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Koropuku (Big Tops) Hut

Koropuku (Big Tops) Hut

(Koropuku Hut: Photo Stephen Grossi 2008)

Maintenance Status

Koropuku (Big Tops) Hut was designated in 2004 as minimal maintenance. The most commonly used access route is via a tops track from the lower Otehake River. Frank King of Christchurch now has a maintain-by-community arrangement with DOC for the Hut and he and Honora Renwick have kept the access track open and in good condition over the years.

Location

Otehake River. Grid Ref: E1496542/ N5259291. Map BV21. Altitude 845m. Koropuku Hut is located in Arthur's Pass National Park, in the upper basin of Koropuku Creek. The Koropuku flows into the Otehake River, which is a tributary of the Taramakau River. Korupuku Hut and its principle access route have been unofficially adopted and maintained by Frank King and Honora Renwick of Christchurch. This coincided with a long period of zero maintenance by DOC. The Department did eventually get around to doing some maintenance in 2002, but volunteer input is likey to remain crucial to the Hut's longer-term preservation. Koropuku Hut has historically been low-use, receiving 6-10 visits per year,although in recent times this has increased somewhat with recent profiling on this and other backcountry websites, and blogs. The Koropuku valley is serene and remote with good views views downriver and over the Otehake to the Pfeifer Range. Deer and chamois are regularly encountered in the area and on rare occasions Kiwi have been seen or heard near the Hut.

Koropuku Hut location

Access

Access to Koropuku Hut is from the the Aitkens Corner carpark on State Highway 73, nine kilometres North of Otira. Markers lead from the car park along the fenceline, across the paddocks, and through small gate to the Otira River. Cross the braids of Otira River channels on a NE diagonal to the end point of bush on the TR of the Otira. From the junction either follow the poles along the bush fringes on the TL of the Taramakau, or continue NE across the river flats and pick up the 4WD track further up. The latter is faster and more direct, although both routes merge a little further on.

Follow the 4WD track to 100m before Pfeifer Creek, where the lake Kaurapataka track turns off. Poles lead SE from the road through patches of gorse and regenerating scrub to the Creek. The track crosses and follows the TR of Pfeifer Creek to Lake Creek, and follows the TL of Lake Creek, then around the southern edge of the Lake. The lakeside section of track passes some magnificent 40m tall specimens of Red Beech with impressive butressed roots. The track splits on the low bush saddle at the Eastern end of the Lake and continues up the Otehake Valley. Take the left turning here, which drops down a steep face into the Otehake riverbed.

The track to Koropuku Hut starts on the TR of the Otehake opposite where the Lake Kaurapataka track hits the River. The entrance is marked by a large orange marker. DOC removed a swingbridge that spanned the River a short distance upstream in 2012, however the River at the track start is easy to ford at normal flows. The track enters the bush behind a small clearing and follows a spur up to the tussock line. It is marked with red, or occasionally white permolat, and is in good condition, with just the odd bit of fresh windthrow. There is no water from the river to the 1150m contour. Once above the bushline there are great views of Lake Kaurapataka and Mts. Alexander and Pfeifer.

The route across the tops is marked with cairns and the odd pole. From a dried-up tarn it follows a bench for a short distance, then up a series of small terraces to a large tarn at 1495408E/ 5260491N. Continue South from here along this bench to a group of tarns East of Point 1259m. A scree just South of the tarns leads down to a steep gully which is followed on its TR until past a large rock outcrop. The gully becomes a creek which is followed to the top of a series of waterfalls where track enters the bush on the TL and drops down a steep dry gut before rejoining the creek. The track exits the the TL of the creek further down and follows it downhill to around 850m. It veers upriver here, sidling along the TR faces of the Koropuku. It levels and passes through a clearing named "The Orchard" 150m before the Hut. Frank and Honora last worked on the route in 2014.

Allow 7-9 hours to reach Koropuku Hut from Aitkens corner. The section from Otehake River to the Hut takes around five hours. A flood track down the TR of the Otira from the Deception Footbridge was recut in 2012, and adds a good hour to the trip. An emergency shelter marked on the topo maps at the Taramakau junction has been washed away. If you have to use the Otira flood track on the way in, your propects of crossing the Otehake are not going to be good.

