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Griffin Creek Hut

Griffin Creek Hut

(Griffin Creek Hut: Photo Mark Buckley 2004)

Maintenance Status

Griffin Creek Hut is fully maintained by DOC currently. It's access tracks are not officially maintained, but are being kept open and in reasonable condition by Permolat volunteers. The track from Harrington Creek on SH73 September was last trimmed by myself in May 2016, but still needs a fair bit of tidying up, and more markers added. The route from Rocky Creek in the Taipo is currently being worked on by Frank King and Honora Renwick.

Location

Taramakau catchment. Map BV20. Grid Ref: E1467740/ N5260395. Altitude 665m. Griffin Creek Hut is located in the Griffin Creek basin, 4-5 hour's walk from from Harrington Creek Bridge on State Highway 73 or a day's walk from the Taipo Bridge via Rocky Creek. The Hut is in a small clearing on a terrace next to Griffin Creek and is surrounded by montane forest with emergent pahautea (mountain cedar). Griffin Creek forks into several branches just upstream of the Hut and is negotiable for only a short stretch before becoming gorgy. The first section has a small waterfall and picturesque, amethyst pools that flow through water-sculpted rock. A 40m waterfall bars all progress a kilometer or so further upstream.

Griffin Creek Hut Hut location

Griffin Creek drops from the end of the basin down through an impassable gorge with waterfall to the Taramakau River. A concession has been granted for a small 1.3MW hydro scheme on this section to pipe water from an intake at the lip of the basin down to a small powerhouse near the Highway. None of this is visible from any of the routes to the Hut, but will reduce water flows down in the gorge by half, for half of the time. All the the routes into Griffin Hut require a climb of some sort. It is a great overnight trip and also starting point for a number of longer tops crossings to remoter spots.

Access

The access track over into Griffin Creek from Harringtons Creek is reasonably OK to follow in most places, although care is needed to stay on the track on some sections of the bush faces between Harringtons Creek and the main ridge. These bits aren't well permolatted currently, but have a fair bit of cruise-tape throughout. Some sections of the track from the Wilson Knob Turnoff down into the basin still need a good trim. The track starts on SH73 on the TL of Harrington Creek. You can legally park on an old section of highway next to the Creek, however it's courteous to check in with the farmer before you do. Follow the line of the old highway to a gate. Go through this and follow the outside of the fenceline for 400m on the TL of Harrington Creek into a patch of regenerating hardwood forest. Follow the track for 20 minutes to where the valley begins to narrow and the track crosses the Creek. The route climbs steeply up the bush faces from here, changing direction and zigging across in a couple of spots, before climbing again. The track connects with the spur bounding Griffin Creek at around 740m and follows this for a half hour to the Wilson Knob turn-off at point 974m. There there is a small clearing here and the remains of an iron water drum.

The Griffin Creek track drops due East from the turnoff down a steep side-ridge into the basin below. This section was trimmed in 2016, but needs more work. Once in Griffin Creek it's an easy 40 minute amble upstream to the Hut. Numerous crossings of the Creek are required, but this is not usually a problem at normal flows. There are two short sections of track on the TR below and above the creek draining Rocky Creek Saddle. The track proper starts 50m up the creek that drains Scottys Saddle. From here it is around 15 minutes at a reasonably gentle gradient along the river terraces to the Hut. Allow 4-5 hours to Griffin Creek Hut from the Highway.

The other commonly used route into Griffin Creek is from the Taipo valley over a low bush saddle near the head of Rocky Creek. The tracked sections of the route have been kept open by Frank King and Honora Renwick, and others. The the lower portion of the Griffin Creek section is still overgrow, but can be followed with a reasonable degree of bush nous.

From Rocky Creek Biv follow the Creek upstream. There is small waterfall in the upper section that has a permolatted detour on the TR. The up to the saddle starts just above a large open on the TL a follows up through the bush for 10 minutes. Frank and Honora cleared all the overhanging growth and marked and taped to the top of the saddle in 2014. The track drops from the saddle into the Griffin catchment and follows an unnamed stream down to Griffin Creek. There is still a bit of the route in the head of the creek that needs cutting. Further down the track exits the creek on the TL crosses over into its TL fork. Frank and Honora intend going back in and doing the unfinished bits of this route as soon as weather permits. Continue down the creek to where a track exits on the TL and crosses over a low ridge into the creek draining Scottys Saddle. It goes down its TR for 400m, intersecting with the Griffin Creek Hut track 20m upstream from Griffin Creek. The Hut is 15 minutes upriver from here. Allow at least eight hours to Griffin Creek Hut from the Taipo bridge, or 3-4 hours from Rocky Creek Biv.

There is a chopper pad next to the Hut. The scrub surrounding the pad was cleared back in May 2016.

