This site is provided and sponsored by where groups can collaborate easily using email.

Ivory Lake Hut

Ivory Lake Hut

(Ivory Lake Hut: Photo Willem Keuppens 2019)

Maintenance Status

Ivory Lake Hut is now a DOC/ community initiative. A local group of Kayakers who go by the name of Waitaha Awa Kaitiaki are in the process of getting an MOU drawn up with the Department to cement the relationship. Justin Venable of Hokitika is the signatory for this group. Ivory Lake Hut is generally considered one of the jewels in the crown of NZ remote high-country destinations. It had been in need of some major catch up maintenance to address moisture that had gotten into the walls, insulation and frame. Keith and a team of volunteers went in and did the work early 2017. Warren and Trevor Chinn did some more when they flew in to Ivory to celebrate Trevor's 80th birthday in April of that year. Justin Venable and some friends finished off the maintenance in March 2019. Ivory lake Hut featured in the December 2014 edition of the American Backpacker Magazine in an article titled, "Hike To The Best Hut In The World."

A local Helicopter company recently applied for a concession to carry out regular tourist landings at a number of remote locations, including Ivory Lake. The application is currently being processed by the Department and will be considered by the West Coast Te Tai Conservation Board and if approved, would constitute a major encroachment on the natural tranquillity and character of this special place. It's a real challenge and achievement to reach Ivory Lake by foot and its isolation and remote ambience are what make it unique. We invite all those concerned about this development to contact DOC Hokitika's Area Manager and give a strong shout for our quiet places.


Waitaha catchment. Map BW18. Grid Ref: 1430255E/ 5222095N (BW18 303 221). 1375m altitude. Ivory Lake Hut is located in the head of the Waitaha valley. It is perched on the glacially smoothed rock lip of the Ivory Lake cirque, just next to the outlet creek. The creek drops over sheer rock walls in a series of cascades into Stag Creek. Ivory Glacier has shrunk considerably over the last 40 years, a remnant now of how it looked in 1976 when I first visited. It was already in a state of collapse in the early 1970's when glaciologist Trevor Chinn began a landmark study on it. Atmospheric conditions some decades earlier had set the process in motion, exacerbated as we now know by human climatic influence. Ivory Lake is ringed by the jagged peaks of the Lange Range. Park Dome and Seddon Col are visible and reasonably accessible from the Hut.

Special Note

The Waitaha valley is an extremely rugged alpine environment, and its routes and tracks rudimentary. High levels of fitness and experience, specific to this type of country are essential, along with good quality gear. Many of the challenges encountered here are unique to New Zealand. Dense lowland rain forest, extremely rough, gorged rivers, unbridged side-creeks, impenetrable alpine scrub, permanent snow and glaciated tops, and extreme weather. Ivory Lake is eliciting an increasing amount of interest from from overseas visitors who don't have the necessary prerequisites for all of this. Having done a few of the easier and much better maintained tramps here, or hiked overseas, they assume that they can tackle the Waitaha. The various tales of woe in the hutbooks in the general area suggest this is not so. The specific skill sets that are essential here for safe travel can only be obtained experientially. In other words start with some easier routes. There are plenty on this website and if you find the track times and conditions on these don't meet your expectations, then you are definitely not up for Ivory Lake.


DOC ceased maintaining the mid and upper Waitaha valley tracks in the early 1990's. The Permolat group took on track maintenance in the mid 2000's and have made several trips into the valley since then to work on the tracks between Kiwi Flat Hut and Moonbeam Hut, and from Moonbeam to Chainman Creek. The cut tracks end at Chainman Creek, and a long and rugged stretch of riverbed travel needs to be traveled to access Top Waitaha Hut.

