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Otehake Hut

Otehake Hut

(Otehake Hut: Photo Hugh Van Noorden 2016)

Maintenance Status

Otehake Hut is supposedly a DOC fully maintain hut that was starting to languish a bit and became Permolat's latest maintain-by-community project, with Hugh Van Noorden as signatory. Although sited in Arthur's Pass National Park, Otehake was maintained by DOC Hokitika. No work had occurred for some time and a few things were starting to run down. The route up the Otehake River from Lake Kaurapataka had been a zero/ low maintenance affair for many years. From the late 60's to the early 80's the valley was gazetted as a wilderness area and the track left to run down. DOC went in at some point and marked the route with orange triangles on some of the trees, but the notoriety of the route was sufficient deterrent for most and few in recent times had made the trip up the valley. Instead, the Hut tended to be accessed from the Canterbury side of the Divide via the Edwards valley and Taruahuna Pass. Hugh and others have just completed a second round of maintenance and succeeded in December 2018 in getting the track recut and marked all the way up. Back Country Trust funding have provided the funding for the project.

Location

Taramakau catchment. Grid Ref: E1494663/ N5254195. Map BV21. Altitude 640m. Otehake Hut is located in montane beech forest near the head of the Otehake River, which is a tributary of the Taramakau River. The Hut has historically been low-use, receiving 6-10 visits per year.

Access

Main valley access to Otehake Hut is from the the Aitkens Corner carpark on State Highway 73, nine kilometres North of Otira. Markers lead from the car park along the fenceline, across the paddocks, and through small gate to the Otira River. Cross the braids of Otira River channels on a NE diagonal to the end point of bush on the TR of the Otira. From the junction either follow the poles along the bush fringes on the TL of the Taramakau, or continue NE across the river flats and pick up the 4WD track further up. The latter is faster and more direct, although both routes merge a little further on.

Follow the 4WD track to 100m before Pfeifer Creek, where the lake Kaurapataka track turns off. Poles lead SE from the road through patches of gorse and regenerating scrub to the Creek. The track crosses and follows the TR of Pfeifer Creek to Lake Creek, and follows the TL of Lake Creek, then around the southern edge of the Lake. The lakeside section of track passes some magnificent 40m tall specimens of Red Beech with impressive butressed roots. The track to and around the Lake is officially maintained by DOC although several large red beech have fallen over this portion and not been cleared. The track splits on the low bush saddle at the Eastern end of the Lake. The left branch drops into the Otehake River, and the right continues up the valley sidling above the Otehake Gorge for half a kilometre before dropping to the River.

Follow the River from here to the flat with the hot spring. The track enters bush on the TL above the spring, however a first steep up and down section is unnecessary at normal flows. The River can be followed to the first big side creek on the map and the track picked up there. It climbs steeply for around 150 vertical metres, sidles, then drops into Whaiti Stream. It climbs out of the Stream and continues at an uneven high sidle through quite rough terrain to the Hut which is on the TL of the West Otehake 100m above its confluence with the East Otehake. Allow 7-8 hours to reach Otehake Hut from Aitkens corner. The Otehake valley section takes 5-6 hours. Various Permolat people have worked at getting the track up to scratch from 2017 until this December. The work has just been finished and the track is good to go for the first time in around 40 years. The terrain is rough however and parties need to be fit and experienced in order to have a good time. Whaiti stream and some of the larger creeks would be unfordable after heavy rain.

A flood track down the TR of the Otira from the Deception Footbridge (recut in 2012), and adds a good hour to the trip.

The second principle point of access for Otehake Hut is via crossings of the Main Divide from the Edwards and Hawdon valleys. The most straightforward and direct of these is from Edwards Hut and the upper Edwards basin. It is easy open tussock and riverbed travel to Taruahuna Pass, then across the bouldery remnants of the Falling Mountain avalanche and down into the West Otehake basin. Follow the basin to an obvious flat grassy area (E1492243/ N5251831), and cut across the flat keeping left of a rocky band of lateral moraine into the first side branch of Lake Sally Stream. Follow this down to just past where the main branch of the Stream comes in and sidle out and up here following cairns and poles through scattered scrub onto a narrow terrace above the eroded shingle bluffs on the valley sides. A marked route sidles through stunted beech and scrub down to where Mt. Russel stream joins the West Otehake. The entrance of the track proper is on the TL of the Otehake about 500m downriver from here. This bit was recut by Hugh and his crew in December 2017 and is good travel. Allow around four hours for the crossing from Edwards Hut to Otehake Hut when the route is snow-free.

