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Otehake Hut

Otehake Hut

(Otehake Hut: Photo Hugh Van Noorden 2016)

Maintenance Status

Otehake Hut is Permolat's latest maintain-by-community project, with Hugh Van Noorden as signatory. Up until now Otehake Hut was in an interesting maintenance set-up. Although sited in Arthur's Pass National Park, it was maintained by DOC Hokitika. Being a reasonably remote and low-use facility, that meant in reality low to no maintenance, although the Hut is in pretty good shape still, relatively speaking. The route up the Otehake River from Lake Kaurapataka had also been zero/ low maintenance affair, for quite some time. For a while, from the late 60's to the early 80's, the Otehake valley was gazetted as a wilderness area and the track was left to run down. That designation lapsed at some point and DOC, or members of the public may have done a bit of work. DOC at the very least went in and threw a few orange triangles on some of the trees. This aside, the route most used for access according to the hutbook, is the one from the Canterbury side of the Divide via Taruahuna Pass. Few parties if any have come up the main valley in recent years, although a few head down that way. Hugh intends getting the track up to a more user-friendly standard later this year.

Location

Taramakau catchment. Grid Ref: E1494663/ N5254195. Map BV21. Altitude 640m. Otehake Hut is located in montane beech forest near the head of the Otehake River, which is a tributary of the Taramakau River. The Hut has historically been low-use, receiving 6-10 visits per year.

Access

Main valley access to Otehake Hut is from the the Aitkens Corner carpark on State Highway 73, nine kilometres North of Otira. Markers lead from the car park along the fenceline, across the paddocks, and through small gate to the Otira River. Cross the braids of Otira River channels on a NE diagonal to the end point of bush on the TR of the Otira. From the junction either follow the poles along the bush fringes on the TL of the Taramakau, or continue NE across the river flats and pick up the 4WD track further up. The latter is faster and more direct, although both routes merge a little further on.

Follow the 4WD track to 100m before Pfeifer Creek, where the lake Kaurapataka track turns off. Poles lead SE from the road through patches of gorse and regenerating scrub to the Creek. The track crosses and follows the TR of Pfeifer Creek to Lake Creek, and follows the TL of Lake Creek, then around the southern edge of the Lake. The lakeside section of track passes some magnificent 40m tall specimens of Red Beech with impressive butressed roots. The track to and around the Lake is fully maintained by DOC. The track splits on the low bush saddle at the Eastern end of the Lake. The left branch drops into the Otehake River, and the right continues up the valley to the Hut.

The track idles above the Otehake Gorge for half a kilometre then drops to the River. Follow the River for 1.5km to just above the hot spring (on the opposite bank) before re-entering the bush. From here it is 6km of sidling along bush faces on an overgrown track, however an experienced party shouldn't have too much trouble following the trackline. The Hut is sited on the terrace on the TL of the West Otehake 100m above its confluence with the East Otehake. Allow 7-9 hours to reach Otehake Hut from Aitkens corner. The section from Otehake River to the Hut takes around five hours.

A flood track down the TR of the Otira from the Deception Footbridge was recut in 2012, and adds a good hour to the trip. An emergency shelter marked on the topo maps at the Taramakau junction has been washed away.

The second principle point of access for Otehake Hut is via crossings of the Main Divide from the Edwards and Hawdon valleys. The most straightforward and direct of these is from Edwards Hut and the upper Edwards basin. It is easy open tussock and riverbed travel to Taruahuna Pass, the across the bouldery remnants of the Falling Mountain avalanche, and down into the West Otehake basin. The marking on the high terrace around the shingle bluffs the TL between the Pass down and Sally Lake Stream is poor and the scrub needs cutting. If the river is low, it is easier to follow the river. From Sally Lake Stream to the Hut the marking is prolific red, white, and orange, but the windfalls haven't been cut for long time. Allow around 4hrs for the crossing from Hut to Hut when the route is snow-free.