The route from Top Waitaha to Ivory Lake is a relative stroll compared to the trials and tribulations of lower and mid valley. Following the River up to the Reid/ Stag Creek confluence, then climb up onto the tussock bench on the TL of Stag Creek. The bench tapers out further up, with Stag Creek rising up through a series of small canyons to meet it. The Creek bed is followed from here to Ivory Lake outlet creek, which cascades down the sheer walls of the Ivory Lake cirque. The Hut is is perched on the lip of the cirque almost directly above, but is not visible from below. Cross to the TR of Stag Creek just above the outlet creek and wend your way up a roughly diagonal line through a series of ledges onto the bench where the Hut is. Ice axes and crampons may be necessary on this bit in winter and spring. There is a less exposed line a bit further up Stag Creek, up a gravelly ridge. Head up this to around Hut level, then sidle back to it. Allow around 2-3 hours for the journey from Top Waitaha Hut to Ivory Lake Hut, or 2.5-3 days from the Waitaha roadend.

There is an alternative and slightly quicker way of getting to Ivory Lake that avoids the rigours of the Waitaha valley. This is from the Mikonui and Tuke valleys, North of the Waitaha and incorporates some tops travel and an alpine crossing along with the ubiquitous bush and river travel. From Top Tuke Hut access to Ivory is from the head of the Tuke basin. Ease of travel in the upper Tuke is dependent on your ability to negotiate large boulders fringed by alpine scrub. There are some delightful pools on this section for those summer dips. Follow the upper TL fork of the river which has three branches that drain The Tusk and Sawtooth Ridge. Take the SE branch, exiting it on the TR at 1300m onto a flat bench on the broad spur that drops in a NW direction from the junction of Sawtooth Ridge and the SW ridge of Mt. Beaumont. Follow the spur up to the junction and continue towards point 2084m. There is a short, down-climb of around five metres just before point 2084m which is exposed, crumbly, and would be problematic for some. From here on it is reasonably straightforward, although a couple of bits on the lee side of points 2084m and 1870m might require crampons during the colder months if conditions were icy. From point 1870m, drop down the ridge on the TR of Ivory Lake, over point 1620m to the Hut. Allow 4-5 hours for the crossing from Top Tuke to Ivory Lake Hut. Doing the trip in reverse, from Ivory to Tuke has taken a few groups considerably longer (up to 11 hours). This is usually due to it being poor visibility, and them not connecting with the spur down into the Tuke. The guts on either side are deep, steep and eroding and the going is slow.

During the colder months snow often piles up to roof level on the Hut and it may be necessary to dig down to get the door open.


Ivory Lake Hut is a standard SF70 six bunk design built by the NZFS for the Ministry of Works in 1970 to allow the monitoring of glacier dynamics. The 1970's research team was led by glaciologist Trevor Chinn, and the data collected has proved invaluable in helping understand climate change. Ivory Lake was the highest altitude SF70 hut built, and has withstood the rigors of 40 years of severe alpine weather. A more detailed account of its construction and history can be found in, "Shelter From The Storm," by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown and Geoff Spearpoint. The standard fireplace extension was of no use at this altitude and was modified into a cooking alcove. A shed/ workshop was added onto the southern wall in 1972 by Trevor and his crew. The cooking alcove was removed in 2017 and an interior passage was created between the the Hut and shed which can be used as extra space. Ivory Hut's interior is lined and there is a double burner primus. Vistors need to bring their own kerosine and meths to pre-heat the primus. No toilet was ever built here, a potential problem given the dearth of vegetation and topsoil in the area. DOC were mulling over whether or not to rectify this, but nothing seems to have happened with that.


