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Top Tuke Hut

Top Tuke Hut

(Top Tuke Hut looking upvalley: Photo Andrew Buglass 2014)

Maintenance Status

Top Tuke Hut and the tracked sections up the Tuke valley to it are designated as fully maintain currently. Ian Horner from Ahaura and Brian Barton are interested taking over its maintenance. DOC are at the early stages of working on the scope of works and may do an agreement in Ian's name.

Location

Mikonui catchment. Map BV18. Grid Ref: E1428202/ N5227064. Altitude 1000m. Top Tuke Hut is located in the head basin of the Tuke River, which is the main tributary of the Mikonui River. It is a remote, beautiful and rugged spot, ringed by the peaks of Galena and Dickie Ridges. The mid Tuke valley is spectacularly gorged and impassable with large waterfalls. Foot access to the Hut is exclusively via the tops and the higher sections of the routes in and out of the valley are usually snow covered from winter through to early summer. The snow tends to burn off in most places by late summer and the tops often remain bare until early winter, aside from a few patches of permanent snow and glacial remnants. Extreme weather and snow can occur at any time of year however and ice axes and crampons may be neccessary during the colder months in a few places. Visits on foot to the Hut are infrequent and there are 1-2 fly-ins per year, mostly hunters. The most direct access is from the Mikonui roadend via Dickie Spur, with occasional crossings over Galena Ridge, or from the head of the Waitaha valley.

Access

Access to Top Tuke Hut from the Mikonui valley is via Dickie Spur Hut and Dickie Ridge. From Dickie Spur Hut head back up to the Mikonui Flat turnoff on Dickie Ridge and follow the poles up and over point 1326m to the the small saddle at point 1296m. A more direct line from the Hut to point 1326m is slower than the former, due to a band of alpine scrub. The poles lead from the saddle down some a steep tussock ribs into the creek catchment directly below. The creekbed is followed down to around the 820m contour where a track exits on the TR and sidles upvalley for 15 minutes, dropping into the riverbed at the top entrance of the upper Tuke gorge. The River is followed on the TL from here, and is usually easy to ford when a crossing would offer a better line of travel. The riverbed becomes increasingly rough and bouldery further up and DOC has put in a number of short sections of track to skirt various obstacles. A number of these aren't particularly helpful, and are actually slower than sticking to the River would be when at its normal level. A small gorge around 20 minutes below the Hut does require skirting, and is tracked on its TL. Continue from the gorge up the riverbed to the small side-creek at on the TR at E1428172/ N5226869, just upriver from the Hut. There is a short section of track leads from here up onto the terrace where the Hut is. Top Tuke Hut is clearly visible from a number of points on the route, the tracked sections of which were recut in April 2012. Allow 3-4 hours from Dickie Spur Hut to Top Tuke Hut, or 9-10 hours from the Mikonui roadend.

Top Tuke Hut can also be accessed by continuing up Dickie Ridge and dropping from the dip between point 1920m and The Tusk, down a long diagonal spur down into the upper Tuke basin. It's a long plod up the Ridge however and there are a number of short exposed sections with crumbling rock. One in particular is marginal without a rope and for those not comfortable with this type of scrambling I'd suggest one be carried anyway. Finding a good line down into the Top Tuke may also be difficult when dropping from above, and the terrain is very bluffy in most places. There is certainly no time advantage in using this route.

Type

Top Tuke Hut is a standard NZFS S81, 4-bunk design built sometime around 1964. Derrick Field remembers the hutsite being prepared that year. It was lined at some point. There is no toilet, and water is from a small creek 20 or so metres from the door. There is some NIWA recording equipment near the Hut and choppers fly in from time to time to take readings.

Condition

DOC Painted and sealed Top Tuke Hut and carried out some minor repairs in 2004. It is in reasonably good condition aside from some flaking on the rear window sill and frame. It's possible that the other wooden bits might also need a touch-up.

