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Mullins Hut

Mullins Hut

(Mullins Hut: Photo Ted Brennan 2015)

Maintenance Status

Mullins Hut is designated as minimal maintenance. The access track to Mullins basin from the Toaroha valley is being maintained by the Permolat group. The last trackwork was carried out in September 2016 when the trail was given a trim and a bit of extra marking. There are some plans afoot from members of the Group to install a woodburner in the Hut in the coming summer.

Location

Toaroha catchment. Grid Ref: E1447042/ N5237920. Map BV19. Altitude 870m. Mullins Hut is located at the top end of a large tussock flat in the hanging basin portion of Mullins Creek. It is a beautiful and tranquil spot that doesn't get a lot of traffic despite being accessible in a day from the Toaroha roadend. Sub-alpine forest cloaks the surrounding hillsides and there are views out over to the Toaroha Range. Mullins Creek drops from the basin into the Toaroha River over a spectacular waterfall. A small population of whio (blue duck) inahbit the basin and can often be seen in the Creek's deep clear pools and rapids. A number of interesting tops journeys can be made in and out of Mullins Basin. Accounts of these can be found in the hutbook, one that contains an interesting slice of history going back 30 years in about as many pages. Visits to the Hut have increased since it was profiled on the site, and the trackwork done, but it's still relatively low use. 2015 was a good year with 11 visits, however the year before there were only two hutbook entries. We were the 5th party to log in there in September 2016.

Mullins Hut location

Access

Valley access to Mullins Hut requires a ford of the Toaroha River, and as such is very weather dependent. The turnoff from the Top Toaroha track is a routered wooden sign an hour or so up from Cedar Flat Hut. Currently (2016) the ford has one channel that is deeper and swifter than it has been for some time. It's OK at normal flows but needs a bit of care. It would rapidly become unsafe if the River were to rise. The track starts 20 metres up the TR of a small side creek, which is across and diagonally upriver from the turnoff sign (around E1447482/ 5239373N). It climbs up a steep, narrow ridge to around the 700m contour then veers South and sidles across hardwood and toi toi bush faces for 20 minutes or so. At a normally dry creek bed the track exits on the TR and climbs onto a narrow, gently sloping ridge with pink pine and leatherwood forest, which it follows, before sidling into a small creek catchment. You need to wade up the stream a short distance to another exit on the TR. The trail leads from here through scattered pink pine and sub-alpine scrub onto a knoll overlooking the basin, from where it is a straightforward 20 minute stroll up the river flats to the Hut. The track was retrimmed and marked in September 2106 and is in reasonably good shape. Allow 2.5-3 hours to Mullins Hut from Cedar Flat, or 6-8 hours from the Toaroha roadend.

Type

Mullins is a standard unlined NZFS 4-bunk S81 design built in 1960. It had its original chimney and fireplace removed early on and there is currently no means of heating the Hut which gets very cold in Winter. There is no toilet, and water is from the Creek.

Condition

DOC painted the Hut's exterior and replaced some of the framing and piles in 2004. Volunteers sealed under the door and northern window in 2008. In 2104 the Brennan family of Ross and Hokitika anti-rusted and put two coats of paint on the Hut. A number of roofing and cladding nails were replaced with more secure nails, and sealant applied where needed, A rotting roof dwang was replaced. The floor is sound despite being a tad uneven in places. Some of the floorboards and studs around the door are starting to rot where the rain blows under. The pile under the middle of the Hut needs straightening or replacing, but the rest look to be in good shape (the majority were replaced in 2004). The door flashing is ineffective and a new design needs to be looked at. There is water coming in at the bottom left of the end window and the stud, dwangs and floor plate beneath it are damp and starting to deteriorate.

Routes

For those wanting a bit more of a challenge there is a great high level route from Mullins basin to Cedar Flat over the Diedrichs Range. Access onto the tops is up a sloping bench on the TL of the basin between two small side-creeks, around E1446865/ N5237960. The route passes through a band of patchy alpine scrub, then up the eastern faces of the Range onto a flat area between Jumble Top and Mt. O'Connor. There is a rock cairn and an iron stake just off the crest here, and the flattened remains of the old Jumble Top Biv can be found a short distance below. Continue along the Range past points 1610m and 1612m to a small sharp peak at E1445735/ N5240927 just before Jumble Top. A steep, exposed rocky section on its northern approach can be downclimbed with care (or a rope), or the peak can be bypassed entirely on the Diedrichs Creek side by dropping down a steep scree, and climbing back onto the Range further along via the TR fork of the scree. The detour takes an extra 20 minutes, and from here on travel is straightforward. There is a large tarn with good campsites on the SE side of Squall Peak and the old FS track down to Cedar Flat can be picked up patchy scrub at around 1120m on the Peak's main western spur. The track is no longer officially maintained, but has been kept open by volunteers and is easy to follow. It drops through the alpine scrub zone, then veers SE onto an open knoll with a deer wallow in the dip preceding it. The track drops steeply from the knoll through the sub-alpine/ montane band. The last section down through the rata belt is also steep, but very open. The track was trimmed and a few extra markers added in July 2015, but could do with a bit more clearance of small seedling and fern regrowth. A fit experienced party could probably do the trip over to Cedar Flat in 5-7 hours in good conditions. Add an hour or two for the reverse crossing.

