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Crawford Junction Hut

Crawford Junction Hut

(Crawford Junction Hut: Photo Mitchell Everly 2017)

Maintenance status

Crawford Junction Hut and its access tracks and routes from Lathrop and Zit Saddles are fully maintained by DOC currently. The tracks in the lower Kokatahi and essential sections of the old NZFS track from the Twins 3-wire to the Junction are being maintained in a rudimentary fashion by the Permolat Group.

Location

Kokatahi catchment. Map BV19. Grid Ref: E1455989/ N5242063 (BV19 560 421). Altitude 433m. Crawford Junction Hut is located at the junction of the Crawford and Kokatahi Rivers. It is on the Lathrop Saddle - Zit Saddle circuit, a reasonably popular wilderness route of moderate difficulty. The forest around the junction is rata/ kamahi and hardwoods. There is a fairly large open river flat downriver from the Junction, and the hutsite is open and sunny.

Access

Visits to Crawford Junction these days are usually made by those doing Lathrop Saddle - Zit Saddle circuit, a DOC-maintained and reasonably well publicised remote back-country circuit. Travel from the Styx or Toaroha roadends to Crawford Junction using the circuit takes a good two, or more normally, three days.

Official maintenance of the track from Boo Boo Hut in the lower Kokatahi to Crawford Junction ceased sometime in the 1980's. In the ensuing years this part of the valley achieved considerable notoriety for its roughness, with accounts aplenty of epic trips in the Boo Boo and Crawford Junction hutbooks. Permolat volunteers re-opened the track from Boo Boo to the Twins 3-wire in 2005, and since then regular work has been done on it. The last section from the 3-wire to Crawford Junction is primarily river travel with a number of bush detours around bluffs and large boulders. These bits were first recut in November 2017, and have been checked regularly since then. There are many actively unstable sections in mid Kokatahi, exacerbated by increasingly frequent heavy rain events.

The track starts at the creek next to Boo Boo Hut and sidles across the bush faces for a half hour or so to some dry rocks. The larger and more weatherproof of these is 20m uphill from the track, but unfortunately there is no convenient water supply. The track descends from here in a series of steps back down towards the River. A steep eroding gut around the 400m contour provides access down into Pinnacle Creek. Cairns and cruise tape lead up the Creek a short distance, then exit on the TR and head up and over a narrow, actively eroding rib into Alice Creek. Cross Alice Creek and head up the ridge between Alice and Meharry creeks. The track crosses Meharry Creek onto the terrace and a clearing where Twins hut used to be, then drops steeply down to the River to the three-wire.

The TR section above the three-wire is mostly river travel, rough with large boulders and areas of active slippage. There are a number of short bush detours to negotiate bluffs and larger boulders, all of which were checked and trimmed in February 2020. Above Blue Duck Creek the valley opens out and it is easy travel across the river flats to the Crawford River. The Crawford is currently running in braids opposite Crawford Junction Hut is easy to ford at normal flows. This route should not be attempted when rivers are running high. Allow 3.5-4.5 hours to get up to Crawford Junction Hut from Boo Boo.

The Top Crawford Hut route follows the riverbed initially, for around 15 minutes. A track then enters the bush and passes through a nice patch of rata forest before hitting Farquharson Creek. This is a big stream that becomes rapidly impassable with heavy rain. The track leaves the River soon after here and begins a steepish climb up the bush faces before levelling and sidling at quite a high level above the Crawford River. It passes through the montane and subalpine zones on a gradual climb towards the top basin. The last 15-20 minutes before the basin is river travel. The track is in good condition currently.

The track from Crawford Junction Hut to Top Kokatahi Hut follows the TR of the upper Kokatahi until just past the first side-creek, where a cableway provides access to the TL. The track follows the TL for around four kilometres to a swingbridge. Part of this section is river travel and recent floods have shifted the riverbed in a number of places, meaning you now either have to wade, or bush bash. At the bridge there is a DOC sign reading, “Zit Saddle”. It wasn’t previously necessary to cross here. The track continues up the TL for 10 minutes to a ford, however this has become quite tricky since the floods of December 2019 and I’d recommend crossing the swingbridge and bush-bashing up the TR to connect with the track above the ford. There are two more fords within a short distance, back to the TL, then back again to the TR. From here to the Hut travel is rough, however the tracked bits are good going. Just below the Hut the River has cut against the bank in a couple of places and a couple of short scrub bashes are required. Allow 5 plus hours to get to Top Kokatahi Hut from Crawford Junction currently. Don’t attempt this route if the River is up.