Routes

Ivory Lake Hut can be accessed from the head of the Tuke basin. Travel in the upper Tuke is relatively easy with the boulders getting progressively larger as you get further up. There are also some delightful pools for those summer dips. Follow the upper TL fork of the river which has three branches that drain The Tusk and Sawtooth Ridge. Take the SE branch, exiting it on the TR at 1300m onto a flat bench on the broad spur that drops in a NW direction from the junction of Sawtooth Ridge and the SW ridge of Mt. Beaumont. Follow the spur up to the junction and continue towards point 2084m. There is a short, down-climb of around five metres just before point 2084m which is exposed, crumbly, and would be problematic for many. It may be possible to skirt this by dropping down on the Watson Creek side, crossing a couloir, and climbing back onto the main ridge. The couloir is on the shady side and has hard permanent snow. An ice axe would be required if using this as a detour. From here on it is reasonably straightforward, although a couple of bits on the lee side of points 2084m and 1870m might require crampons during the colder months if conditions were icy. From point 1870m, drop down the ridge on the TR of Ivory Lake, over point 1620m to the Hut. Allow 4-5 hours for the crossing from Top Tuke to Ivory Lake Hut.

There is a good route from the upper Tuke basin to Top Waitaha Hut over The Tusk and Ragged Peak. It is the same initially as the Ivory lake crossing, but instead of taking the SE branch of the upper TL fork of the Tuke, take the middle branch. This turns into a dry gut with large boulders that veers West further up. it provides access to the crest of the range at the start of Sawtooth Ridge. Sidle from here around the snowfield on the the SW side of The Tusk and onto the connecting ridge to Ragged Peak. Access into the Top Waitaha basin is down the SE spur of Ragged Peak towards the Stag/ Reid Creek confluence. Drop off the ridge where it is dissected by a branch of Watson Creek around 1360m. A steepish spur drops west from the bench here down towards an unnamed side-creek that enters the Waitaha 100m downstream from the Hut. Top Waitaha Hut is visible from a number of points on the descent. Allow 4-6 for this crossing. Ice axes would be necessary at times during the colder months.

It is possible to do a traverse Galena Ridge from Top Tuke to and Healey Creek Hut. The route onto the tops behind Top Tuke is up the ridge on the TR of the large creek with waterfall. There is a small notch in the band of bluffs at the top of the ridge (around E1428665/ N5227080) that allows access up and into the the hanging basin above the fall. Continue up the creek to where it veers right and exit up the tussock faces onto the spur bounding the TR of the basin. There is one short, steep eroded section near the top of the spur, but nothing too radical. Travel along Galena Ridge from point 1974m to Remarkable Peak is relatively easy, and access onto Healey Spur is down a steepish face with loose rock and scree. There is a dip in the Spur, then a short razor-back section which can be traversed with care, or avoided by dropping onto a sloping bench and sidling on the Healey Creek side of the Spur. Option two requires having to climb all the way back up onto the Spur to get around a deep slot just before the Hut, making option one the least energy-intensive. Allow 5-7 hours from Top Tuke Hut to Healey Creek Hut.

Mt. Beaumont is an easy climb from the head of the Tuke. DOC poled and cut a trail through the scrub upriver from the Hut in 2007 that provides access to its leading ridge. From Beaumont it is possible to drop down into the Whitcombe valley via The Rotunda and Steadman Brow. A maintained track provides access down a side-spur that connects with Cropp Brow at a flat area just NE of Cropp Knob. It leads down to the Price Flat swingbridge in the Whitcombe valley, taking around two hours from the scrubline. The track was last cut in 2013.

Access into the Cropp basin is possible from point 1898m, North of Mt. Beaumont. Sidle from here to point 1695m and drop in an easterly direction down some eroding faces into the upper South branch of the Cropp River. The top of the descent is steep, but there are some reasonable lines down. A waterfall in the South Cropp at around the 1000m contour can be skirted on a rocky ledge on the TL. Down in the basin proper there are good campsites on the tussock flat on the TR opposite to where Cropp Hut used to be. The remains of the Hut were helicoptered over to this side of the River, and are not far from the NIWA measuring station.

Repairs needed

Some repainting of the external wooden bits may currently be needed.

Provisions on Site

One slasher, two flat files, a broom, an aluminium wash basin, two billies, a hand broom and hearth shovel, a scrubbing brush, candles, and two spare louvre panes.