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Top Crooked Hut

Top Crooked Hut

(Top Crooked Hut: Photo Andrew Buglass 2016)

Maintenance Status

Top Crooked Hut is designated as ‘minimal maintain’ by DOC. They undertook track clearing in much of the Crooked valley in May 2015 but have yet to clear the section below the Morgan River confluence. Martin Clapham, Kevin Cohen, Craig and William Benbow, and Paul Reid, all from the Permolat group did some hut maintenance and further track work late May 2015. The work was funded by the High Country Consortium. Helicopter backloads of materials were provided by DOC.

Location

Crooked catchment. Map BU21. Grid Ref: E1492802/ N5271190. 575m altitude. West Coast, inland from Greymouth. Top Crooked Hut is located in the Crooked valley headwaters on a terrace on the TL of the river. It was shifted to its current site from one closer to the river by the army in 1991 because of an encroaching shingle fan a short distance upriver. The forest around the hut is predominantly rata/ kamahi and the peaks of the Kaimata Range and Morgan tops provide a picturesque backdrop. The Crooked is a rugged little valley with great remote ambience. Visits to the hut are infrequent, mostly groups doing the Lake Morgan Tops circuit.

Access

The track up to Top Crooked Hut from Jacko Flat Hut was cut by DOC in 2009 and cleared again in 2012, and chainsawed and remarked in 2015. It stays on the TL of the valley, passing through fairly open beech forest initially. It hits the river briefly, then climbs up and around a small gorge. After this it alternates between bush face and riverbed sections, climbing gradually towards the headwaters. Top Crooked Hut is up a short (20m) side track from the clearing beside the river at the end of the track (where the hut used to be sited before being moved higher in 1991). The hut is visible from the riverbed on a low terrace on the TL. Allow around 2.5 - 3 hours to Top Crooked Hut from Jacko Flat Hut. As with the Jacko Flat track the DOC boys have done a sterling job with chainsawing and marking, but there are bits where the seedling and fern regrowth is getting quite thick underfoot. Allow 2.5 to 3 hours from Jacko Flat, or 7 - 10 hours from the Crooked road-end.

There is excellent helicopter landing access in the clearing below Top Crooked Hut.

Type

Top Crooked Hut is an unmodified NZFS S81 four-bunk design with an open fire. It is believed to have been built by Don Cowlin, the Ranger at Ahaura between 1963 and 65. It is lined with the original tar paper. There is a toilet and water is from the River.

Condition

Top Crooked Hut is in good condition. DOC painted and resealed it and did some basic maintenance in 2004 and revisited in 2012 to rebuild the woodshed. Paul's crew removed Hut door and trimmed the bottom, and a metal door sill was cut to measure and installed. An angle door flashing was moulded to the base of the door to direct water away. The dwarf-height wood shed was cleaned out and restocked with firewood that DOC had cut into rings. Small flashings were made to cover the ends of the floor bearers. Loose and rusted lead-head roof nails were replaced with hex-head rubber washer screws, as were flat-head nails on the exterior wall cladding. A significant amount of regrowth was cleared away from the front of the hut to let more light and air in to the site. Vegetation was removed from around the piles and base of the hut. The hut now has a view of the river on the terrace below. Paint is starting to show rust streaks in a few places, particularly the chimney. The chimney is dented at the base, The rivets have popped the seams on both sides of the chimney just above the gutter. The whole structure leans out slightly.

Routes

The route from Top Crooked onto to the Lake Morgan Tops is via a track cut to the bushline from the valley floor by DOC in May 2015. The track climbs a spur on the TR of the Crooked River. It begins on the TR, 100m downstream of the hut. Orange triangles lead from the original Hut clearing to the River, and there is a large orange triangle on the TR bank. The track proper starts at a small stream that runs in against the bush edge, around E1492748/ N5271293. It climbs steeply in a direct line to the bush/ scrub line and it is well marked with both orange triangles and pieces of permolat. Very close to the bush/ scrub line is a short band (10 metres) of large boulders (around E1492748/ N5271293). Cross these onto a small rocky knoll which provides extensive views both up and down and across the Crooked Valley.

