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Mt. Brown Hut

Mt. Brown Hut

(Mt. Brown Hut looking South: Photo Andrew Buglass 2010)

Maintenance Status

Mt. Brown Hut is the maintain-by-community initiative of Eddie Newman and Julia Bradshaw of Hokitika. The Hut began its life as Lower Arahura Hut in the valley of the same name, and spent its first 50 years there. It was a standard NZFS 4-bunk S81 design, built in 1962. When DOC decided to build a new Hut at the site in 2010, Eddie and Julia were able to convince to agree to having the old one relocated on the Mt. Brown tops. Its dismantled sections were flown out to Hokitika, reworked by volunteers, flown up, and reassembled. The project ended up becoming an almost total rebuild due to the plethora of building code and safety requirements that didn't exist in the 1960's when the Hut was built. Considerable community input, volunteer labour and donations made it possible for the project to reach fruition. The Permolat Group contributed financially and with volunteer input and the Hut was opened for public use in November 2010. It was an instant success, debuting in Wilderness Magazine, outdoor calendars, and the cover of "Shelter From The Storm," a book on high-country huts by Rob Brown, Geoff Spearpoint and Shaun Barnett. Initial high levels of visitation show no sign of abating.

Mt. Brown Hut has no fixed fee for its use, and is reliant on donations for its upkeep. It has a small firebox and because there is no good wood supply at 1100m, coal needs to be flown in. The coal is getting a hammering from the large numbers of visitors so we'd strongly encourage a donation to the Project Team to cover the cost of doing this, and the for the Hut's ongoing upkeep. These are payable to Mt Brown Community Hut Project: Kiwibank: 38-9011-0071171-00.

Links

www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-Kaniere-New-Zealand/Mt-Brown-hut/349616583077 and www.flickr.com/photos/mtbrownhut/.

Location

Styx catchment. Map BV19. Grid Ref: E1452950/ N5252150. Altitude 1120m. Mt. Brown Hut is located above the bushline on the West ridge of Mt. Brown, which is an outlier of the Newton Range. Access up to it is straightforward in most weather and on clear days there are fabulous views of the Southern Alps, Lake Kaniere, and the coastal plain.

Access

There are two routes up to the Hut, providing an overnight loop for those interested. The principle and most direct of these is from Geologist Creek on the Dorothy Falls Road that goes around the back of Lake Kaniere. The track starts at a graveled parking area on the South side of the Geologist Creek Bridge. Volunteers retrim it regularly, and it's well marked and in good condition although getting quite muddy from the high use in places. It was last recut in June 2016.

The track leads from the carpark across the foot of the hill through hardwood forest to a small creek. This is crossed and its TL followed up for a bit, then the trail veers South up some steepish bush faces onto the SW spur of Mt. Brown. The gradient eases on the spur, and the track ascends in a series of steps through the montane and sub alpine zones to the tussock. There are a few small tarns at the alpine scrub boundary. The route is poled from here to the Hut. Allow 2.5-4 hours from the carpark to the Hut depending on fitness.

The other approach to the Hut is from the Styx valley and starts at the large unnamed side-creek known locally as Mt. Brown Creek. Access up the Styx valley is along a rough farm trail that turns off the Dorothy Falls Road at sharp bend 400m North of the Mark Wallace Bridge. The farm trail is suitable for high-axle 4WD only, and to walk it takes around 1/2 an hour from the DOC carpark at the farm gate. Follow the riverbank from the end of the farm trail for a couple of hundred metres to some shingle bluffs that the Styx River is currently cutting in against. Getting around the bluffs is not currently problematic at normal flows, but it could be difficult or impossible if the River was up. Mt. Brown Creek is five minutes upriver from the bluffs and the Mt. Brown track starts on its TL, 20m up from where the main valley track crosses. It was recut in June 2016 and is in good shape. The track follows the spur up onto a bush terrace, crosses it and climbs up a broad bush face onto the Southern spur of Mt. Brown. The spur flattens at 800m, passing the old Mt. Brown Hut site (the Hut was removed by DOC in 2006). The track continues up the spur to around 1000m, crosses a sub-alpine gully, then resumes its climb up through the scrub towards the tussock line. Snow poles lead up the last portion of the spur through scattered scrub onto a flat tussock bench with a small tarn just below the Hut. Allow around four hours currently from the Styx bluffs to Mt. Brown Hut. For those doing the circuit it's a three kilometre walk along the Dorothy Falls Road between carparks.

