A visit to Penn Creek Hut
20th and 21st March 2010
Ken and I had decided on a weekend trip but had not settled on a destination; when Ken said that he had not visited Penn Creek for some time our destination was settled. The trip to Penn Creek starts at Otaki Forks where there are two possible routes. One route sidles above the Otaki River and then up Penn Creek. This was once the preferred route but in more recent times this route has been dogged by slips and is no longer maintained. Ken was trip leader on a very interesting club trip along this route about two years ago. Progress had been quite slow as some of the slips were very active and not easy to cross and some side streams were equally troublesome. Our exit from the Otaki was by a long spur directly to Table Top. We had decided on this occasion to take the other route to Penn Creek via Field Hut and Table Top. The tramp up Judd Ridge is on a recently graded and gravelled track as far as the bush edge. The track through the bush is well maintained and we were soon at Fields for lunch. After lunch the weather had taken a turn for the worse, being both wetter and cooler. We decided that it wasnít that bad so we continued. The track to Penn Creek had recently been trimmed through the tussock and in the bush, making for straightforward travel. Once in Penn Creek the track then climbs a short distance and sidles above the creek on a terrace before rejoining Penn Creek opposite the Pakihore Ridge track, a short distance from the hut. During the lower part of our descent, the smell of smoke indicated that the hut was occupied. A single tramper greeted us with hot water for a cuppa and a friendly chat on our arrival at the hut. Penn Creek hut is a NZFS typical six bunker and was constructed in 1966 as part of the building boom of the 60ís.The Victoria University Tramping Club had been caring for the hut, but with more limited access I am unsure if the interest is current. The hut boasted a recent DoC makeover with a new stainless steel table and benches, a restored open fire place and a very tidy paint job. Our exit route was discussed and the spur behind the hut leading to Table Top would be mostly new country to both Ken and me. Sunday dawned - a mottled sky with some patches of blue, unfortunately soon to be greyed over. We accessed the spur by returning to the point where the marked track to Table Top leaves Penn Creek and climbs to a terrace before sidling to the side stream from where the track starts to climb. Once on the terrace, we left the track and started climbing through a maze of supple jack, and under foot were slippery loose rocks of an old slip. After a climb of a little over 100m we reached a flattish bench which seemed to be well inhabited by deer, as evidenced by fresh foot prints and droppings. Another 100m or so saw us on the broad crown of the spur and in good open bush, a just reward for our efforts. A description of trip down this spur is in the Tararua Tramper (Tararua Tramper Vol 81 No 11 December 2009). Neil Challands led a trip from Table Top to Penn Creek Hut, but by picking a trail between the leather wood he was able to avoid some of the delights we were about to encounter and avoid a prolonged experience with supple jack. Continuing up the spur initially presented no problem but as the gradient steepened so did the density of the scrub and leather wood. The scrub was starting to pose a real obstacle to our progress, which had slowed to snail pace. Forward progress often involved pushing, crawling and climbing until blocked, then retracing our steps to try again. Thick mist masked our view of clear tussock. Finally the scrub gave way to some open patches of tussock, but not before one final good leatherwood bash. Once on Table Top the only view was that in our minds from previous trips. No place to hang around so down to Fields for a cuppa. After a late lunch we made our way to the car park where more substantial rain greeted us.
- Party members
- Ken Fraser and Dave Reynolds (scribe).