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Mungo Hut

Mungo Hut

(Mungo Hut: Photo Rob Brown 2015)

Maintenance Status

Mungo Hut is a maintain-by-community project with Rob Brown of Wanaka as signatory. Rob and his friends did a comprehensive makeover on Mungo in December 2015. The project was jointly funded by Permolat and the High Country Huts and Tracks Consortium.

Valley access to Mungo is a mix of river travel and track and is maintained as a "marked route" by DOC. These tracked sections were last cut in January 2013. Two short connecting tracks from the Hut to the upper Mungo and Park Stream are not officially maintained, but have been kept open by volunteers.

Location

Hokitika catchment. Grid Ref: E1453218/ N5234720. Map BV19. 840m altitude. Mungo is a remote Hut in the truest sense, and remained largely unmodified from when it was built in the early 1960's. It is located in an open tussock clearing on a low ridge dividing the Mungo and Park catchments. The clearing surrounds are beautiful montane forest, comprising pahautea (mountain cedar), pink pine, toa toa (mountain celery pine), rata, olearia, and nei nei (dracophyllum). The peaks of the Main Divide and Toaroha Range ring the upper valley and there are two hot springs half an hour downriver from the Hut, one above and one below Brunswick Stream. The upper is the hotter of the two, and usually needs to be dug out with the Hut spade. The Hut's visitation rate has been historically low due to its remoteness, averaging 4-5 visits per year.

Mungo Hut location

Access

Mungo Hut is most commonly accessed from the West Coast side via the Toaroha valley and Toaroha Saddle. Parties coming from Canterbury usually cross the Main Divide from the Wilberforce valley via Hokitika Saddle, or occasionally via Mungo Pass. All routes are weather dependent and two fords of the Mungo are required when using the West Coast approach. An old Forest Service track used to go all the way up the TR of the Mungo from Poet Hut, but in recent decades this has only been maintained as far as Saddle Creek. This section was last cut in January 2013, while the remainder, unmaintained since the early 1970's, is likely to have vanished back into the bush.

The Mungo track commences at the Toaroha Saddle turn-off, which is half an hour upvally from Poet Hut. The track sidles along the bush faces to Saddle Creek where it drops into the Mungo riverbed. It is river travel on the TR for around one kilometre to a point where the River cuts in against some shingle bluffs. Here it is necessary to cross over to the TL of the valley. The ford is not usually problematic at normal flows, but from time to time, it has been difficult to cross here, even during dry spells. Once on the TL it's river travel with the odd small bush detour to Brunswick Creek, which is fast flowing and not safe to cross where it enters the Mungo. A short section of track goes up the TL of the Creek to where there is a better ford.

After the Brunswick is crossed, continue up the TL of the Mungo riverbed for another 10 minutes or so, then ford back to the TR. The crossing point is obvious and not usually problematic at normal flows. Continue upriver a short distance and cross the Park Stream. A large orange triangle 100 or so metres further up the Mungo marks the start of the track up to the Hut. A steep 10-15 minute climb takes you up a narrow ridge to the hut-site. Allow 2.5 - 3.5 hours from Poet Hut to Mungo Hut.

The route to Mungo from Hokitika Saddle is down the riverbed. The track start to the Hut from the riverbed is incorrectly marked on the Topo map as starting at a small side-creek. It is in fact further downriver, directly below the Hut, at around E1453255/ N5234540. The track climbs up a steep dry watercourse intially, then flattens and meanders through the scrub to an open boggy area just before the Hut.

Another short, steep track leads up to the Hut from the lower Park Stream, a couple of hundred metres above Topo Creek. Both access tracks were recut and marked by volunteers in 2009.

Type

Mungo Hut is an NZFS S81 four-bunk design with open fire, built in 1962. It replaced an older Hut built by Internal Affairs in the 1950's. A toilet was constructed in around 1983. A small stream next to the Hut supplies water and firewood can be scrounged from the surrounding patch of montane forest. The occasional idiot has cut down a live pahautea (mountain cedar), which doesn't burn, even when seasoned and dry. These beautiful trees are very slow growing, and usually several hundred years old.

