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Mullins Hut

Mullins Hut

(Mullins Hut: Photo Andrew Buglass 2021)

Maintenance Status

Mullins was designated as minimal maintenance by DOC in 2004. In February 2021 Richard Shields acquired some BCT funding and with some DOC input carried out a total makeover on the Hut. This included the installation of a woodburner funded by the Permolat Trust. Richard's star cast included Armin Thuma architect who did the plan, and Grant Stevens who engineered it to adapt the traditional S81 plan to fit current building codes. The others in the group were Pam Stevens, Leeanne O'Brian, Geoff Joyce and Lawrie Mead. The access track to Mullins basin from the Toaroha valley is being maintained by the Permolat group and was recut by Roger Woods and friends in March 2019.

Location

Toaroha catchment. GPS Ref: E1447037/ N5237863 (BV19 470 379). Map BV19. Altitude 870m. Mullins Hut is located at the top end of a large tussock flat in the hanging basin portion of Mullins Creek. It is a beautiful and tranquil spot that doesn't get a lot of traffic despite being accessible in a day from the Toaroha roadend. Sub-alpine forest cloaks the surrounding hillsides and there are views out over to the Toaroha Range. Mullins Creek drops from the basin into the Toaroha River over a spectacular waterfall and the whio that inhabit the area can often be seen in its deep clear pools and rapids. A number of interesting tops journeys can be made in and out of Mullins Basin. Accounts of these can be found in the original NZFS hutbook that dates back 30 years in about as many pages. Visits to the Hut have increased since it was profiled on the site, and the track opened up, but it's still relatively low use. 2019 was a good year with 17 visits, compared with seven in the year prior.

Mullins Hut location

Access

Valley access to Mullins Hut requires a ford of the Toaroha River and as such is very weather dependent. The turnoff from the Top Toaroha track is at a routered wooden sign an hour or so up from Cedar Flat Hut and the River is crossed at this point. Historically and at normal flows the ford here has been relatively easy and occasionally one could jump between the large flat boulders without getting wet feet. In March 2021 however it had become trickier with the River channeling through two narrow chutes and care needs to be taken. You may want to consider heading downstream a bit to find a safer crossing. This will no doubt change again at some point.

The Mullins track starts at GPS Ref: E1447987/ 5239350N ((BV19 479 392) 20 metres up the TR of a small side-creek across the River in a diagonal from the turnoff sign. It climbs up a steep, narrow ridge to around the 700m contour then veers South and climb/ sidles across the bush faces for 20 minutes or so. At a dry creek bed the track exits on the TR and climbs onto a narrow ridge with pink pine and leatherwood forest and then sidles off this into a small creek catchment. You need to wade up the stream a short distance to another exit on the TR and a track leading up through scattered pink pine and alpine scrub onto a knoll overlooking the basin. Drop into the Creek (entrance point GPS Ref: E1447331/ N5238245) and follow it wading and fording where necessary, to the Hut. Allow 2.5-3 hours to Mullins Hut from Cedar Flat, or 6-8 hours from the Toaroha roadend.

Type

Mullins was a standard NZFS 4-bunk S81 design built in 1960. It had its original chimney and fireplace removed early. The new woodburner is its first means of heating in several decades as it gets very cold up there in Winter. The new hut frame is strengthened to meet modern building codes and building paper provides much improved heat insulation. There is no toilet, and water is from the Creek. A woodshed was constructed out of the old hut frame, roof iron and cladding.

Condition

Mullins Hut is in mint condition currently and should be for some years to come. It did get some minimal maintenance from DOC in 2004 and volunteers in 2008, and in 2104 the Brennan family of Ross and Hokitika gave it a repaint. In the recent rebuild the Hut was demolished down to the floor, the sub-floor strengthened, and the four original corner piles replaced. An entirely new pre-built frame knocked together in the Hokitika workshop by DOC's Miquel Dijkstra was choppered in and placed on the base. The Hut was recladded, double glazed windows were fitted, and a new roof and ridging added. The bunks were placed down one wall to make space for the woodburner. The flue was knocked together by Duncan Hamilton of Dwan and Andrews in Hokitika.

