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Moonbeam Hut

Moonbeam Hut

(Moonbeam Hut: Photo Andrew Buglass 2016)

Maintenance Status

Moonbeam Hut is designated as fully maintain. In accordance with a decision made in a review in 2004 DOC had said they would replace the Hut with a smaller structure at the end of its life. I'm not sure whether this is still on the books given all the ensuing funding cuts and restructures, and I certainly wouldn't be holding my breath. The access tracks to Moonbeam are no longer officially maintained, but have been taken over and maintained by the Permolat group from 2007 onward. The last trim was done in September 2015 and the trails should be in good order currently.

Location

Waitaha catchment. Map BW18. Grid Ref: E1421728/ N5221267. Altitude 475m. Moonbeam Hut is sited on a bush terrace on the TL of the Waitaha, a short distance upriver from Moonbeam Torrent. It's a comfy stopover for those passing through to the valley's headwaters. Visits to Moonbeam fell off markedly in the 1990's and early 2000's due to the tracks overgrowing. Use picked up a little after Permolat got involved, but it's unlikely that it will ever be a high-use Hut because of the rough nature of the valley.

Access

The track to Moonbeam Hut from Kiwi Flat Hut was recut in September/ October 2015. It starts at the Kiwi Flat Hut door and climbs up onto a wedge of bush terrace that separates the Waitaha from Whirling Water. This section is flat and easy to follow, although there are a few large trees across the track here and there that need skirting. After the Headlong Spur turnoff the track begins a long sidle across the bush faces above the Waitaha Gorge. Around 20 minutes from the turnoff it veers sharply uphill and climbs to 510 metres to get around two large active slips. It then drops back to the original trackline and continues upvalley with numerous ups and downs before it descending to the River just upstream of Mark Creek. From here it is mostly boulderhopping, aside from a couple of small bush detours, to Moonbeam Hut. Moonbeam Torrent is large and swift and is dangerous or impassable after heavy rain. The track up to the Hut starts on the Waitaha riverbed 10 minutes upstream from the Torrent and climbs steeply 60 vertical metres to the terrace where the Hut is located. Allow 4-5 hours to get from Kiwi Flat to Moonbeam Hut.

The chopper pad directly in front of the Hut had the surrounding regrowth cleared in 2015.

Type

Moonbeam Hut is a standard NZFS SF70 six-bunker and was built in 1971. It is lined and has an open fire and a roof-fed water tank. There is a toilet and a rudimentary woodshed.

Condition

Moonbeam Hut is in relatively good condition currently. It was painted and had some minor repairs done by DOC in 2003. There is a bit of moisture getting in around the floor plate on the left side of the fireplace, and this has buckled the interior lining, however the framing underneath is still sound. There is also a damp patch of floor in the cupboard. I'm not sure where this is coming from, but possibly where a small wooden bench is nailed on the outside cladding of the Hut. There is also a bit of buckling starting to appear on some of the interior roof panels, probably due to condensation. There are few paint streaks starting to appear on the exterior wall cladding, particularly the chimney. The three piles at the window end are starting to rot around their feet. The window sills and frames are flaking quite badly. The chimney looks to have been built on a stone base and is starting to lean ever so slightly out from the wall. The chimney smokes when being used. This can be alleviated by opening the side louvre at tad.

Routes

The Waitaha is tracked upriver from Moonbeam as far as Chainman Creek. From here it river travel to the Top Waitaha basin and Hut. the tracked section was recut by Permolat in 2015. I checked it as far as the swingbridge in August 2016 and it's still OK. If it took you a lot longer than 4-5 hours to get from Kiwi Flat to Moonbeam Hut, then your fitness, and or route following skills are probably not sufficient for this very rugged valley, and I'd strongly recommend you reconsider any plans you may have for doing the, much longer, and much more demanding stretch from Moonbeam to Top Waitaha. There are quite a few tales of woe now in the Moonbeam hutbook from folk, mainly of foreign extraction, who didn't make it, or had an unpleasant time because they were out of their depth.

From Moonbeam the track continues along the river terrace on the TL through a beautiful patch of montane forest (tall pahutea and totara). The track drops down a steep bank to the riverbed just before Dorothy Creek, re-entering the bush just past Alexander Creek. It sidles along the faces from here to the County turnoff, passing a reasonable dry rock just before the signpost. The main valley track drops from the turnoff down to the River and crosses the swingbridge to the TR. A short stretch of track leads to a section of riverbed which is followed to a small unnamed side-creek at the start of the Windhover Gorge. The track restarts 20 metres up the TL of the creek and climb/ sidles around the faces above the gorge, eventually dropping into a creek with attractive water-sculpted rock sides. A more serious climb begins here up the ridge on the TR of Chainman Creek. At around 900m the track drops off the ridge down a steep rib into the bottom end of Chainman Creek. The track drops off well before where it is marked on the topo map. It crosses Chainman Creek and cuts through a flat area with olearia scrub to the Waitaha riverbed.