Condition

Mungo Hut had its exterior repainted and resealed, some of the framimg and rotten floorboards replaced, and the chimney and fireplace repaired and re-concreted by DOC in 2004. In 2015 Rob's crew replaced two piles, took the roofing iron of and replaced all the old building paper with chicken wire . One skylight replaced and the second replaced with iron for structural reasons. The ridgeline was replaced and new flashing installed over the eastern window. Most of the building paper in the walls was removed and replaced with new thermabar paper. Most of the interior was lined with 12mm ply and sealed with a clear water based coating. The cavities were vented with 10mm holes at top and left unlined at the bottom to avoid moisture build-up. A fair amount of rotten framing was replaced and the cupboard rebuilt completely. The centre rafter was strengthened along with some of the perlins. The bunks were properly strengthened and finished. The Hut was sealed and painted with two coats. Some cleats put in the end wall cladding by DOC were removed, the cladding galv sealed and rescrewed with tech screws. The doorstep was excavated and redone in rocks and concrete and the toilet painted. The door handle handle was replaced and door rat-proofed. A new splash back was added in cooking area. A small woodshed was constructed, the helipad and Hut surrounds cleared, and the access tracks down to the river recut.

Routes

The route to Hokitika Saddle begins at the Hut and skirts around the eastern fringes of the bog at the southern end of the Hut clearing. A short section of track leads through the scrub at the end of the bog, down to the River. An easy couple of hours boulderhopping should get you to the base of Hokitika Saddle which has a near-vertical slot leading up to it. This is a difficult approach and a much easier alternative can be found up the large scree (or snow gully in winter) that enters the TL of the Mungo at around E1455908/ N5235847. Head up the scree and exit on the TL about 2/3's of the way up. Climb from here directly onto the Main Divide. The bottom of the scree is quite steep, but the gradient lessens further up, and it is an easy stroll North along the Divide and down to the Saddle. Mt. Ambrose is an easy climb from here, and travel further along to Clarkes Pass and beyond is pretty straightforward.

Access down into Griffiths Stream on the Canterbury side is via the NE spur of point 1850m. The creek directly below the Saddle is also reported to be navigable. Once in Griffiths Stream it is a long, fairly easy plod down to the Unknown - Wilberforce confluence. Urquhart's Hut is an hour's travel up the Wilberforce from the Unknown. Allow 6-8 hours for the crossing from Mungo Hut to Urquhart's Hut in good conditions. Ice axes should be carried during the colder months of the year.

Mungo Pass is accessed from the upper Brunswick Stream, up a small side-creek that enters on the TR, around E1452935/ N5232200. Head up the creek, and exit on the TL up a large obvious scree that leads to the Pass. The faces on the Gibson Stream side of the Pass are steep and eroding, and extreme care is needed when descending. Snow gear including ropes may be needed for Winter and Spring crossings. The Gibson Stream is negotiable down as far as the top of a small gorge at E1456348/ N5231687. Climb out here on the TL is required here up some steep faces and sidle around the back of point 1290m. The route back into the Gibson is down a rib on the TL of the first side-creek downvalley. This is very steep with small bluffs at the bottom that need skirting. Care is needed here also. The rest of the journey down the Gibson to the Unknown Stream is reasonably straightforward. Allow 6-8 hours for the crossing from Mungo Hut to Unknown Stream Hut.

Mt. Bryce is a fairly easy climb from the head of the Brunswick Creek, and in late summer and autumn is mostly scree travel with the odd patch of permanent snow. A rock buttress in the NW approaches to Mt. Bryce makes continued travel along the Divide to Mistake Col more of a technical affair.

A high-level crossing of Brunswick Ridge over to Sir Robert Creek can be done from the upper Brunswick valley. Access from Brunswick Creek onto the Ridge is up an obvious broad spur that comes in at around the 1000m contour. The Ridge is followed to a dip at around E1451902/ N5231267 where it is possible drop off down a steep scree that enters the TR of the large unnamed side-creek below. The top of the scree is very steep and would require ice axes, crampons and possibly a rope during the colder months. The bluffs above the scree are active during the warmer months with occasional rockfalls. The gradient gets more gentle as you get lower down the scree. Follow the side-creek down to Sir Robert Creek and boulderhop upstream from here to Sir Robert Hut. Allow 6-7 hours for the crossing fromm Mungo Hut to Sir Robert Hut.

