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(Frisco Hut: Photo Andrew Buglass 2007)
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 in terms of normal tramping 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 was open again for the first time in over 35 years.
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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
There is external rot on some of the piles, which are probably untreated silver pine,
however the cores seem still to be intact.
The floor is settling however and both outside bearers (running North-South) are rotting at the South end.
The western one was been propped between the piles and the joists with a 4x2 in 2015.
This should work for the
medium term. Water is getting in
under the end window and this will be affecting the integrity of the framing here.
I replaced a rotten dwang here in 2015.
There are damp patches on the floor to the left of the door and where the cupboard door meets the wall.
In 2017 Andre Winkleman replaced some of the nails in the wall cladding with hex bolts to try and make a tighter seal.
I put a bit of sealant in some of the gaps here shortly after.
The paint on the wall cladding on the East wall is peeling off in large flakes, and the cladding
at the South end has become discoloured with red algae. A few of the nails are
popping on the roof.
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
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.
Paul's planned maintenance includes the following:
Internal framing: Replace some studs, dwangs and purlins.
External bearers x2: Replace and repair.
Pile x1: Replace
Roof: Lift, install wire and paper underneath, and refasten. Install a new skylight and wide ridge capping.
Painting: Hut and toilet externally
Vegetation: Cut back
I'm not sure whether the woodburner will be going in at the same time as the above repairs, or as a separate project.
Please feel free to replace any of the flatheads that are lifting
on the exterior wall cladding with the hex bolts and ring spanner left in the Hut.
Also any leaks observed on rainy days can be dealt to with sealant provided - there is still half a tube left.
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. I've left, 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.