The second route from the Hawdon involves crossing Walker Pass into the head of the East Otehake, then up and over Tarn Col which drops onto Taruahuna Pass. There is a good cut track from Hawdon Hut up into the basin of Twin Fall Stream. From here the route is poled up to and over Walker Pass. Follow the East Otehake down for 800m to the first big side creek on the TL and follow this up to Tarn Col. It is a short descent from here down to Taruahuna Pass. Allow 5-6 hours for the crossing from Hawdon Hut to Otehake Hut in good conditions.

Commercial helicopter access into the Otehake valley is prohibited by APNP policy.

Type

Otehake Hut is a extended SF70 6-bunk open fire design built by the NZFS in the late 1960's. An vestibule extension vestibule with door was added, probably a short time after. A new toilet was built reasonably recently. Water is from the River. There is a small woodshed and plenty of firewood on the terraces away from the Hut.

Condition

Otehake Hut is in reasonably good shape, although well overdue for some TLC. DOC probably did a bit of minimal maintenance in 2004. Reports from 2015 and 16 indicate that the South side of the roof hasn't been painted for a considerable time and the paint is peeling. The rest of the Hut is overdue for painting, and both end windows need reflashing. Moisture has affected localised areas of sub-floor beneath small holes in floor where moisture has rotted the tongue and groove. The holes in the floor are by the hearth, around the door, and under the windows where the rain is presumably getting in, however he majority of the sub-floor and piles appear to be treated timber and look to be in good shape. One of the studs in the vestibule door frame has rotted at the bottom. There is the odd rat hole, and the interior lining needs fixing in places. The back of the iron surround in the interior fireplace has corroded out. This is not particularly serious, as the concrete filling between this and the outer chimney is still intact.

Routes

For adventure bunnies, there is an alternative option for the Hawdon access route directly down the East Otehake from Walker Pass. This involves some fairly rough river travel and is a fine weather only route. Travel is mostly easy down the riverbed. A first gorge section can sometimes be passed on steep mossy rock on the TL, or requires a short swim. A second constriction in the last kilometer before the junction and the Hut can be avoided by climbing 100m over the spur on the TL.

The creek on the TR of the Otehake, 300m down from the Hut, gives good access across to Chasm Stream and the Poulter valley. Use the scree in the TL head and cross the Main Divide at 1500m north of point 1647m. The ridge on the TL of the creek is also navigable.

Access to Lake Sally is gained up the ridge and loose bush covered slopes on the TR of the stream which drains it. Alternatively, ascend the slopes on the TL of the stream, sidling around the base of the East Ridge of Mt. Franklin to reach the Lake. There is a camp site under the knoll near the outlet. Ice axes and crampons need to be carried on this route in winter. The faces under Mt. Franklin are also highly avalanche prone at this time of year.

When the Koropuku River is low it is possible to travel up through its gorge from the Otehake to Koropuku Hut. There are some waterfalls that must be negotiated and it is pretty slow going in places. Probably more fun in high summer. More detailed route notes can be found on www.tramper.co.nz.

Kiwi Hut in the lower Taramakau is accessed from the start of the Koropuku track in the Otehake. Boulderhop downriver from here to the Taramakau, and cross where practicable upstream of the Otehake to pick up the 4WD track upsteam of Jacksons Creek. The Kiwi Hut turn-off is marked with a large routered sign. There is a track through a patch of beech, then a big grassy clearing to cross to get to the low terrace where the Hut is located. It takes around an hour and a half from the bottom end of the Koropuku tack to Kiwi Hut. This is a fine weather route, obviously.

Repairs

The Hut needs painting and re-sealing. The damaged lining needs replacing and the various small holes and areas of rot need fixing. A bit of sub-floor work may be required. Both windows need re-flashing, and the door stud replaced. Some repairs to the inner fireplace will be required longer term. Some major major trackwork is needed both up and downvalley of the Hut, including windfall removal.

Provisions on Site

Known provisions are an axe, two billies, an original NZFS wall-mounted can opener, and a shovel.