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Frisco Hut

Frisco Hut

(Frisco Hut: Photo Paul Reid 2017)

Maintenance Status

Frisco Hut is designated as minimal maintenance. The original access tracks put in by the NZFS weren't maintained from the mid 1970's onward and by the turn of the century had overgrown and vanished in many places. Frisco was cut off from track access for a good 20 years and received few visits. The Hut itself was maintained periodically and stayed pretty sound. In 2011 we recut the track up from Darby Creek to reconnect Frisco with the fully maintained Frew - Toaroha Saddle circuit and in 2015 finished the downvalley tracks to Serpentine Hut and the Whitcombe Junction. The entire lower Hokitika route is open again for the first time in over 35 years.

In April this year Paul Reid of Permolat used some High Country Consortium funding to carry out major maintenance and install a woodburner which was kindly donated by Mauricio Lloreda of Nelson.

Location

Hokitika catchment. Map BV19. Altitude 915m. Grid Ref: E1446095/ N5233930. Frisco is located on a bench in the montane zone, high above the Hokitika valley. There are great views out over to Conway Ridge, the Meta Range, and the peaks of the Whitcombe. On still days the occasional faint rumble of avalanches on the Bracken Snowfield can be heard above the distant roar of the Frisco Canyon. The sense of isolation and solitude at Frisco is palpable and the hutbook, an NZFS original chronicles 30 years of visits in a half dozen pages. By 2000 visits averaged around one every 2-3 years. This picked up a little when the Hut was profiled on this site. 2010 saw two visits, then two parties between 2011 and 14. 2016 was was a record buster with nine visits. There are plenty of deer on the tops directly above the Hut, their trails well used, and animals can been encountered now during daylight hours.

Frisco Hut location

Access

To access Frisco from Serpentine Hut follow the riverbed up past an active slip, then a short tracked section, followed by another river section, to the start of a small gorge at a bend in the River (around E1443912/ N5235376). The track enters the bush here and climbs up and around a large waterfall. After this there is a section of boulderhopping followed by a short section of track to Bonar Creek. It is boulderhopping from here to Nogo Creek. The waterfall bypass can be avoided when River levels are low by fording the River at the mouth of the gorge then recrossing upstream of the fall. There is a small bluff that must be negotiated on the TL just after the initial ford.

The climb up to Frisco starts on the TL of Nogo Creek and goes up the ridge on its TL. There are animal and vegetation survey plots every 400m or so, with permolat stakes, and tagged trees. In the montane zone the track levels at point 910m. and transects some open marshy holows and mossed-over tarns with some well-used deer trails. It climbs and sidles off the ridge at the turnoff to an ancient (probably unfollowable) tops track and heads upriver across the bush faces to the Hut. Allow 3-4 hours currently for the journey from Serpentine to Frisco.

Access to Frisco from Poet Hut in the Mungo valley, or Bluff Hut in the upper Hokitika is down the TR of the Hokitika from the Bluff swingbridge. Greg Ross flagged the remnants of the old NZFS track on the river terrace in 2015, but at the moment boulderhopping may be the best option to get down to Darby Creek. The Frisco track entrance is 100m up Darby Creek on the TR and is marked with a white permolat cross. The track follows the ridge up to the 800m contour. This portion was retrimmed and cruise-taped by Greg in 2015. At 800m the trail veers west off the ridge, drops down an old regenerating slip, and begins sidling downvalley across the bush faces. It crosses a series of old regenerating slips with a couple of actively eroding bits that need to be up and down-climbed to maintain the sidle. The entry and exit points on these are marked with a mix of permolat, cruise-tape and cairns. After crossing the slips the track enters the montane forest and sidles in and out of the upper branches of Detour Creek. At the end of this section there is a small regenerating slip that leads up onto the bench where the Hut is located. The route from Poet Hut to the Bluff bridge is mostly tracked with a bit of boulderhopping. Allow around three hours to reach Frisco from Bluff Hut, and 3.5 from Poet Hut.

There is an open area in front of the Hut that is used for helicopter access.

Type

Frisco is an NZFS 4-bunk S81 design built around 1964. This photo from the early 60's shows some NZFS cullers waiting for a chopper at the Hut site, prior to its construction. Frisco was a very basic design lined with tar paper and chicken wire. It started with an open fireplace that was probably removed in the late 60's. A toilet was added around 1983, constructed from materials salvaged from the dismantled Lower Toaroha and Lower Kokatahi huts. A small creek 20m down the Serpentine track provides water.

Condition

Frisco is in pretty good condition considering a two-decade maintenance gap from 1983 onward. In 2004 DOC replaced some of the framing and one of the piles, the wire mesh on the bunks with wooden slats, and removed one of the door cupboards to make more space. Paul and company have replaced the roof and some of the frame, sub-floor timber, and piles. The end window was re-flashed. The woodburner was installed and a small woodshed built. The remaining cupboard was removed and the bench shifted to the cupboard space to allow room for the woodburner. Some major clearance of vegetation was done around the hut site.

