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(Kakapo Hut: Photo Andrew Fenemor 2015)
DOC announced planned ceasing official maintenance of Kakapo Hut in 2004, but back-tracked after locals protested
and agreed to carry out two-yearly maintenance.
The access tracks into the Kakapo valley have not been officially maintained for many years and
are overgrown. Visits to the
Hut have become few and far between.
The promised maintenance still hadn't happened by 2012, so Jason Campbell, a DOC worker and Permolat
member, lobbied his employer to support a volunteer project.
DOC Westport and Motueka ended up supplying the materials, and DOC Motueka provided Jason's labour.
Wayne Pratt of Karamea helicopters flew in most of the work crew (Mayer Levy,
Daniel Todd, and Bruce Polkinghorn), along with materials, free of charge.
Mayer walked in and did a little route marking and trimming on the way. The working bee took place in January 2013.
Karamea Catchment. Grid Ref: E1541722/ N5424106. Topo Map BQ23. Altitude 360m. Kakapo Hut is located
midway up the TL of the Kakapo River, which is a major tributary of the Karamea River.
The Hut has averaged around one visit per
year over the past couple of decades, probably due to the lack of extant tracks, although
there has been
an encouraging revival in
2009 when six parties were noted as visiting. Since the 2013 maintenance visits
have been limited to DOC predator control, a few groups going on to 24 Tarn Basin and the Herbert Range, and a couple of Karamea Club visits.
Access to the Kakapo valley from the Little Wanganui catchment
is a mix of reasonably well-marked, heavily overgrown, and marginally followable sections.
One of the locals did 20% at each end in 2010, but the remaining
60% in the middle is difficult to follow, particularly around Lawrence Saddle and
the Kakapo approaches to
Bellbird Stream saddle, where the trail
has disappeared completely in places. The big storms of 2014 have reportedly added the odd area of windthrow to the mix.
Mayer Levy did some trimming and cruise-taping on the first section up Drain Creek to Lawrence Saddle in 2013,
and the mix of permolat
and cruise-tape should still be followable here.
Continue from the Saddle along the ridge in a SE direction for a short distance, then drop
into the TL Branch of Bellbird Stream. A taped route exits the stream and sidles North to an unmapped side-creek,
from where you drop/ sidle to the confluence of the TR and TL branches of Bellbird Stream. Head up the TR branch
and exit where it veers South at E1538502. Head East
along a strip of mature
forest separating two scrubby areas and up a gully to the saddle at E1539435.
Permolat markers lead from the saddle along to a bench where they peter out, and from here the
route continues sidling East around the 500m contour
to the next ridge. This is a particularly difficult
part of the route to stay on. A second lot of permolat markers a short distance down the ridge
across a old earthquake slip, which is cairned in places, to a gut.
Cross the gut and drop 60-80 vertical metres in an easterly direction to pick up
a taped and lightly cut route at the 420m contour
(around E1540239/ N5425951). This drop/ sidles to the valley floor where
cut and Predator control lines marked with pink triangles can be followed for the last 2km
to the Hut.
Allow 7-9 hours for the trip from Belltown Hut to Kakapo Hut.
The other route to Kakapo Hut is from the Wangapeka valley via Kakapo Saddle. An old track up to the Saddle
starts behind the Herbert Creek sign and was trimmed by Andrew Fenemor in 2015. The trackline as marked on the Topo50 map isn't quite correct -
it cuts NE about 250m away from Herbert Creek to provide a safer flood crossing of the unnamed stream entering from the NE.
The track ends at the Saddle and there are two descent options
into the Kakapo valley. The first is via the small creek directly below the Saddle,
and involves skirting a waterfall and some bluffs on the way down. The other
option is to head NW along a sloping bench above the bluffs
and descend diagonally in the same direction to the valley floor. It's quite straightforward sidling until you hit the big slip you can see on Google Earth.
Lots of dense 3-5m beech saplings in places. The River below the slip looks tricky, but during low flows it's mostly
easier than pushing through the regrowth.
The route down the
upper Kakapo valley is straightforward, mostly
boulderhopping initially, with more
terrace travel further down. DOC Predator control lines
run through the bush upstream of the Hut for around kilometres on both sides of the River, and
their pink markers can be followed
down to the Hut. The trail on the TL is straightforward except for one or two places where the river has taken it out.
Allow 7+ hours to Kakapo from
either Taipo Hut, Helicopter Flat, or the mid-Karamea huts.
There is a helipad near the Hut.
Kakapo Hut is an unlined four-bunker with an open fire and a single four-pane window, built in 1958
by the Nelson NZFS. This design was characteristic of the early Nelson Huts and predates the standard NZFS
S81 four-bunk design that eventually became the high-country standard.
Only a small number of this type of hut were built, the only other remaining example
being Johnson Hut in the Mokihinui catchment.
Kakapo's materials were dropped by helicopter, one of the
earliest uses of helicopter for this type of work by the NZFS (the first was Luna Hut).
The Hut's door has carved in it the names and dates of cullers and trampers going back to 1962.
Kakapo Hut is back in sterling condition thanks to Jason and his crew, and should remain so for some time to come.
The maintenance team repainted the exterior, replaced the rusted chimney guttering,
patched the chimney's rust holes, and replaced and painted the rotten window framing.
The old springs from the bunk were replaced with ply and a new new hearth surround was constructed. An
iron capping was placed over the Hut entrance, the mantlepiece fixed, and the rotting sections of floorboard and wall studs replaced.
An area of rot on a section of floor next to the chimney was repaired. One pile, a bearer, and a section of floor were replaced.
Some of the vegetation around the Hut was cleared. A new toilet
hole was dug, the toilet shifted, and a gravel and rock path built up for access.
A toilet sign was put on a post on the NW corner of the Hut. The regrowth around the helipad was cleared.
The historic features such as names and old carved graffiti, were left untouched. There should be plenty of firewood for a while.
There was a bit of rat sign in the Hut as of last report (November 2015), so those going in may want to consider doing a bit of rodent control.
Nick Smith and crew did a bit more clearing of the chopper pad in 2015.
The original tracks in the Kakapo valley have not been maintained since the NZFS days
and have effectively vanished in a lot of places. The new predator lines now
provide a means of travel on the valley floor. There is mention Greys Hutbook of an old track
up the TL of the Karamea from the Kakapo confluence to opposite Greys Hut (the book goes back to 1987). No recent
information is on hand concerning this route.
There shouldn't be too many currently. The roof will probably need replacing
in the medium - long term. Next person in could take some rat poison/ traps.
A broom, a dust pan and shovel, a washing bowl, and maybe an axe.