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Frisco Hut

Frisco Hut

(Frisco Hut: Photo Andrew Buglass 2018)

Maintenance Status

Frisco Hut is a community maintained hut under a general agreement Permolat has with DOC. It formed part of a hut and track network established in the Hokitika valley by the NZFS in the late 1950's. NZFS stopped maintaining the access tracks connecting Frisco in the mid 1970's, and by the turn of the century they had overgrown and vanished in many places. Frisco remained isolated from track access for a good 20 years and received few visits, although 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 Frew - Toaroha circuit, then in 2015/ 16 opened the downvalley tracks all the way from the Whitcombe Junction.

In April 2017 Paul Reid of Permolat used Back Country Trust funding to carry out some major maintenance and install a woodburner that was kindly donated by Mauricio Lloreda of Nelson. Access tracks will continue to be maintained by Permolat.


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. There a palpable feeling of isolation and solitude at Frisco and the in original NZFS hutbook the visits between 1983 and 2003 take up a mere half dozen pages. By 2000 visits were averaging around one every 2-3 years. Traffic picked up when the Hut was first profiled on this site in 2004, and following the trackwork, increased again. 2017 was a record year with 16 visits. There are still a few deer on the tops directly above the Hut judging by their well-used trails.

Frisco Hut location


Access Frisco from Serpentine Hut is along the riverbed initially 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 10-15 minutes up and around a large waterfall. After dropping back the River is followed to a short section of track just before Bonar Creek, after which it is boulderhopping again 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 at the bottom ford.

The climb up to Frisco starts on the TL of Nogo Creek and goes up the ridge on its TL. There are plots from a 1985 animal and vegetation survey line on the ridge, and permolat stakes and tagged trees can be spotted here and there. The track levels at point 910m and crosses an undulating sub-alpine bench with tarns, open marshy patches, and some well-used deer trails. It leaves the bench and climbs a bit before sidling off the ridge at the turnoff to an ancient and probably unfollowable tops track. It is another 15-20 minutes of up and down across the bush faces to the Hut. Allow 3-4 hours currently for the journey from Serpentine to Frisco. The track was retrimmed in October 2018 and is in good condition.

Upriver access to Frisco from Poet Hut and Bluff Hut is from the Bluff swingbridge. A short section of the old NZFS track from the bridge heading downriver was recut in 2017. It drops onto the riverbed which is then followed for 15 minutes to Darby Creek. The Creek would be uncrossable after heavy rain. The track entrance is 100m up Darby Creek on the TR and is marked with a white permolat "T." It follows the ridge up to the 800m contour where veers West and sidles downriver across the bush faces. The route crosses a series of old regenerating slips and a couple of actively eroding bits that need to be upclimbed to maintain the sidle. The open sections are marked with poles and cairns. After crossing the slips the track enters montane forest and sidles in and out of the upper branches of Detour Creek to the Hut. The track up the ridge was trimmed in April 2019 and the sidle section recut and marked in 2018. Allow around 3-4 hours to reach Frisco from either Bluff or Poet Hut.

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


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.


Frisco Hut is in really good shape currently. In 2004 DOC replaced some of the framing and one of the piles, some floorboards by the door, the wire mesh on the bunks with wooden slats, and removed one of the door cupboards to make more space. In 2017 Paul and company replaced the roof and some of the frame, sub-floor timber, and piles. The end window was re-flashed, the woodburner installed, and a small woodshed built. The remaining cupboard was removed and the bench shifted to the NW corner to allow room for the woodburner. Some major clearance of vegetation was done around the hut site. In March 2018 a second work crew went in and sealed and repainted the Hut. The end window was rebuilt and sealed and the flue modified. A plastic PVC sheet was installed under the skylight to reduce condensation. More trackwork was carried out on the sidle portions on the main valley track, and the tops access route. In April 2019 Andre Winkleman added a metal cowling to the flue to protect the rubber flashing from kea.


There are a number of tops routes to Frisco over the Diedrich Range that require reasonably high levels of fitness and experience. The first from Mullins Basin follows the TR fork of Mullins Creek, just upstream from Mullins Hut, until just before the start a steep-sided gorge. A rock cairn at a small side-creek on the TR (E1446987/ N5237610) 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. 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). Waratahs 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 drops down the scrub faces into a gut which passes through olearia forest and intersects the Darby Creek track 50m East of the Hut. The tracked portion was cut and marked in March 2018. 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. Your best bet is down a a scree that drops diagonally south from the lowest point of the Range into Darby Creek. Cross Darby Creek, 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.

A traverse of the Diedrichs Range is possible from Frisco to Gerhardt Spur Biv. Use the tops track adjacent to the Hut to access point 1510m. Continuing up the spur to point 1718m and 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 down a scree into the head of Diedrichs Creek from the saddle just North of point 1610m. Climb from the top fork of the Creek up the tussock faces onto Gerhardt Spur, connecting with the Spur around the 1300m mark.


Nil currently.

Provisions on Site

Four billies, a broom, 10 perspex louvre panes, a large box of assorted small flathead nails, a quantity of permolat, an aluminium wash basin, a small camp oven, an axe, a slasher, a shovel, a flat file, and some leftovers from a roll of No. 8 wire, a small quantity of sealant and sealant gun, a small wooden stool, assorted lengths of 4x2 and one 6x1, and a short section of the original flue cowling.