Ivory is in good condition now. The Waitaha Awa Kaitiaki crew removed the roof and reinsulated the cavity with Batts. This was covered with a synthetic building paper and the iron put back on with tech screws and cyclone washers. A damaged stringer connecting the shed to the Hut was jacked back and refastened. Extra purlins were added to the shed roof, which was extended 150mm to line up with the Hut roof. A flashing was installed between the junction of the hut and shed roof, The clutter in the shed was sorted and anything appearing to have historical significance was cleaned and stored on-site. The Hut's wall linings, insulation and vapour barrier were removed and replaced. An open and close ventilation system was installed. Both windows were replaced with new double glazed units and 10mm perspex was attached 5-10mm in front of the glass to protect against windblown stones. A new door was attached and underfloor insulation installed. The corners of the hut were re-flashed with flat-iron and the Hut resealed and re-painted. Gravel and vegetation that had built up against the East wall was dug back to bedrock and stone walls were built between external piles to stop wind and snow blowing under the Hut. In April 2017 Warren and Co. attached the shed's stringer to the Hut wall at top plate level with coach screws. An interior passage was created between the the Hut and shed. The shed is now a useable and easy to maintain extra space. A Waitaha Awa Kaitiaki work party in 2019 lined and painted the lean-to, attached architraves and skirting to doors/windows/wall and floor joins, provided perspex cover for the old archival maps, strengthened roof joists and replaced/repaired damaged dwangs and purlins,and added a few shelves and coat racks. A party in December 2019 noted a damp patch under the bunk by the door. Looks like water is getting in somewhere still.


A direct crossing of the Lange Range Price Basin Hut in the Whitcombe valley is possible from Ivory Hut. Access starts at the eastern shore of the Lake and goes directly up the scree (or snow depending on the season) faces to point 2056m. Drop from here down the ridge to Mt. Wylde Brown. A crumbling rock buttress near the top of the ridge can be sidled under on the South side. This is straightforward when snow-free, but would need ice axes and possibly crampons in winter and spring. The remainder of the ridge and the drop-off down into the Basin is easy going, although spaniards are fairly prolific in the tussock on the faces above the Hut. Allow 4-6 hours for the crossing.

Seddon Col can be accessed from Ivory Lake Hut by sidling along the TR faces Stag Creek staying roughly level with the Hut. These are quite deeply dissected by side-creeks and there are a couple of exposed sections to get around. It may be preferable to drop into Stag Creek and climb up onto a tussock bench that runs above its TL. This is easy travel and connects with the Creek around 1420m. The western side of Seddon Col is very straightforward loose scree/rocks, whilst the eastern side is of solid, smooth, glacial-carved schist. Moving due East from the col there's a simple, well graded V-chute which descends all the way down to the rubble/snow fields below. In the colder months this chute would be filled with snow, providing easy travel, whilst in late summer/ autumn it would be a fairly easy scramble, possibly slippery if wet. Direct access to the Lange from Seddon Col is blocked by a rock buttress just North of the Col. An easier alternative is to follow the upper TR branch of Stag Creek towards the saddle between points 2058m and 1956m.

Crossings to the Mikonui and the Whitcombe valleys can be made over point 1870m behind Ivory Glacier. Access is up the ridge on the TR of the Lake, usually a straightforward scramble. A couple of the steeper bits on the way up to point 2084m may need ice axes during the colder months, but are generally snow free from late summer. Just after point 2084 there is a short upclimb of around 5m that's a bit exposed and crumbly and could be problematic for some. It may be possible to skirt it by dropping down a couloir on the Watson Creek side and climbing back onto the main ridge further along. The couloir is on the shady side and has hard permanent snow. A short distance further there is a cairn marking the junction of Sawtooth Ridge and the SE ridge of Mt. Beaumont. Top Tuke Hut is accessed down a broad spur the drops NW between the two main upper branches of the Tuke River. Drop from where the spur flattens at 1300m, into the upper TL branch and follow it down to the River. This section does have large boulders surrounded by alpine scrub. There are easier and less easy ways through this, but you're going to have to figure this for yourselves. The last bit from where the River flattens to the Hut is reasonably straightforward with the odd bit of track through scattered scrub on the TR. The track up to the Hut goes up a small-side creek that comes in at E1428172/ N5226877 (BV18 282 269). Allow 4-5 hours for the crossing from Ivory Lake Top Tuke Hut.

