Sixty years old and still going strong - Cone Hut trip
by a group of Cone Hut admirers
25 - 28 August 2006
On 25th August a party of three set out from Kiwi Ranch for Cone Hut to celebrate the hutís 60th year. Michael had some work to be completed so we had some tools to carry, in addition to our culinary offerings which included a roast for Saturday night. We did not carry a primus, instead opting to cook all meals over the open fire which is such a feature of the hut. Cooking the roast required a camp oven, which was carried by David.
Friday was a great day to be walking up the Tauherenikau Valley - warm autumn sun and a gentle breeze. Since the completion of the new bridge just above the Marchant Stream a route has been cut on the true left of the river to join the old Tutuwai Hut track at the site of the previous bridge. This route has no serious stream crossings and for the most part is located on a low river terrace but makes some excursions along-side the river. At the start of the route a climb to a higher terrace can be avoided by following the low terrace alongside the river and following the river bed for a short distance before rejoining the route when the first small side stream is encountered. We had a lunch stop by the river alongside the bridge in warm sunny conditions. After lunch we made our way along the route which had been roughly cut leaving debris and some rather sharp stumps. After a stop at Tutuwai Hut we continued upriver to Cone Hut. On our arrival we immediately started searching out and collecting good quality firewood. Kindling was collected from ground litter close to the hut while most of the wood was collected from a windfall on the terrace below the hut. By the time enough wood had been collected, it was almost dark and time for a cuppa and billy stew. Our slumber was disturbed about 10pm by the arrival of a tramper who intended going to Neill Forks on Saturday. About midnight two more trampers arrived with the same Saturday destination.
Saturdayís predicted heavy rain eventuated. A bank to bank Tauherenikau River raged below, and the hut very rapidly became surrounded by puddles and a constant stream of water fl owed down the track. Work on the hut was postponed until Sunday.
But more firewood was needed. Michael located some good windfalls alongside the track above the hut and with his efficient saw set about securing sufficient wood for the rest of the day and Sunday morning. Carrying the wood down hill was a better prospect than lugging it up from the terrace below the hut. Although wet on the outside, the wood was dry on the inside and the surface water soon evaporated.
For lunch we had damper cooked over the fire by twisting the damper around a stick and topping it off with apricot and plum jam. The evening meal was a roast of lamb with roasted vegetables. By now the rain had relented a little but a southerly change had brought a drop in temperature. By Sunday morning the rain was just light showers and we were able to get on with some hut maintenance, in particular to the chimney which had taken a battering when a tree fell on the hut. We had noted the previous two days that the fire was not drawing as well as it used to. We had reasoned that the gaps in the chimney iron may well be contributing to this. After drilling some holes, wire was used to reduce the gaps in the chimney. This did improve the draft but it is still not as good as it used to be. Major chimney repairs were beyond the scope of our resources.
Recent work on the hut by DoC has included internal fumigation to combat borer, and the lower sections of the wood panels had been impregnated with a filler and a preservative to enhance the life of the hut. Cone Hut had been subject to a major restoration over the summer of 1988-89. For Michael the work had started in 1983 when the planning got underway and the various consents obtained. Late in the afternoon we were visited by a hunter on his way to Tutuwai Hut for a few days hunting.
Monday was a cold start as there had been a frost in the aftermath of a clearing southerly. The river was still up and the water a bit discoloured but this did nothing to detract from the beauty of the bush walk from Cone to Tutuwai. We lunched at the same spot as on Friday but the weather had by now turned to a pesky northerly and conditions were not as pleasant. The most southerly slip on the Smith Creek track has moved and is now very difficult to cross but a bypass to the stream is still possible. The remaining two slips are straightforward to cross. David left us at the start of the Smith Creek track to race up the hill at a greater rate than our modest pace. However I did give him the car keys so he could meet us at the Kaitoke road end.
Cone Hut is unique among the Tararua huts for its construction, atmosphere and location and hopefully will continue to give many more years of pleasure to its visitors.
- Party members were
- Michael Bartlett, David Molnar and Dave Reynolds.