Routes

The most direct tops route to Frisco is over the Diedrich Range via Mullins Basin. This takes a couple of days and requires reasonably high levels of fitness and experience. Follow the TR fork of Mullins Creek, just upstream from Mullins Hut, until just before the start a steep-sided gorge. There is small stream that comes in on the TR here marked with a rock cairn and cruise tape. Head up the stream taking the TL fork where it branches. The water peters out further up and the dry bed is followed to where it emerges at the scrub edge in the upper basin, around E1447205/ N5237440. Head across the basin through scattered alpine scrub and up the NW running spur that divides the two main branches of the upper Creek. Mt. Ross is traversed to a flat bench SE of its summit at the 1500m contour. An open rock gut at the western end of the bench (E1447605/ N5234895) provides easy access down to the bottom end of Darby Creek basin.

Follow Darby Creek up a short distance, then climb out onto the steep ridge bounding the TR of the basin that leads up to point 1510m. Drop from the summit of 1510m down its SW spur onto a tussock bench with tarns just above the scrubline (E1446195/ N5234400). Cruise tape and the odd bit of permolat lead through scattered alpine scrub from here in a SW direction to the edge of the scrub faces above the Hut. The toilet and part of the roof should be visible from the drop-off point. The route goes down a steep narrow gut which opens out further down onto a slope with scattered olearia and open patches. After this it drops into a dry water course that is followed down for around 100 vertical metres to intersect the Darby Creek track just east of the Hut. The section down through the scrub is permolatted and there is a wooden sign marked 'tops' on a tree at the bottom junction. Simon Lewis, Mauricio Lloreda and Quentin Duthie recut and marked this route in April 2016. Allow 5-6 hours for the crossing from Mullins in good conditions.

A lower level crossing into Darby Creek basin is possible over an unnamed Saddle at the head of the upper Mullins basin. The faces on the Darby Creek side of this saddle are eroding and exposed however, with vertical sections not visible from above. Extreme care is required picking your route down into Darby Creek. Cross the Creek and climb up onto the ridge bounding the TR of the basin and follow this along to point 1510m. Access Frisco from here as per the Mt. Ross route.

Frisco Hut can be accessed from Top Toaroha Hut by following the blown-out creek that enters the Toaroha at the bottom of the lake. The creek, still actively eroding, provides access to the tussock and the SE ridge of Mt. Ross. Head up the ridge to the dip after point 1524m, then sidle off in a Westerly direction, roughly following the 1500m contour to the flat bench above Darby Creek. The rest of the route is the same as the Mullins route. Allow 4-6 hours for the journey from Top Toaroha to Frisco in good conditions.

Access to Frisco from Toaroha Saddle Biv is along the Diedrich Range to the dip after point 1524m and as per the Top Toaroha route from there.

Access to the Diedrich Range tops from Frisco is up the regenerating slip 50m East of the Hut. The route has been roughly trimmed and marked with cruise-tape and passes through a band of scattered large olearia before ascending a narrow steep rocky gut to the tussock line. A climb of point 1510m is a nice sunny day activity from Frisco and has exceptional views. A traverse of the Diedrichs Range is possible from here to Gerhardt Spur Biv by continuing up the spur to point 1718m. Follow the Diedrichs Range North, bypassing the middle and high peaks of Mt. O'Connor by sidling along a conspicuous bench at the 1600m contour on the Mullins basin side. Jumble Top has three small peaks on its South side that must be traversed. The last of these just north of point 1612m has a steep exposed rocky pitch on its northern approach, which some may find daunting to downclimb. This pitch can be avoided if necessary by dropping down a steep scree just South of the peak on the Diedrichs Creek side and climbing up the scree's TL fork back onto the Range North of the gnarly bit. The detour adds around 20 minutes to the traverse. The entire Jumble Top traverse can be avoided by dropping into the head of Diedrichs Creek. The top section of the descent is steep and a bit exposed also. Drop down to the top fork of the Creek and then climb from here up onto Gerhardt Spur a short distance East of the Biv.

Repairs

Frisco still needs sealing and painting. This will probably take place in the coming summer. Other jobs worth considering are building some bench seats for sitting around the fire, two more waratahs to secure the the wood shed, track work on the upper sidle part of the tops track, a plastic PVC sheet under the skylight. The end window needs replacing over the longer term, or at least a new sill, reinstatement of the other cooking bench, bunk steps, and a check of the boot flashing on the flue for any damage.

Provisions on Site

Two useable billies plus two the DOC contractors used to mix paint in. There is a broom, one glass and 10 perspex louvre panes, a large box of assorted small flathead nails, a small amount of white permolat, an aluminium wash basin, a small camp oven, a slasher, a shovel, a flat file, and some leftovers from a roll of No. 8 wire. Cruise-tape, a hammer, a tape measure, half a tube of sealant and sealant gun in the cupboard along with some 25mm hex bolts and a small 8mm ring spanner. There are also some 7.5x3.15mm flathead nails and a couple of 1m lengths of 2x2. The paint and paint gear for the coming summer are stashed on-site.