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Old Julia Hut

Old Julia Hut

(Old Julia Hut: Photo Max Dorfliger 2014)

Maintenance Status

Old Julia Hut could probably be categorised as a default maintain-by-community project. DOC had always acknowledged its historical significance, but had not actively done anything in terms of maintenance when Permolat got involved in 2013. The Hut received a complete makeover in February 2014 from Permolat member Max Dorfliger and his friend Dick Brasier. DOC contributed most of the materials and choppered them to the hut site.

Old Julia Hut was built in 1958 by the NZFS. Its frame and floor was pit-sawn or adzed totara from the surrounding forest. Lands and Survey had jurisdiction of the valley for a while, and built a new six-bunk hut on the river terrace below the old Hut in 1986 to cater for increased demand from trampers doing the Harman Pass crossing from Canterbury. The old Hut scooped up any overflow, or remained a preferred option for the few, but became increasingly dilapidated over the years.

For a while there rumours of a ghost at the Hut, one of two girls who drowned in the valley in the 1800's, and after whom Mary and Julia creeks are named. Allan Duckett, a culler of yore who lives in Ross, recounts hearing a knock on the door around midnight while shooting there in the 1960's. He wasn't game to leave the protection of his sleeping bag and greet the visitor.

Location

Taipo catchment. Map BV20. Grid Ref: E1471437/ N5249139. Altitude 610m. Old Julia Hut is located in a clearing on a TR terrace in the upper Taipo valley, a short distance downriver from the Mary/ Julia Creek confluence. The new Hut on the terrace below gets a steady stream of traffic, mostly crossings of the Divide to, or from Canterbury. The Old Hut gets a bit of the overflow when the new one is full, and the odd traveller seeking a bit more of an old-style ambience. The other main attraction of Julia apart from the superb walking and proximity to a number of popular Main Divide crossings, is the hot spring at the River's edge, just downstream from the huts.

Access

The Julia huts can be reached in a reasonably long day from the Taipo roadend, or 3-4 hours from Mid Taipo Hut. Most folk allow two days when crossing from the Canterbury side, from Klondyke Corner and the Waimakariri via Harman Pass. The access road up the valley from SH73 on the West Coast side was washed out on the first river flat in October 2013. The rest of the farm road to Dillons Hut needs to be walked now, taking around 40 minutes. The route from Dillons is a mix of track, and a little bit of river travel. You have the option of staying on the TR of the valley at the cableway and continuing upriver (a mix or river travel and track), or fording the Taipo and walking up the River Flats on the TR. At normal river flows a reasonable ford can usually be found in the vicinity of Hunts Creek, although recent changes to the riverbed have made this a bit trickier of late. From Mid Taipo travel is up the TL until just above Micks Creek, where a swingbridge takes you across to the TR. From here it is a couple of hours along the bush faces to the Julia Huts.

The route from Carrington Hut on the Canterbury is up the TR of the White River to the Taipoiti confluence. A cableway crosses the White and the route continues up the Taipoiti to Harman Pass. Travel in the upper basin of Mary Creek is straightforward and a track leads from the scrubline down the TL to the swingbridge just above the Julia Creek confluence. The huts are a few minutes from here. Allow 5-6 hours in good conditions, for the crossing from Carrington Hut.

Type

Old Julia is one of the early NZFS four-bunk structures. The frame and floor were constructed from pit-sawn or adzed Halls Totara from the surrounding forest. The walls were simple iron cladding overlaying a chicken wire/ tar paper inner lining. Some of the original floorboards were replaced with roughly chain-sawn macrocarpa planks at some point. The remains of a slab porch covered with flat-iron that was still attached in 1983 when Greg Ross worked there, can be found lying in the scrub near the Hut. Water was originally from a tarn on the terrace, a short distance downriver. Walking down to it won't be necessary now with a new water barrel installed. Hut users currently use the new Hut's toilet on the terrace below.