There is a direct, but not particularly easy route to Toaroha Saddle Biv from Mungo Hut via Topo Creek. The Creek has two waterfalls in its lower section and a steep scree at the very top. The lower fall requires a a scrub bash on the TL to get around and the upper one is skirted on a narrow scrubby ledge on the TR. Above the falls the Creek is steep with shattered rock, and the scree in the head of the Creek looks to be reasonably active. The scree leads onto a flat tussock bench at 1400m from where it is a pleasant amble down to Toaroha Saddle, and a short climb up to the Biv. Allow 2.5-3 hours to get from Mungo Hut to Toaroha Biv. There are reports of an old NZFS track on the ridge on the TR of Topo Creek, and Jock Fisher who built some of the first huts in the Mungo in the late 1950's says it was a well used deer lead during his time. I dropped down this ridge once in the 90's and found it rough going. I didn't come across any markers or signs of a track on my way down. There was a plan afoot to open this route up during the Mungo Hut restoration earlier this year, however this didn't happen. Having a cut and marked track up this spur would provide more reliable and safer direct access between the head of the Toaroha and Mungo Hut.

For the more experienced punters a great high-level traverse exists from Mungo Hut out along the Toaroha Range. There are potential stopovers at a number of remote huts and bivs. The track down into the Park Stream (recut in 2015) starts at the NW end of the Hut clearing and drops steeply down into the catchment. It is an easy walk up the Stream to where a side-creek enters on the TR, around E1452917/ N5236770. The side-creek turn into a rocky gut that can be followed with relative ease up to the low point between Mt. Bannatyne and Mt. Chamberlain. The top of the gut is snow-filled for a lot of the year and can be icy near the top during the colder months. It is recommended that ice axes be carried for this bit accordingly. There is a short vertical pitch on the Range just East of Mt. Chamberlain can be avoided by sidling around on the Park Stream side. The travel from Mt. Chamberlain to Zit Saddle is straightforward. Water needs to be carried however, as there are no tarns on this stretch.

Top Kokatahi Hut can be accessed from the low point between Mt. Chamberlin and point 1694m. Drop down into the head of the Kokatahi, which can be followed without difficulty down to the Hut. This section could possibly be a bit avalanche prone during the colder months. Allow 4-5 hours from Mungo Hut to Top Kokatahi in good conditions.

Yeats Ridge Hut and Crystal Biv can be accessed down the prominent spur that runs West from point 1694m. The spur forks at the 1300m contour and the NW branch is taken for Yeats Hut. There is a band of scrub around the 1150m mark on the spur through which there is a cut trail marked intermittently with cruise tape and the odd snow-pole. Poles lead West from the bottom of this section through scattered scrub onto a low ridge bounding Zit Creek. A section of track runs slong the ridge to an open slope above the basin in which the Hut is located. Wooden stakes lead across the basin and up to the Hut. Allow 5-6 hours in good conditions for this crossing.

Crystal Biv is accessed down the SW fork of the spur and is visible in fine weather from just below the 1300m contour. It is easy travel down, with a bit of scattered scrub to negotiate on the northern fringes of the big tarn next to the Biv. Allow 5-6 hours from Mungo Hut to Crystal Biv in good conditions.

Adventure Biv can be accessed using the poled route from Top Kokatahi Hut that crosses the Range North of Zit Saddle, around E1451380/ N5240035. The poles lead down a steep tussock face onto a narrow rib dividing the upper branches of Zit Creek. A short tracked section leads from the bottom of the rib through a band of scrub into the creek bed of the TR branch. Cross the creek and follow a rough trail that sidles through scattered scrub over to Adventure Ridge. A short section of track leads down the ridge through the alpine scrub to the Biv. Don't make the mistake of dopping directly from Zit Saddle into Zit Creek unless you have a rope and a spare day up your sleeve. Allow 7-9 hours for the traverse from Mungo Hut to Adventure Biv.

Repairs needed

The rest of the Hut's piles are pretty good but some will reach the end of their life in the next 10 years. Rob didn't do the foyer side in the south western corner and the stud here is soft and will need replacing at some stage. More 3x2 framing will be required for this. The gable above the door will need a bit of strengthening at some stage. There is spare paint above foyer if anyone feels like giving a second coat to woodshed or do any touching-up.

Provisions on Site

The Hut has a spade, a cast iron frypan, a camp oven, 2 buckets, a bow saw, 4 billies, a small library, a small seat, an aluminium basin, a hearth shovel and hand broom, a broom, an axe, and some spare louvre panes.