The second route from the Hawdon involves crossing Walker Pass into the head of the East Otehake, then up and over Tarn Col which drops onto Taruahuna Pass. There is a good cut track from Hawdon Hut up into the basin of Twin Fall Stream. From here the route is poled up to and over Walker Pass. Follow the East Otehake down for 800m to the first big side creek on the TL and follow this up to Tarn Col. It is a short descent from here down to Taruahuna Pass. Allow 5-6 hours for the crossing from Hawdon Hut to Otehake Hut in good conditions.

Commercial helicopter access into the Otehake valley is prohibited by APNP policy.

Type

Otehake Hut is a extended SF70 6-bunk open fire design built by the NZFS in the late 1960's. An vestibule extension vestibule with door was added, probably a short time after. A new toilet was built reasonably recently. Water is from the River. There is a small woodshed and plenty of firewood on the terraces away from the Hut.

Condition

Otehake Hut is in pretty good shape after the 2017 and 18 efforts, although still needs some pile work at some point. The main work party was Hugh, Colin Morris, Peter Fullerton, and Geoff Spearpoint. Myself and Joke de Rijke helped out on the 2018 project. In 2017 significant reframing and window repairs were done and the internal lining replaced. Some rotten floorboards and the ridging were replaced. UV stabilised plastic was added under the skylights and the leadhead nails in the roof were replaced with hex-screws. The roof was treated and painted in 2017, however for some reason this hasn't stuck well. In 2018 some bearers were replaced, a new iron backing to the fireplace put in, door and porch repairs done, a new woodshed built, and the interior and exterior walls repainted. The uncut portion of track down towards Whaiti Stream was finished off and marked.

Routes

For adventure bunnies, there is an alternative option for the Hawdon access route directly down the East Otehake from Walker Pass. This involves some fairly rough river travel and is a fine weather only route. Travel is mostly easy down the riverbed. A first gorge section can sometimes be passed on steep mossy rock on the TL, or requires a short swim. A second constriction in the last kilometer before the junction and the Hut can be avoided by climbing 100m over the spur on the TL.

The creek on the TR of the Otehake, 300m down from the Hut, gives good access across to Chasm Stream and the Poulter valley. Use the scree in the TL head and cross the Main Divide at 1500m north of point 1647m. The ridge on the TL of the creek is also navigable.

Access to Lake Sally is gained up the ridge and loose bush covered slopes on the TR of the stream which drains it. Alternatively, ascend the slopes on the TL of the stream, sidling around the base of the East Ridge of Mt. Franklin to reach the Lake. There is a camp site under the knoll near the outlet. Ice axes and crampons need to be carried on this route in winter. The faces under Mt. Franklin are also highly avalanche prone at this time of year.

When the Koropuku River is low it is possible to travel up through its gorge from the Otehake to Koropuku Hut. There are some waterfalls that must be negotiated and it is pretty slow going in places. Probably more fun in high summer. More detailed route notes can be found on www.tramper.co.nz.

Kiwi Hut in the lower Taramakau is accessed from the start of the Koropuku track in the Otehake. Boulderhop downriver from here to the Taramakau, and cross where practicable upstream of the Otehake to pick up the 4WD track upsteam of Jacksons Creek. The Kiwi Hut turn-off is marked with a large routered sign. There is a track through a patch of beech, then a big grassy clearing to cross to get to the low terrace where the Hut is located. It takes around an hour and a half from the bottom end of the Koropuku tack to Kiwi Hut. This is a fine weather route, obviously.

Repairs

Still to do next trip, several piles need replacing and the roof repainted.

Provisions on Site

Known provisions are an axe, two billies, an original NZFS wall-mounted can opener, and a shovel.