Type

Lower Arahura Hut was a standard 4-bunk design with open fire, so its transition to an alpine setting required numerous frame and other modifications to meet a host building code and DOC safety standards that didn't exist in 1962. A few extras were added also. An alcove with a small coal-burning stove replaced the chimney, the original louvre windows were replaced with double-glazed ones, and an extra side window added. The bunks were modified from stand-alone to single upper and lower platforms, an aluminium roof flashing was added to protect kea from lead poisoning (although it hasn't stopped them picking away at it), along with a porch, a deck, a roof-fed water tank, and an outside sink bench. Coal is stored in sacks under the Hut. The Hut toilet is a simple NZFS design held in place by warratahs and wire tie-downs.

Negative ruminators and Health and Safety buffs can take heart in that the Hut has been strengthened to withstand 250kmph winds without tie-downs (250kmph is the national record for recorded wind speed at Mt. John in Canterbury in 1970). There are 4.5 tons of concrete in the foundations and the hold-down fastenings are in excess of safety requirements. The Hut is lined with 12mm plywood and the floors are 10mm ply on top of the original rimu tongue and groove. The ceiling lining covers a 300 x 100mm ridge, fastened by 16mm bolts at each end. The framing is fastened with hold-down straps, and the wall studs are at 400mm centres with 25x1x400mm hold-down straps, top and bottom. Hurricane clips had to be added to the clearlight on the porch six months after the Hut was opened, because it was flexing and tearing around the nails in the high winds. The water tank tap freezes regularly overnight in winter, so fill your water containers before you go to bed. If there is no snow around, water can be fetched from the tarns on the bench below the Hut.

Condition

Mt. Brown Hut is in excellent condition currently. The handle on the door of the stove's ash compartment jammed recently, and the door wouldn't close. Because it is part of the damper system, the burner couldn't be fully damped down and was chewing through the coal faster. There is also a shortage of dry dead scrub in the vicinity to use for kindling. Some struggle to get the coal burning and don’t have the nous or the energy to go and fossick a bit further afield. So if you are one of those, you may feel inclined to carry up some firelighters. And please don't start chopping down the living scrub. The toilet pit has proved to be not deep enough for the unexpected high levels of use, and a new toilet is in the planning phase. The hand saw at the Hut is blunt from excessive use.

Routes

A traverse the Newton Range from Mt. Brown to Newton Range Biv is a great and scenic option for fitter, more experienced types. The Range crest is rough and undulating and dips well into the alpine scrub zone just East of Mt. Brown. A rough trail exists on the scrubbier bits, however there are quite a few ups and downs before a steep uphill section that leads to point 1240m. One more scrubby knoll needs traversing after this in order to reach open tussock. There are some nice tarns just before point 1336m and some interesting, ultramafic rock outcrops on its eastern flank. The Range dips again after point 1336m and this is followed by a short steep climb over point 1240m. The terrain flattens after this and there is a lot of deer sign and some very well-used trails on this section. Newton Biv is tucked against a tussock bank at the western edge of a flat peaty bench with tarns (around E1458757/ N5251170), and would be quite easy to walk past in claggy conditions. Allow at least five hours in good conditions to make the traverse to the Biv from Mt. Brown Hut.

Repairs needed

Eddie is working on a solution for the jammed handle on the woodburner. A new saw is needed. Eddie and Julia are planning a working bee to shift the toilet and do some track marking.

The Geologist Creek track might need a bit of corduroying on some of the muddier sections, and a bit of windthrow clearance.

Provisions on site

A kettle, a stainless steel frypan, an aluminium saucepan with lid, two coal buckets with shovels, a hearth brush, a poker, a broom, and an axe. Provisions under the Hut comprise a hand saw, a small jar of flathead nails, an aluminium ladder, a wooden roof ladder, a litre of black forest (dark grey-green) acrylic paint, and four paint brushes in a plastic bag.

Permolat Flyer on site

No.