Routes

There is a high-level route to and from Mullins basin over the Diedrichs Range that has become increasingly popular. Access to the tussock is up a small scrubby rib on the TL of the basin between two small side-creeks (around E1446823 N5238000 (BV19 468 380))). A rough trail is followed that emerges in more open country at GPS: E1446713/ N5238159. Continue North crossing a small creek marked on the map, then head directly up the faces in a NW direction staying on the TL of the creek. The creek turns into quite a deep slot which you can only sidle back into at the very top. The terrain flattens at 1400m and a beeline is made across the top basin of Marcus Creek to the flat area which is the low point between points 1780m and 1610m. There is a rock cairn and an iron stake just off the crest here with the flattened remains of the old Jumble Top Biv a short distance below. Continue along the Range past points 1610m and 1612m to a small sharp peak at E1445735/ N5240927 (BV19 457 409) just before Jumble Top. A steep, exposed rocky section on its northern approach needs to be downclimbed with care. This bit can be bypassed on the Diedrichs Creek side by dropping down a steep scree, and climbing back onto the Range further along via the TR fork of the scree. The detour takes an extra 20 minutes and and from here on travel is straightforward. There is a large tarn with good campsites on the SE side of Squall Peak and a track down to Cedar Flat can be picked up in patchy scrub on the Peak's NW spur at 1090m (GPS E1447197/ N5242071). Waratahs lead from the open tussock down to its top entrance. The track drops through the alpine scrub zone, then veers SE onto an open knoll at 950m. It drops steeply from here down through the sub-alpine and rata bands down to the Flat. The route was recut and marked in May and July 2020. A fit experienced party could probably do the trip over to Cedar Flat in 6-7 hours in good conditions. Add an hour or two for the reverse crossing.

Gerhardt Spur Biv can be accessed either by traversing Jumble Top and following Gerhard Spur down, or by dropping down a steep scree from the low point between points 1612 and 1610m, into the upper TL fork of Diedrichs Creek. Climb from the confluence of TR and TL fork more or less directly up the steep tussock faces onto Gerhardt Spur, connecting at around the 1300m contour. The Biv is visible from the top of the Range in fine conditions. Allow around 4-5 hours to reach Gerhardt from Mullins. Ice axes should be carried on these crossings in winter and spring.

The upper TL branch of Mullins Creek is negotiable as far as the waterfall at E1446515/ N5237253 (BV19 465 373). Exit here up the small steep side-creek on the TL of the fall and climb to the 1600m mark on the SE ridge of the low peak of Mt. O'Connor. It is a very easy sidle from here across the basin under the middle and high peaks of O'Connor, then along a conspicuous bench to the low point NW of point 1718m.

Serpentine Hut in the Hokitika can be accessed by dropping off the Range at around E1445682/ N5236537 (BV19 457 365) and heading down the prominent SW running spur below. The top of this descent is very steep and may require ice axes in winter and spring. The spur was once tracked from the scrubline down to the Hut, and although it had an NZFS animal and vegetation survey line superimposed on it in the mid 1980's, it is now unfollowable. A few bits of permolat can still be found here and there, but it's essentially a pure bush-bash down to the River. The bottom portion of the track was cut from Serpentine Hut up to the 450m contour in 2017.

Another option is a traverse Mt. O'Connor and a descent of Serpentine Creek. The Creek's upper basin is easy travel with good campsites. Further down the going is rough with waterfalls that have to be skirted through steep bush. This route has been mentioned three times in the last 32 years in the Serpentine Hut books. Two of the accounts were neutral, the third and most recent (2011) highly scathing of its value as a route. It is around a half an hour's travel from the Creek up to the Hut. The tracked sections from Serpentine Creek to Serpentine Hut were recut in 2015.

