old Hawdon Hut in Arthurs Pass. I have always loved the all wood construction and the golden varnished finish of these Lockwood Huts. 

Old Hawdon Hut, Arthurs Pass NP: cira early 1990' first DOC Hut
Interior of a DOC Lockwood Hut...this is Carrington Hut
My two main tramping haunts are Arthur's Pass NP and Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve, I am slowly but surely walking all the tracks in both locations.

One of my favourites:Nina Hut Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve

The most scenic hut I have ever stayed in is Mueller Hut in Mt Cook/Aoraki National Park. It sits high above the surrounding valleys with spectacular views of Mt Cook, Mt Tasman and various glaciers. The photo below is of Mueller Hut III, the hut I stayed at Mueller Hut II was replaced in the early 90's.

Mt Cook from Mueller Hut III, DOC website
The hut I have visited the most in all of New Zealand is Packhorse Hut on Banks Peninsula. I have been here either for day trips or overnight stays 9 times now. It is a real charmer with those stone walls and dramatic location.

Recently renovated and added to the hut booking system, this is a great location for a first overnight tramping trip. It is part of the Summit Walkway/Te Ara Pataka, an awesome first multi day tramp.

Packhorse Hut, high above Lytelton Harbour
This is the hut I have stayed the most consecutive days in, Magdalen Hut near Lewis Pass. I stayed here for 3 days, 2 nights in early is a lovely new style 6 bunker.

Magdalen Hut, St James Conservation Area
The smallest hut I have ever stayed in is the Packhorse Biv near Kaituna Pas on Banks Peninsula. My daughter and I stayed here twice while acting as the volunteer hut warden for nearby Packhorse Hut.

Packhorse Biv, Kaituna Pass, Banks Peninsula
My favourite Great Walk hut is Bark Bay Hut in the Abel Tasman National Park. The hut is huge with 32 bunks in it but the real draw-card is the beautiful lagoon right outside the front awesome place for a swim in the heat of summer.

Bark Bay Hut, Abel Tasman National Park

The beautiful lagoon at Bark Bay, Abel Tasman NP
Upper Travers Hut has majestic vistas of the massive mountains that surround it...

The most recent hut i have visited is Awapoto Hut on the Inland Track Abel Tasman National Park in the summer of 2018...

Awapoto Hut, Inland Track, Abel Tasman NP

Each of these huts have appealed to me on one level or another...

 A special note on walking the Te Araroa Trail

Te Araroa is the long distance trail running from Cape Reinga in the far north to Bluff deep in the south. If you are trekking the whole way and complete all sections you will stay in or pass by 58 huts, the rest of the time you will be camping. This puts you in the mid regions as a hut bagger.

Dracophyllum Hut in the Tararua Range is on the Te Araroa trail

Lagoon Saddle Hut, Craigieburn Forest Park is on the Te Araroa Trail

Anne Hut,  St James Conservation Area is on the Te Araroa...

Roses Hut on the Motatapu Track is also a Te Araroa trail hut

If travelling south, the first hut you will visit will be Pahautea, in Pirongia Forest Park, the last is Martins Hut down in Longwood Forest, Southland.

Pahautea Hut, Pirongia Forest Park

'Rustic' Martins Hut, Longwood Forest
When I finish section walking the TA it will have added an extra 40 odd huts to my bag. Now that is what I call an incentive to get out and do some tramping......