Type

Griffin Creek Hut is a standard NZFS SF81 4-bunk design with open fire, built in 1963. It was lined at a later point in time. Water is from the small creek just past the toilet. There is a cast iron bathtub next to the river, about 100m from the Hut, and there's nothing quite like firing it up and sitting under the stars on a clear night.

Condition

Griffin Hut is in good condition currently. It received little official maintenance from the mid-1980's until 2004, but during this time was adopted and kept lovingly maintained, embellished and provisioned by John Dainty and friends. A mining company that briefly opened up the Mt. Griffin serpentine mine kindly dropped off that bathtub in the Griffin for John Dainty, who installed it. The Hut was repainted and resealed by DOC in the Autumn of 2004. There is warping in the wall lining under both windows and a couple small damp patches on the floor, one on the right of the hearth, and the other at the base of the northern cupboard divider. The outside of the chimney has a rust line across it level with the top of the hearth. This is going to split at some point in the not too distant future.

Routes

An old NZFS track provides access to Wilson Knob and the Griffin Range from the Griffin Creek turnoff on the Harrington Creek track at point 974m. It is partially overgrown in places with flax and leatherwood, but still easily followable. Alan Jemison did some cutting and cruise-taping on the track in December 2006 and plans to do some more at some point. The remnants of a pre-World War I serpentine mine and cableway can be found a fair distance up the Range on the flanks of Mt. Griffin. The serpentinite was sawn into slabs and used in several major buildings such as the D.I.C. Building, Dunedin, and the National Insurance Building in Christchurch. The quarry closed in 1915, but was re-opened briefly in 1991 by South Pacific Resources Ltd. to produce tiles. There is a breathtaking drop-off on the the Little Wainihnihi side of the Range.

Scottys Biv can be accessed up the second side-creek downstream from Griffin Creek Hut. The Rocky Creek track can be followed up the side-creek to where it crosses to the TR, and the creek followed from this point. Travel is straightforward initially, but gets progressively steeper and rougher further up. A series of small bouldery cataracts require a reasonable degree of strength and agility to negotiate if soloing. It's definitely easier with two or more. A waterfall near the top of the creek is skirted by a short section of track through the alpine scrub on its TR. Above this the creek opens out and becomes a dry gut. Exit the gut around the 1320m contour and head up a scree on the TR to the unnamed saddle directly above (E1469280/ N5259365). There is a large boulder near the top with a cairn that is visible from the gut. The Saddle is 200m South of Scottys Saddle (the approaches to Scottys Saddle from the TR fork of the creek are very steep and not recommended as a route). From Scottys Saddle it is a 20 minute descent in an easterly direction down a series of tussock benches to Scottys Biv. Allow 3-4 hours for the journey over from Griffin Hut.

Newton Creek basin and Newton Creek Hut can be accessed from a number of points on the Tara Tama Range. There are numerous lines down the tussock faces or ridges. The upper basin is open tussock and easy travel. Further down in the alpine scrub zone it pays to stick to the creekbed as much as possible. A scrub-bash through montane forest on the TR is required to skirt a bouldery section of the Creek not far above the Hut. This isn't too bad if you pick the right line. Allow 5-6 hours from Griffin Hut to Newton Creek Hut.

Dunns Hut in the Taipo can be accessed from Griffin Creek via the Scottys Biv route and the Tara Tama Range. This is a relatively easy route when the mountain is snow-free with some nice tarns and campsites SW of point 1516m. Drop eastwards from Tara Tama's summit onto a flat rocky bench at around the 1650m mark. Head SE from here and drop off the bench into a scree gut bounded by large and spectacular rock outcrops that leads onto a broad spur bounding Dunns Creek. Access from the spur into Dunns basin is down an open gut that enters Dunns Creek 20 minutes upstream of the Hut, at E1471066/ N5256463. There is a cairn at the top of the drop-off, and a steep tussock face provides access into the gut, which is easy open travel. In the colder months the gut works as an avalanche chute and should be avoided after heavy snowfalls.

It is also possible to access Dunns Hut from the Griffin via the Tara Tama Range, Dunns Saddle, and the upper TL branch of Dunns Creek. A steep section of the Range immediately above Dunns Saddle can be avoided by dropping from the bench NW of point 1751m and sidling across a steep scree on the Newton Creek side. Sidle at around the 1520m contour and back onto the main ridge just above Dunns Saddle. Travel down the TL Branch of Dunns to the Hut is usually straightforward, although there is some avalanche risk in the head of the Creek head from the Tara Tama side after heavy snowfalls. Ice axes (and possibly crampons) may be necessary on both traverses during the colder months.

