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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. Essential sections of the old NZFS tracks directly up the Kokatahi valley to the Junction are being maintained in a rudimentary fashion by the Permolat Group.

Location

Kokatahi catchment. Map BV19. Grid Ref: E1455989/ N5242063. 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 tracks and snow-poled sections on the upper valley circuit were last maintained by DOC in 2013. The original NZFS track up the TL of the Kokatahi from the roadend has been kept open by the Permolat Group as far as the Twins 3-wire. The rest is river travel on the TR. The most recent bit of maintenance on the Boo Boo - Twins track was done in 2015.

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.

Access directly up the Kokatahi valley from the Kokatahi roadend was, from the 1980's through to the early 2000's, an activity left mainly to the more hardy types. Unmaintained tracks and some seriously eroding sections of river kept most folk out of the lower valley. From 2005 onward the Permolat Group has managed to keep the essential parts of the old NZFS track open on the TL from Boo Boo Hut to the Twins 3-wire. From here it is river travel on the TR to the Junction. The removal of a swingbridge spanning the lower Crawford River in 2012 has added a new "x" factor to the journey, although the Crawford is usually fordable at the Junction at normal flows. The lower valley route is the quickest and most direct way of reaching Crawford Junction, however it does demand a higher level of skill and experience than the upper valley circuit.

It takes 3-4 hours to reach Boo Boo Hut from the roadend. From Boo Boo Hut the track sidles across the bush faces well above the Kokatahi for a half hour 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 then descends in a series of steps, angling towards the River. A steep gut around the 400m contour (Grid Ref: E1453517/ N5244218) provides access down into Pinnacle Creek. A few bits of track have been cut around in the scrub on the more exposed sections near the top of the gut. Once in Pinnacle Creek, follow the cairns upstream for around 200 metres, then exit on the TR and head up over a narrow eroding rib into Alice Creek. The track crosses Alice Creek and heads up the ridge between Alice and Meharry creeks. It crosses Meharry Creek and up a steep bank onto the terrace, the descends to clearing where the Twins hut site was. The track drops steeply from here down to the 3-wire. The track from Boo Boo to the three-wire was recut and marked in May 2017 Allow 1.5-2 hours currently from Boo Boo to the old Twins hutsite.

Once the three-wire is crossed it is mostly river travel (staying on the TR) all the way up to Crawford Junction. The odd short excursion into the bush is necessary to negotiate boulders or small bluffs. Allow 2-3 hours for the section from the three-wire to Crawford Junction Hut.

A routered sign at Crawford Junction saying 2-3 hours to Top Crawford Hut is a relic from the days when Top Crawford was located midway up the Crawford valley. A more realistic time would be 4-5 hours now, given that the Hut has been relocated in the valley head. The 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 and it takes 4-5 hours to get from Crawford Junction to Top Crawford Hut.

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 and a DOC sign reading, “Zit saddle”. At normal River flows it isn’t necessary to cross here, and the track continues up the TL. Further up it is necessary to cross the river 3 times before reaching the Hut. At high flows DOC recommend crossing the swingbridge and bush-bashing up the TR. Allow 4-5 hours to get to Top Kokatahi Hut from Crawford Junction.

Type

The original Crawford Junction Hut in the photo looks like an early NZFS 4-bunk S81 design, which would put its construction date somewhere in the late 1950's. The Hut was extended at some point (see second photo). Bill Johnson who did a lot of early hut building, told me my date seems well out to him, and that even the addition would have been quite a bit before 1957. He first used the Hut in April 1960 and said it was badly in need of care by then, and not a lot of fun to sleep in, with rats and possums rustling around at night. Crawford Junction and was reputed by some to have a ghost in residence. At some point the Kokatahi valley became stewardship land under the jurisdiction of Lands and Survey, and a new Hut was built next to the old one by the Department in the mid 1980's. The old hut was removed by DOC in the early 2000's. The current Hut is a Lands and Survey designed wooden construction from that period. The inside walls and floor are timber-lined and there is a spacious verandah at the front. Crawford Junction has six bunks with mattresses, and a wood burner, and is very cosy when the burner is cranked up. A roof-fed water tank provides water, and there is a loo. The only downside to this particular design is that rats are easily able to get in between the inner and outer wall linings. This has been a problem from time to time.

Condition

Top Crawford Hut was in good condition at last report.

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. 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

None currently.

Provisions on site

Unknown currently.