Dickie Spur Hut can be accessed over Sawtooth Ridge and The Tusk. Sawtooth Ridge is traversable, but requires an ice axe. There is an exposed section with crumbly rock on Dickie Ridge immediately SE of point 1920m where a rope would provide extra security, however it can be done without if care is taken. It's a long plod from here down Dickie Ridge to the Hut turnoff at around 1200m. A cut track through the scrub starts a bit higher than the turnoff, which is marked by by orange triangle on a stake and an older wooden stake with permolat next to it.

The Cropp Basin can be accessed from Ivory Lake over Mt. Beaumont, which has permanent snow on its summit and a small glacial remnant on its South face. It is an easy traverse. Drop from the summit to the col at point 1898m on Galena Ridge and sidle NE to point 1695m. Drop from here into the upper South branch of the Cropp taking care as the faces here are steep at the top and eroding in a number of places. Follow the upper Cropp down into the main basin skirting a waterfall at the 1000m contour a rock ledge on the TL. There are numerous good campsites down in the basin near the NIWA gear and Cropp Hut remains on the TL.

Healey Creek Hut can be accessed by continuing along Galena Ridge from Mt. Beaumont. The traverse is relatively easy apart from one steep little notch between points 2001m and 1974m that requires a bit of care downclimbing. It is very exposed and a rope may come in handy here. Access onto Healey Spur is down a steep rib of tussock and loose rock when snow-free. There is a dip at the bottom of this, followed by a short razor-backed section that can be traversed with care, or avoided by dropping onto the tussock slopes on the Healey Creek side and sidling between the 1500 and 1600m contours. It is necessary to climb back onto the Spur either SE or NW of point 1643m due to deep slots that prevent a direct sidle down to the Hut. Allow a full day in good conditions from Ivory Lake Hut to Healey Creek Hut. Ice axes are standard fare and crampons may be required in some places during the colder months.

The route from Mt. Beaumont down Steadman Brow to Cropp Knob is straightforward apart from a short steep exposed section just above the 1620m contour. This is probably OK to upclimb without protection, but it may be advisable to carry a rope for those heading down. A maintained track provides access down a side-spur that connects with Cropp Brow at a flat area just NE of Cropp Knob. The track is in excellent shape although a party in January 2019 had a bit of trouble locating the top entrance markers which are a bit further north than where the track is marked on the NZ Topomap. It leads down to the Price Flat swingbridge in the Whitcombe valley, taking around two hours from the scrubline.

The section of the Lange Range bounding the TL of Ivory Lake is an impressive razorback and is very exposed and narrow in places. It is possible to sit astride it in a few places with a leg over sheer drop in each of the Waitaha and Whitcombe catchments. There is a jumbled, unstable section NW of point 2081m with large slabs of rock at precarious angles that would require a rope to traverse.

A climb of Park Dome from Ivory Hut is highly recommended. Its NW ridge is easy travel and there are stunning views of Mt. Evans and the Southern Alps from the summit. Sidle under the ridge where it steepens around 2100m, staying on the fringes of the small glacier below. Cross back over the ridge near its top and continue up its TR to the summit snowfield. Ice axes are usually sufficient for the climb in summer and autumn, and it would pay to carry crampons in the colder months.

Repairs Needed

The wet patch under the bunk by the door needs checking and attending to if necessary.

Provisions on Site

A kerosine cooker (gravity fuel-feed jar model), three billies, a tea pot, a camp oven, four enamel plates, cutlery, an ornamental fire extinguisher, an old NZFS Kerosine lamp, a dining table, two chairs, an armchair, two snow shovels, a collection of preserved invertebrate specimens from 1972, and other extraordinary bits and pieces! Warren brought in a 20 litre aluminium pot for snow melting and a general large volume cooking pot. He also left a full 20 litre pail of white acrylic, rollers, tray, a brush, screws, sand paper, sealants and expanding foam. The aluminium rowboat pictured in the 1976 photo is no longer in the shed unfortunately. There is a 10m piece of climbing rope hanging in the hut that could be used creatively on outings.