The track becomes a ‘route’ from this point on, marked by orange sleeved waratahs and cairns. The route immediately climbs over and through low level scrub up to an obvious higher point. From this higher point, the route drops into a very shallow depression and climbs up the other side and begins to head in a NE direction. The route then begins to sidle towards the NE at the 1300m contour on an obvious tussock terrace/ bench. It continues to climb to the NE towards a low point on the main Morgan tops ridge. The last waratah is at 1420m (E1492850/ N5272930) on a tussock ridge and this should be visible from the main Morgan Tops ridge. Travel is easy and reasonably level along the crest to point 1489m. Drop down to the low point between point 1489m and point 1422m, and from here down an obvious rocky gut to Lake Morgan, where there are numerous good campsites around the Lake. Continue around the Lake and down the TR of the outlet creek. Cross to the TL just below a set of small waterfalls onto a flat bench here with tarns. Lake Morgan Hut is visible from here in fine conditions. Drop from the bench in a NE direction and recross to the TR of the outlet creek. Sidle from here at roughly around the 1120m contour line to the Hut, which is a bench above the gorge in the outlet creek. Allow 4-6 hours for the journey from Top Crooked Hut to Lake Morgan Hut.

Access to the Lake Morgan tops is also possible from the head basin of the upper TR branch of the Crooked River. Climb from here up the tussock slopes onto the main range.

Cone Creek Hut in the Haupiri is accessed by heading East from point 1489m and around the ridge above the TR of Lake Morgan. Drop into first basin on the South side of the side-ridge that leads out to point 1368m, and follow the creek down. Exit the Creek on the TL near the lip of the basin and cross onto a small cairned saddle at 975m. A track leads from here over to a large slip that provides access down into Cone Creek, just downriver from the Hut. The tracked section was recut and marked by a Permolat group in March 2015. Allow 5-6 hours for the crossing from Top Crooked to Cone Creek Hut.

There are other tops routes in and out of the upper Crooked from the Haupiri and Taramakau catchments, which would all require reasonably high levels of skill and fitness. In the Top Crooked hutbook the is an account of a trip up an old, unfollowable track in Tom's Creek on the Taramakau side of the Kaimata Range.

There is an ancient NZFS up the spur behind Top Crooked Hut that onto the tops. I managed to locate the bottom section of it in 2016 and although quite well permolatted, it was pretty much completely overgrown. The first bit from the Hut was completely gone and so I cruise-taped from the toilet to where the permolat can be picked up a couple of hundred metres into the bush. A project for someone maybe?

Further Work

The split seams on the chimney need re-rivitting and the chimney levelled possibly. The Hut will need a repaint in the medium term. A step outside the hut on the existing concrete pad would be a great addition as currently it is a large step up or down from the hut onto what can be a slippery pad. At some point in the near future the roofing iron should be removed and new wire netting and building paper applied, as well as installation of Bitufoam to eliminate the significant draughts from the gaps under the roofing iron. This would help reduce dripping and condensation building up. Installation of timber to enclose the piles and underfloor area of the hut would help keep the hut warmer and prevent rain driving in under the floor with its associated impact on rising damp. The toilet could do with some building paper under the roofing iron to stop the drips. The wood shed would benefit from a splash of paint and installation of building paper under the roofing iron to reduce condensation and dripping onto the dry wood. A few more waratahs are needed in the sub-alpine zone, particularly at the point on the main Morgan Tops where people should drop off and head southwest towards the terrace/ bench and subsequently to the bush-line.

Provisions on site

Five billies, two bench seats, a rather useless axe, a rather useless bow saw, 2 brooms, an aluminium bucket, 2 stainless steel buckets, a broom handle, an aluminium wash basin, 2 hearth brushes and shovels, some bags of coal, 2 perspex louvre panes, and 3 old NZFS food bins.