Commercial helicopter access to the Koropuku valley is prohibited by APNP policy.

Type

Koropuku Hut is a standard S81 4-bunk design built in March 1964 by Ray Forsyth, D. Green, and W. Johnson of of the NZFS. It is lined, was painted, and had a small porch over the door added in 2002. In 2004 DOC erected a new long drop toilet, and replaced the clearlight in the roof. There is a nice lush front lawn with room for up to three tents, and a small fireplace behind the Hut against the side of a large boulder. Water is supplied by a small stream nearby.

Condition

Koropuku Hut is in good condition currently. The piles are untreated, and not concreted, but are in sound condition. The bearers and joists are in good shape as well. The SW corner of the Hut has had a short section of a bearer and two or three floorboards replaced. The floor at base of west wall shows signs of water getting in, but there is no visible damage. There is a small rat hole at the bottom of the door.

Routes

A route from the head of the Koropuku valley over to Townsend Hut in the Taramakau is marked on the map in Frank King's tramping blog: tramping.typepad.com. Travel in the upper Creek is described by Jim Masson as "interesting," until the scrubline, then good. The Creek forks around the 960m contour and TL fork is followed up to the col between points 1681m and 1750m. Drop directly over into the Taramakau from here and sidle around the 1400m contour into the creek catchment under the North face of Mt. Koeti. Drop/ sidle due North from here to the broad spur directly above point 1183m. Drop down this through a thin band of alpine scrub to the point, then follow the lip of the fault scarp from here to the Hut. Allow 4-5 hours for the crossing from Koropuku to Townsend Hut in good conditions. Good visibility is crucial if travelling without GPS, and an iceaxe may be needed on a few pitches during the colder months.

When doing the crossing from the Townsend side it is easy to miss the exit from Koropuku Creek up to the Hut. The cairns marking this are often washed away. The route to the Hut is up a small stream that runs into a watercourse overhung by low trees. If the Koropuku begins to drop into a gorge you've gone too far.

When the Koropuku is low it is possible to travel down through its gorge into the Otehake. There are some waterfalls that must be negotiated and it is pretty slow going in places. Probably more fun in high summer. More detailed route notes can be found on www.tramper.co.nz.

Access is also possible over Koropuku tops down to the head of the Poulter valley. A traverse of Mt. McRae looks feasible up the side creek just upstream of the Hut on the TL. Access down into the Poulter is from the low point between point 1710m and Mt. McRae, and a passage can be found through the scrub via a dry gut that comes in a couple of hundred metres upstream of Poulter Biv.

Kiwi Hut in the lower Taramakau is accessed from the start of the Koropuku track in the Otehake. Boulderhop downriver from here to the Taramakau, and cross where practicable upstream of the Otehake to pick up the 4WD track upsteam of Jacksons Creek. The Kiwi Hut turn-off is marked with a large routered sign. There is a track through a patch of beech, then a big grassy clearing to cross to get to the low terrace where the Hut is located. It takes around an hour and a half from the bottom end of the Koropuku tack to Kiwi Hut. This is a fine weather route, obviously.

Repairs

The floor at the end of the West wall needs a leak check done during rain, and sealing if necessary. The rat hole needs plugging.

Provisions on Site

Three billies (two lids), an aluminum wash basin, two plastic buckets, two bench seats, two seats made from wooden crates and sacking, a small kitchen table, an old first aid kit and manual, a plastic brush and shovel, a hearth brush and shovel, a Forest Service food bin, an axe plus spare handle, a broom plus spare handle, a spade, a slasher, a flat file, a rasping file, a large shovel handle, a makeshift ladder, one spare pane of louvre glass, an assortment of nails, half a roll of malthoid, a handful of white permolat markers, a small hand-made food safe, a wall-mounted map of APNP, a wall-mounted can opener, a small wall-mounted mirror, a four-slice toasting rack for the fire, a cheese grater, an egg beater, a wooden spoon, a game of tiddlywinks, a small library, and a guitar. Under the Hut there is some spare iron and roof flashings, a sheet of clearlight, five lengths of decking timber (two of 100 x 50 H3), and various offcuts.