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Newton Creek Hut

Newton Creek Hut

(Newton Creek Hut: Photo Fletcher Anderson 2017)

Maintenance Status

Newton Creek Hut and its access tracks and routes are designated as fully maintain. The tracks are in good shape, but the Hut had become very run-down with a fairly serious rat infestation. With DOC's support and some Consortium and Permolat funding, Rob Brown of Permolat put a team together and did some major maintenance in February 2017. After the rebuild it should be no problem for DOC to keep this Hut on their maintain schedule. DOC would probably like to pass the access tracks on to the volunteer sector also, however have agreed for the time being to continue to maintain them.

Location

Arahura catchment. Map BV19. Grid Ref: E1467495/ N5255620. Altitude 725m. Newton Creek Hut is located at the lower end of the Newton Creek basin, one of the bigger side-catchments in the Arahura valley. The Creek drops steeply from the basin in a series of cataracts down to the main River. The basin is narrow and shady and is ringed by the peaks of the Campbell and Tara Tama ranges. The Hut is a reasonably popular stopover on the Newton Saddle circuit which links the Arahura and Taipo valleys, getting 10-20 visits per year currently. Newton Creek is untracked upstream of the Hut and is rough and bouldery initially. Above the bushline the valley opens out into fairly gentle tussock expanses, which provide good tops access to several other remote huts and bivs in the area.

During the 1980's and 90's Newton Creek Hut received minimal attention from DOC, but was kept clean and well provisioned by Alan Reith, a blue duck enthusiast from Hokitika. In 2004 the Hut was stripped of its NZFS provisions and some of Allan's gear in a DOC purge aimed at, "encouraging greater self-sufficiency in the high-country." An interesting and quite comprehensive hut library was removed in the process. A concerned member of the tramping fraternity who was passing by rescued a camp oven and some billies from a slingload of "rubbish" destined for the Hokitika Dump, and stowed them back in the Hut.

Newton Creek Hut location

Access

The Arahura valley and Newton Creek tracks were recut by DOC in 2015 and are in good condition currently. The track from Lower Arahura Hut follows an old dozer trail for 20 minutes to a large unnamed side-creek, and heads up this for 10 minutes or so to connect with the old Browning Pass bench track. This is followed for around an hour and a half as it climb/ sidles at a gentle gradient along the bush faces of the Arahura. The Newton Creek turnoff is marked by a routered sign, a short distance before Third Gorge Creek. The Newton track drops steeply down to the River here and crosses a swingbridge to the TR. The River is followed for around 10 minutes to the main track entrance, a short distance downstream from a small side-creek with a conspicuous waterfall, opposite Third Gorge Creek. The track follows the TR of creek a short distance, then veers North and climbs steeply up the bush faces for 45 minutes, levelling at the 700m contour, and crossing a low ridge into Newton Creek Basin. It is 15 minutes walk from here up the TL of Newton Creek to the Hut. Allow around 3-4 hours for the journey from Lower Arahura Hut to Newton Creek Hut, or 7-8 hours from the Arahura roadend.

For those accessing Newton Creek Hut downriver from Mudflats Hut there are a couple of options. An old NZFS track on the TR of the Third Gorge has been recut in a rudimentary fashion by DOC as a stoatline, however the benched and slightly longer main valley track on the TL is probably quicker and more user-friendly. Allow two hours for the journey from Mudflats to Newton.

Access to Newton Creek from the Taipo valley is via Newton Saddle and Dunns Hut. The route goes up the TR branch of Dunns Creek and is tracked around the rougher, more bouldery bits. Snow-poles mark the route above the scrubline. The tracked were recut and poled sections maintained in 2015. The 700m descent on the Newton Creek side is down a dry gut initially. This becomes a small creek further down. Big variations in the travel times for the crossing can be seen in both hutbooks, reflecting the wide range in fitness and experience of those doing it, and the greatly differing weather and snow conditions that can be encountered. An average time in good conditions commensurate with other track times on this site would be 4-6 hours.

Type

Newton Creek Hut is a standard NZFS S81, 4-bunk design. It was built in 1962 to replace an older Internal Affairs hut already on the site. Newton had an open fire initially, and this was removed in the late 1970's and replaced with a wood burner. The Hut interior was lined at some point. Water is from the Creek, and there is a toilet. A woodshed was added in 2017. The Hut site is fairly shady, and damp, and doesn't get much sun in the winter. Finding dry firewood can be an issue and folk don't always replace what they use. It can take a bit of time and energy fossicking dead standing wood from the bush surrounds, or the odd bit of driftwood from the creekbed.