Travel in the Upper Waitaha above Chainman Creek is hard going with numerous large boulders, cascades, and dense scrub surrounds. There is a dry rock 20 metres up and 20 metres East of the second side-creek above Chainman Creek. After around 2.5 kms of rough travel the River opens out into a large, open tussock basin. From here to the Hut is an idyllic stroll along tussock flats, a marked comparison to what preceded it. Allow 7-10 hours currently to get to Top Waitaha from Moonbeam Hut. Travel on the river section tends to be easier in winter when flows are lower than spring and summer when snow and glacier melt increases water volume.

The track to County Stream Hut continues along the TL of the valley from the Top Waitaha Turnoff. It sidles up and around into the County valley at a lower altitude than marked on the Topo map, dropping to the valley floor by some house-sized boulders opposite O'Reilly Creek. A flood channel is followed from here for 100m to where the track re-enters the scrub and continues its sidle. It drops back to the riverbed again around E1424379/ N5220880, and from here it is mostly river travel with the odd tracked detour to negotiate bluffs and some of the larger boulders. The detours may not all be necessary in Winter when river levels are lower, and the river can be crossed to provide a more direct line. For most of the howver it is necessary to stay on the TL and use the detours.

The track entrance to the Hut starts on the TR 200m downstream from the Bloomfield Confluence. Recent river erosion has cut into the bank and wiped put the entrance markers so it may be a bit tricky to locate. The river is sometimes unfordable here also, so it may be necessary ford further upriver, usually above the Bloomfield confluence. If this is the case, a second track starting 200m up the TR of Bloomfield Creek can be used to get up to the Hut. The entrance is marked with a cairn and cruise tape and the track itself is overgrown with the odd bit of permolat and cruise tape. It intersects with the lower access track on the terrace. Allow 4-5 hours from Moonbeam Hut to County Hut currently.

A possible alternative for travellers from Moonbeam to County is over the tops via the Clearview Spur track. This wouldn't take much longer than the main valley track in good conditions and there are great views of Mt. Evans and the Red Lion from where you cross over. The Clearview Spur track was recut and marked in 2015 and is in good condition. It starts at the Moonbeam Hut woodshed and follows along the bush terrace on the TR of Moonbeam Torrent. The track connects with and continues up a narrow ridge beween Moonbeam Torrent and Dorothy Creek. At around 1200m it drops into the head of Dorothy Creek, which has become a dry rocky gut by this stage. Continue up the gut onto the tussock faces below Clearview Spur and sidle East to the flat area above point 1690m. Access into the County is down the faces on the TL of Canary Creek initially, then into the Creek itself further down where the scrub thickens. Allow 4-5 hours from Moonbeam to County Hut using this route.

You can

A high-level crossing to the Smyth valley is possible from Moonbeam Hut using Clearview Spur for tops access. The drop-off into the Smyth is from point 1830m on the Smyth Range and the upper valley is good travel to just below the Bradshaw Creek confluence. From here down it is bouldery and rough. A fit experienced party should be able to get from Moonbeam Hut to Smyth Hut in a long day in good conditions. The swingbridge over the Wanganui opposite Smyth Hut was washed away by a massive flash-flood in early 2013, making a ford necessary at the end of the journey.

The Smyth Range can be traversed in a westerly direction to Scamper Torrent Hut. Tops access from Moonbeam is up the first side creek on the TL of Moonbeam Torrent. An old NZFS route guide recommends using the ridge on the TR of this side-creek, but I don't know of anyone who has tried this. A scrub bash is required to get from of the head of the side-creek to the tussock. The broad North-facing slopes of Mt. Neville are easy travel. There is one steep section on the Range adjacent to the Kea Glacier which is generally snow-free from late summer, but would require ice axes at other times if conditions were icy. The rest of the Range is relatively easy travel and there are plenty of good campsites. Scamper Torrent is accessed by dropping in a WNW direction down some sloping benches under Mt. Durward into the small basin on the lee side point 1397m. Follow the small stream from the basin to where it drops over a waterfall and continue sidling West across the tussock faces onto the broad spur bounding the TR of the main branch of Scamper Torrent. This spur has a small creek bisecting it. The high ground on either side of the creek can be followed through patchy scrub down into the main basin. The Hut is visible most of the way down from Durward in fine conditions. A longer variation of this route would be to use Clearview Spur for tops access, and traverse Mts. barry and Neville.

Repairs needed

Some sealing work is required to stop the moisture getting in around the floorplate and stud on the left of the fireplace. The damp patch on the cupboard floor needs further investigating. Three piles at the window end of the Hut need replacing, and the window sills and frames repainting. There are several large treated pine posts on site from a dismantled FS chopper pad that will suffice as replacement piles.

Provisions on Site

A large box of nails of various sizes, a large supply of permolat, a small hammer, loppers, an axe, a broom, a shovel, a tommyhawk, rasps, flat-files, a ruler, a bow saw, sandpaper, two camp ovens, six billies, two old NZFS food bins, an old NZFS first aid kit, a sleeping mat, an aluminium washbasin, and a small tube of sealant. There is a makeshift wooden ladder under the hut.