The route to the upper TR basin of Mullins Creek is up the main branch to just before the start of a deep, slotted gorge. A rock cairn at a small side-creek on the TR (E1446987/ N5237610 (BV19 470 376)) just below the first big pool in the main Creek marks the exit point. There is some quite thick scrub in here which was cut back a bit in 2008, but has regrown. It's a bit of a grovel in places but preferable to its alternatives. Follow the side-creek taking the TL branch where it forks and becomes quite narrow. It eventually leads to the scrub boundary in the upper basin around E1447123/ N5237324 (BV19 471 373). A number of lines are possible from here through scattered scrub and tussock up onto the northern flanks of Mt. Ross.

Frisco Hut in the Hokitika can be accessed down Mt. Ross's broad SE face as far as a prominent bench at the 1500m contour. An rocky gut provides easy access from the SW end of the bench (around E1447618/ N5234888 (BV19 476 348)) down into the Darby Creek basin. Head up Darby Creek for a bit then turn up the first side creek coming in on the TR, taking the TR branches as it forks, that leads to a short tussock basin and onto the ridge just north of point 1510m. Drop down the SW spur of this peak to an obvious tussock bench with tarns just above the scrubline. Waratahs and the odd bit of permolat lead from the SW corner of this bench down through scattered alpine scrub to the top the scrub faces above the Hut (E1446195/ N5234400 (BV19 462 344)). The toilet and part of the roof should be visible from here. Follow the markers off the edge of the bench down the faces into narrow gut that leads through olearia forest to intersect the Darby Creek track 50m East of the Hut. The tracked portion was recut and marked in March 2018. Allow 5-7 hours for the crossing from Mullins to Frisco.

Darby Creek basin can also be accessed over the col between Mt. Ross and point 1718m on the Diedrichs Range. The faces on the Darby Creek side of the col are eroding and exposed, with some vertical sections that are not visible from above. Your best bet is down a scree that drops diagonally from the lowest point in the Range into the Creek. Climb from the Creek up onto the ridge of the TR of the basin and follow this down to point 1510m. The route from here to Frisco Hut is the same as the Mt. Ross route.

Top Toaroha Hut can be accessed from Mullins Hut via the prominent spur that runs in a dog-leg due North from Mt. Ross to point 1251m. Drop from the flat bench above the 1400m contour of this spur into the North branch of the large unnamed side-creek draining the eastern faces of Mt. Ross. The tussock faces at the top of the descent are steep, but the creek provides nice, albeit steep rocky staircase, with a couple of small waterfalls near the bottom that can be skirted without too much difficulty. There is an excellent two-tier rock bivvy on the TL of the main creek, 100m upstream from where the Top Toaroha track crosses it. The remains of the old Top Toaraoha Hut can be found in olearia scrub just below the rock biv.

Toaroha Saddle Biv can accessed over Mt. Ross. It is a long gentle descent along the crest of the Range to the Saddle. Allow 4-5 hours for the crossing.

Repairs Needed

None currently. A fly-in group recently took a pile of old framing out of the woodshed and placed it on the tussock flat to make a less boggy pad for the machine when they flew out. Can someone put this back in the woodshed so it doesn't get soggy. They also cut down a live mountain holly to replace the wood they used. This wood is very dense and will take ages to season. Please don't cut down the live trees in the alpine forest around the Hut. they are extremely slow growing and a shed full of green wood is of no use to the next party. Wood gathered needs to be either dead standing or driftwood from the Creek. Please replace the wood you use and cut it into lengths that fit the woodburner.

Provisions on Site

An axe, a saw, a billy, a small camp oven, a slasher, two can openers, an egg beater, a shovel, a broom, an aluminium bucket, an aluminium basin, a dust pan and brush, and a spare slasher handle, a sealant gun, a tube of sealant, a hammer, 4 paint brushes, a couple of rollers, 2 new roller sleeves, and an aluminium ladder. Under the hut there are some lengths of 125x125 timber for piles and a couple of tanalised posts.