Top Olderog Biv can also be accessed from the Griffin via the Scottys Biv route and the Tara Tama Range. Once on the crest of the Range, it's an easy traverse around to point 1572m. The obvious traverse of Mt. Olson along the Olderog Range to the Biv is not recommended due to having a number of exposed, vertical sections. The alternatives involve either dropping into the head of the Wainihinihi basin, or the head of Olderog Creek, and climbing back onto the Olderog Range from further down these valleys. Access into the Wainihinihi is down a prominent spur that drops in a NW direction from the Range 500m SW of point 1572m. Don't drop all the way into Wainihinihi Creek, as there is a small canyon in its head at around 1000m. Instead sidle off the spur and across the tussock terraces on the TL of the valley at around 1050m. Cross a small side-creek around E1465798/ N5258420, and continue sidling into the next creek catchment. Access is down a series of smooth rock chutes in the creek bed to the Wainihinihi, then downriver to the large open flat in the upper basin. There are plenty of great camping spots here and no obvious signs of human visitation. Access up onto the Olderog Range is via the first side-creek downriver from Magnesite Creek. Head up through scattered alpine scub on the TL, dropping into the creek bed where it veers SW. Continue up a short distance the exit the creek up a steepish face that leads to the crest of the Range East of point 1430m. The drop-off point to the Biv is a couple of hundred metres east along the Range (around E1464410/ N5257820),and is marked with a cairn. The Biv is sited around a 100 vertical metres below the crest of the Range and is visible from near the top in fine weather. It would be quite easy to miss the bench where the Biv is located if it was claggy!

The second access option for Top Olderog is to continue along the Range from point 1572m to the col between point 1566m and Mt. Olson. Drop from here down a steep narrow rock gut into the head of Olderog Creek and follow it down. There are a couple of small cascades to negotiate, the longest of which can be skirted on a smooth-rock ledge on its TR. Exit the Olderog at a small side-creek that comes in on the TR at E1464688/ N5257080. Climb up the side-creek, then some steepish tussock ribs to around 1250m, then sidle downriver to the bench where the Biv is located. The crossings from the Griffin to Top Olderog would take a fit experienced party a long day in good conditions. In would be worthwhile to carrying a tent and breaking the trip into two stages. There is purportedly a rock biv somewhere in the head of Olderog Creek, but no information on hand about its exact location, size, or suitability

Scottys Range can be traversed from Scottys Saddle and is quite easy travel in good conditions. An old NZFS tops at the end of the Range provides access down to the Taipo valley just below Seven Mile Creek. Its top entrance is on the scrubline around E1473975/ N526143 the track has been kept in useable condition by the Permolat Group. It was last given a trim and some marking in 2013 and is still reasonably easy to follow. A ford of the Taipo is required at the bottom, making it a fine weather only route. There used to be quite a good one where the track hits the River, but apparently this has all changed and it may be necessary to head up or downiver to find a suitable crossing. Water needs to be carried from Scottys Saddle onward, as there is no reliable source until a rusting drum at 950m on the tops track. Allow 7-8 hours from Griffin Creek to Seven Mile Creek.

Razorback Ridge in the head of the Griffin is true to its name and not traversable without ropes according to the few who have passed this way. It is possible to sidle beneath the troublesome section on the Wainihinihi side. The approach from the Tara Tama Range is down the ridge SW of point 1572m, then into the head of Wainihinihi Creek. Sidle out of the Creek on the TR and head along the 1060m contour to the fork in the first side-creek downvalley (E1465628/ N5258785). Climb the dividing ridge between this and the next creek downriver, onto the Griffin Range West of point 1491m. The remnants of a pre-WWI serpentine quarry and cableway are still visible further along between Mt. Griffin and Wilson Knob. The serpentine was sawn into slabs and used in building. The quarry was run by Germans and was closed in 1915 and the Germans interned. It was re-opened in 1991 by South Pacific Resources Ltd to produce tiles. The Minister of Conservation shut the operation down in early 2000's. There a quite breathtaking vertical drop-off on the Little Wainihinihi side of the ridge. Continue down the ridge and over Wilson Knob to connect with the old tops track the leads down through the alpine scrub to the Griffin Creek turn-off. Its top entrance is a couple of hundred metres NE of point 1126m. The track is partially overgrown, but mostly easy to follow. It had some trimming and cruise-taping done on it in 2006 by Alan Jemison, who intends coming back at some stage and tidying it up a bit more.

Repairs needed

A bit of sealing work might be needed on the Hut. Someone would need to be there during heavy rain to find out if and where water was coming in. The chimney is likely to need patching in the medium term. The access track from Harringtons Creek still needs more trimming and marking.

Provisions on Site

Six Billies, two small frypans, a camp oven, an axe, and an aluminium basin. John has left a heap of his gear and provisions in the Hut with an invitation to to make use of them. There are several buckets, blankets, pillows, a spare mattress, multiple utensils, nails, a roll of permolat, sealant, a sealant gun, flat files of various gauges, a wire brush, a sledgehammer, a hammer, a slasher, a pruning saw, shovels, tins and buckets of paint, cans of oil (chainsaw?), 10 spare glass louvre panes, and more!

Permolat Flyer

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