Condition

Newton Creek Hut was repainted inside and out and resealed, by DOC in 2004. A fairly severe rat infestation developed around 2012, with the animals chewing their way in at several key locations. The smell in the Hut could get quite overpowering with rat shit often accumulating in thick pockets. The situation seemed to have had a flow-on effect on the human visitors, who began to leave their own trash behind. A fair amount of the framing, floor abutting the walls, and some of the sub floor framing and piles, was rotting, and holes had developed. The roof and woodshed also needed replacing. Rob and his crew, Eric Saggers, Peter Mortlock, and John Charles, effectively did a rebuild, stripping the Hut back to its frame and rebuilding and relining it (see www.facebook. com/groups/permolat February 23, or www.facebook.com/Shelter-from-the-Storm-478611882149614/. The work was done to a higher weatherproofing standard than the original build and subsequent repairs. Malthoid was used as a moisture barrier between piles, floor and bottom plates, and corner flashings added. Some new piles were added to increase strength. The team were working against the weather however, and didn't get the roof painting finished, or the flue back in. DOC kindly went in and finished the work in March. The woodburner's hearth was poured directly onto the floor way back when DOC installed it. This leaves the floor beneath permanently damp, and unable to dry out properly. Over time it will slowly rot out, and will need attending to longer-term. A new woodshed was constructed by the work crew. I cleaned up the toi toi on the track sections in the basin. The new Hut interior as of 2017.

Routes

Dunns Saddle lies only a kilometre North of Newton Saddle, but is not a particularly practical alternative as a crossing. The approach from the Dunns side up the TL branch of the Creek is fairly easy (with some avalanche risk from the Tara Tama side after heavy snowfalls), but the Newton Creek side is very steep and bluffy with access up or down a single steep rock gut. Travel down Newton Creek from here is through untracked sub-alpine and montane forest. A cascade with large boulders just upstream of the Newton Saddle turnoff can be skirted on the TR. Those who want to have a look at Dunns Saddle can access it directly from the Dunns side and then do an easy traverse Mt. Eidelweiss back over to Newton Saddle. This wouldn't add that much extra time to the standard crossing.

A number of high-level routes are possible from the head of Newton Creek via the Tara Tama Range. The bouldery section of the Creek just upstream from the Hut can be skirted through the bush on the TR. Further up it is mostly boulderhopping with the odd detour into the scrub to reach the open tussock in the headwaters.

Top Olderog Biv can be accessed over Mt. Olson via a normally dry rock gut that enters Newton Creek around the 820m contour. There is band of bluffs above the gut that must be negotiated to gain access to the summit of Olson. The ridge dividing the Olderog and Wainihinihi catchments below point 1566m it is difficult and unpleasant travel with some exposed, vertical sections. It is easier and safer to drop down the gut from the col between Mt. Olson and point 1566m into the head of Olderog Creek. Travel down Olderog Creek is straightforward with a couple of small cascades to skirt further down. Exit the main Creek up a side-creek that comes in at E1464688/ N5257080. Climb to around the 1240m contour and sidle out of the side-creek over to the bench where the Biv is located. Allow 6-7 hours for the crossing from Newton Hut to Top Olderog Biv.

Griffin Creek Hut via the Tara Tama Range, which is accessed from the head of Newton Creek basin. The drop-off point into Griffin Creek is at an unnamed saddle marked by a cairn on top of a large boulder, 200m South of Scottys Saddle. The descent is down an old scree into the creek catchment below. A waterfall further down the creek is skirted by means of a short section of track through the alpine scrub on its TR. Below this the creek is steep with large boulders and small cascades and reasonable degree of agility and sure-footedness is required on this section. The gradient lessens and the going becomes easier as you get further down. The Rocky Creek track crosses the creek 400m above its confluence with the Giffin. Follow the track down the TL of the creek down to where it intersects the main valley track. Griffin Creek Hut is around 15 minutes upriver from here.

Scottys Biv can also be accessed along the crest of the Tara Tama Range as far as Scottys Saddle. It is a 20 minute descent from here in an ESE direction down a series of tussock tussock with shattered rock outcrops. The Biv is clearly visible in good weather from point 1516m onwards.

There used to be an old NZFS track on the TR of the Arahura from Olderog to Newton Creek. It followed a series of side creeks that run parallel to, and above the main valley known as The Trench. The has not been maintained for a good 40 or more years and its current staus or usefulness as a route is unknown. It would at the least be very overgrown, if followable at all. The turnoff to The Trench at the Olderog end is around the 675m contour on the Lower Olderog Biv track. It is marked with permolat and drops down to a river flat in the mid-Olderog. Glenn Johnston recently checked out the Newton Creek end of the track and said that it was dense mountain holly. Reopening The Trench as a route would create an interesting link between Newton Creek Hut and Lower Olderog Biv. There have been mutterings in the Permolat Group about doing this, but it's a very low priority.

Repairs Needed

None currently, however Rob took the plastic keys for the two rat bait stations back to town in his toolbox, so there is no way currently of checking or replenishing the stations. Can someone heading that way drop into DOC and grab another key.

Provisions On Site

An axe, a handsaw and spare blade, a camp oven, a stainless steel bucket, An aluminium bucket, one billy, a Forest Service food bin, two hand brushes and a broom. Two 'Departure Lounge' vermin bait stations. One underneath the south east end of the hut and one inside under a bunk. There is a wooden ladder, a spare 4x2 and other bits of timber under the Hut.