Type

The original Crawford Junction Hut was probably built by the Department of Internal Affairs in the early/ mid 1950’s and extended at some point when NZFS took over the valley. Bill Johnson was a culler at the time and did a lot of early hut building. He first used the Hut in April 1960 and said it was already extended by then, badly in need of care, and not a lot of fun to sleep in with rats and possums rustling around at night. It was also reputed by some to have a ghost in residence. Lands and Survey built the new Hut next to the old one which served as a drying shed for possumers until removed by DOC in the early 2000's. The current Hut is a wooden cladded structure, the inside walls and floor timber-lined, and has a spacious veranda at the front. There are six bunks with mattresses, and a wood burner, and the Hut is cozy when the burner is cranked up. There is a roof-fed water tank and a loo that has an impressive barrier fence to stop people falling three metres down onto the riverbed. The only downside to the Hut's design is that rats are easily able to get into the ceiling cavity. Luckily, they seem to confine themselves to this space, rustle about a bit in the early evening, then quieten down for the night.

Condition

Crawford Junction Hut is very good condition currently. In 2018 DOC Hokitika did a good round of maintenance. The rats had made a bit of a mess in the roof cavity, eating out a lot of the building paper and insulation, as well as a small section of the ceiling. The roof iron had to be removed to clean it up. The old wood burner was removed and a new one installed and shifted into the corner of the Hut. The vegetation around the hut was cleared back.

Routes

There are a couple of old tops tracks in the vicinity of Crawford Junction, neither of which are probably of much use anymore. One directly behind the Hut used to go up onto the Main Divide. It's pretty much unfollowable in most places now, but if you were silly enough to go up that way you will find the odd bit of permolat still. There is a nice tarn and campsite on the NW flank of Mt. Fitzgerald at around 1420m, and there is a good high sidle from here at just above the 1500m contour, to Clarkes Pass.

A saner approach to Clarkes Pass is via the Top Kokatahi track initially, as far as Clarkes Creek. There is a sign saying Clarkes Pass here. Ford and head up the ridge on the TL of the Creek. The bush isn't too bad going up the spur here, and at some point above the 800m contour it is possible to sidle into the Creek's upper basin. Don't go directly up the Creek unless you are comfortable contending with large waterfalls. Clarkes Creek basin is easy going generally, as are the approaches to Clarkes Pass. The Griffiths Stream side of the Pass is steep but straightforward, screes in late summer and autumn, and snow at other times. Ice axes and crampons are essential in the colder months as the slopes are shaded and will be icy a lot of the time.

There is an old NZFS tops track up onto Whitehorn Spur starting around E1456394/ N5242400 (BV19 564 424). The bottom end is very hard to follow, and it probably doesn't improve much further up, as the spur is quite broad. I don't have any recent reports on what it's like in the sub-alpine zone. Whitehorn Spur Biv marked on some of the older maps was removed in 2006.

There used to be tracks up both sides of the Kokatahi during the early NZFS era. The track up the TL of the valley to Crawford Junction from the Twins hut-site was reportedly still useable up until the late 1970's. Several sections of the TL bush faces where the track would have been have since slipped away into the River, and it's unlikely that what remains is followable anymore.

Repairs

Nil currently.

Provisions on site

A small pot, an axe, a bucket, a broom, a hearth brush and shovel, a small billy, a small pot, and a shovel. Under the Hut there is bits of a cableway tower, one long section of plastic downpipe, two rolls of no. 8 wire, a waratah, a sheet of corrugated iron, a roll of chicken wire, one large 8x2 with treads for roof painting and a few odds and sods of timber.