Condition

Old Julia is once again in good condition. Max and Dick's renovations were extensive. They included joining floorboards together more tightly with macrocarpa boards from Max's farm filling the gaps. A pile under the door was replaced and the door stiffened on its hinges. The original wire bunks remained in place, with foam mattresses added. Prefabricated cloth and polystyrene panels were inserted in the spaces between the wall framing for insulation. The old roofing iron was wrapped around the Hut walls and new colour steel sheets overlaid. A small water tank was installed. It has a spout arrangement, a screw top lid, and a hook inside for a billy. The chimney had some of its more rotten timber framing replaced, and received a coat of paint. Replacing the rusty chimney iron would have required a rebuild, and it is hoped that users keep fires to a moderate level so as to not burn off the paint. Two rimu stools were created as a gift by Dick with timber sourced from Max's supply. The Hut was repainted externally.

Routes

A volunteer maintained track leads up the TR of Julia Creek from the Mary Creek swingbridge. There is a DOC stoat line on the first section. Eigill Wahlberg cut the bottom and top thirds of the track in June 2016. The middle section still needs some work but is easy to follow. It's about two hours from Julia Hut to the bush edge in the top basin, and from here it's easy open travel up to Popes Pass. Climb from Popes Pass onto the NE slopes of Mt. Harman to avoid some bluffs on the Wilberforce side of the Pass. Drop from the flat bench at the 1800m mark on Mt. Harman directly down to Browning Pass (Noti Raureka) and from here use the bench track down to either Park Morpeth Hut in the Wilberforce, or Harman Hut in the Arahura. This is an alpine crossing and an ice axe may be required for parts of it during the colder months. Allow extra time in winter, as soft deep snow in the Julia Creek basin could slow progress considerably.

Access onto the Campbell Range is up the second side-creek on the TR of Julia Creek. A steep scree in the head of the side-creek provides access through a band of bluffs onto a flat bench in the head of the TR fork of Dexter Creek. From here access onto the crest of the Range is simple and travel easy in both directions. Mudflats Hut in the Arahura can be accessed down an old tops track that starts on the scrubline around E1471437/ N5249319. The top of the track is overgrown but followable. From 800m down it was cut and marked by Permolat volunteers in 2013 (the top portion will be completed at some point!). Campbell Biv can be accessed by dropping from point 1783m into the upper basin of the unnamed creek below. Sidle out of the basin above the waterfall and head along the tussock benches on the TL until roughly at the 1200m contour. Continue sidling at this level through scattered alpine scrub onto a narrow ridge around E1465947/ N5249269. Cairns and cruise tape here lead across the face to the Biv.

Access to Campbell Pass from Julia is via a watercourse that runs down from Taipo's Breast into Mary Creek a few hundred metres above the Julia Creek confluence. Travel from the Taipo's Breast over into the upper Campbell Stream basin, climbing out onto the shelf North of point 1390m. Walk down the shallow gully at the south end of the shelf, then sidle out to the TL and down tussock slopes into a scree gully descending from the cliffs of Carrington Peak. The gully provides easy access down to the Waimakariri.

A great high-level sidle is possible from Campbell Pass into the head of Gorgy Creek, then over a couple of unnamed cols into the head of Hunts Creek. It is a reasonably straightforward amble down Hunts Creek basin to Hunts Creek Hut. There is a short section of track through the scrub on the TR of an old moraine wall just above the Hut. An alternate route to Hunts from Julia is downriver for a couple of hours and up Dry Creek onto Hunts Ridge. Drop from the crest of the Ridge down into the basin and continue to the Hut this way. The route is shorter and less demanding than the Campbell Pass route.

Repairs needed

No major issues currently. The Hut would benefit from having a three-inch strip of plastic tacked around the door to close the gap and make it cosier. Over the longer-term, some major chimney repairs will be necessary.

Provisions on site

A billy. There is a good pair of loppers and a bow saw in the new Julia Hut if anyone wants to do a bit of track work.