Gerhardt Spur Biv can be accessed either by traversing Jumble Top and following Gerhard Spur down, or by dropping from the low point between points 1612 and 1610m into the upper TL fork of Diedrichs Creek. The top of the descent is steep with crumbling rock, and care needs to be taken. Follow Diedrichs creek down to where its TR fork comes in and head more or less directly up the tussock faces onto the Gerhardt Spur from here. The Biv is visible from the top of the Range in fine conditions. Allow around 4-5 hours to reach Gerhardt from Mullins. Ice axes should be carried on these crossings in winter and spring.

The upper TL branch of Mullins Creek is negotiable as far as the waterfall at E1446515/ N5237253. Exit here up the small steep side-creek on the TL of the fall and climb to the 1600m mark on the SE ridge of the low peak of Mt. O'Connor. It is a very easy sidle from here across the basin under the middle and high peaks of O'Connor, then along a conspicuous bench to the low point NW of point 1718m.

Serpentine Hut in the Hokitika can be accessed by dropping off the Range at around E1445682/ N5236537 and heading down the prominent West running spur below. The top of this descent is very steep and may require ice axes in winter and spring. The spur in question was once tracked from the scrubline down to the Hut, and although it had an NZFS animal and vegetation survey line superimposed on it in the mid 1980's, it is now unfollowable. A few bits of permolat can still be found here and there, but it's essentially a pure bush-bash down to the River. Another option is a traverse Mt. O'Connor and a descent of Serpentine Creek. The Creek's upper basin is easy travel with good campsites. Further down the going is rough with waterfalls that have to be skirted through steep bush. This route has been mentioned three times in the last 32 years in the Serpentine Hut books. Two of the accounts were neutral, the third and most recent (2011) highly scathing of its value as a route. It is around a half an hour's travel from the Creek up to the Hut. The tracked sections from Serpentine Creek to Serpentine Hut were recut in 2015.

The upper TR basin of Mullins Creek is accessed up the Creek intially, to just before the start of a deep, slotted gorge. A rock cairn and cruise tape at small side-creek on the TR mark the exit point. Follow the side-creek taking the TL branch where it forks, peters out and becomes a narrow dry gut. The gut can be followed to the scrub boundary in the upper basin around E1447205/ N5237440. A number of lines are possible from here through scattered scrub and tussock up onto the northern flanks of Mt. Ross.

Frisco Hut in the Hokitika can be accessed down Mt. Ross's broad SE face as far as a prominent bench at the 1500m contour. An rocky gut provides easy access from the SW end of the bench (around E1447065/ N5234895) down into the Darby Creek basin. Head up Darby Creek for a bit then exit up onto the ridge on the TR of the basin that leads to point 1510m. Drop down the SW spur of this peak to an obvious tussock bench with tarns just above the scrubline (E1446195/ N5234400). Cruise tape and the odd bit of permolat lead in a SW direction from the lower end of the bench through scattered alpine scrub to the drop-off point immediately above the Hut. The toilet and part of its roof should be visible from the top of the drop-off in fine conditions. The route follows a narrow steep gut down, and this eventually opens out onto a face with scattered olearia. fter this it drops into a dry water course that is followed down for around 100 vertical metres to intersect the Darby Creek track just east of the Hut. The section down through the scrub is permolatted and there is a wooden sign marked 'tops' on a tree at the bottom junction. Simon Lewis, Mauricio Lloreda and Quentin Duthie recut and marked this route in April 2016. Allow 5-7 hours for the crossing from Mullins to Frisco.

Darby Creek basin can also be accessed over the col between Mt. Ross and point 1718m on the Diedrichs Range. The faces on the Darby Creek side of the col are eroding and exposed, with some vertical sections that are not visible from above. Extreme care needs to be taken when picking a route down. Climb from the Creek up onto the ridge of the TR of the basin and follow this down to point 1510m. The route from here to Frisco Hut is the same as the Mt. Ross route.

Top Toaroha Hut can be accessed from Mullins Hut via the prominent spur that runs in a dog-leg due North from Mt. Ross to point 1251m. Drop from the flat bench above the 1400m contour of this spur into the North branch of the large unnamed side-creek draining the eastern faces of Mt. Ross. The tussock faces at the top of the descent are steep, but the creek provides nice, albeit steep rocky staircase, with a couple of small waterfalls near the bottom that can be skirted without too much difficulty. There is an excellent two-tier rock bivvy on the TL of the main creek, 100m upstream from where the Top Toaroha track crosses it. The remains of the old Top Toaraoha Hut can be found in olearia scrub just below the rock biv.

Toaroha Saddle Biv can accessed over Mt. Ross. It is a long gentle descent along the crest of the Range to the Saddle. Allow 4-5 hours for the crossing.

Repairs needed

Some sort of effective door flashing is needed. The pile under the middle of the Hut need straightening and the end window flashed or sealed. A toilet would be a useful addition, as would a small wood burner, and hopefully these additions will occur this summer. The track could do with a bit more trimming and permolatting in places.

Provisions on Site

A billy, a small camp oven, a slasher, two can openers, an egg beater, a shovel, a broom, an aluminium bucket, an aluminium basin, a dust pan and brush, and a spare slasher handle. The Brennans left a sealant gun, a new tube of sealant, a hammer, 4 paint brushes, a couple of rollers, 2 new roller sleeves, and an aluminium ladder. Under the Hut are three large tanalised posts, two sheets of corrugated iron, one sheet of flat iron, and a few short lengths of 4x2. Some hunters left a couple of fold-out stools there in 2015.