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December 2012 Issue
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Christmas in the Karangarua

Moonlit 30 second exposure of Christmas Flat Hut by moonlight. This cosy hut is a real haven after a long day of West Coast tramping.
Highway to Cassell Flat Hut, 5hr; Cassell Flat Hut to Lame Duck Hut, 5hr; Lame Duck Hut to Christmas Flat Hut, 3hr
From Haast Highway. Park at Copland/Karangarua valleys parking area
BX14, BX15
Christmas Flat Hut, Karangarua Valley, Westland Tai Poutini National Park 

Deep within legendary tahr hunting country, steeped in history and seldom visited on foot sits Christmas Flat Hut­ – perched at the head of the Karangarua Valley. It’s a place of pristine isolation; a destination in its own right, or an overnight stop on a journey to, or from, the alpine zone.

Open flats surround the unique four bunk hut and the river flows over a rocky bed nearby. It’s the perfect place to lie on grass as the sun makes its lazy arc and mist rolls over Karangarua Saddle far above.

The Karangarua is one of Westland’s most spectacular valleys; its Fiordland-like walls rising over 1800m to jagged schist summits and its floor riven with steep, bouldery streams. Tempering the valley’s drama is a lush sub canopy world of ferns, dripping moss, rare plants, whio and kereru.

Christmas Flat was named by explorer Charlie Douglas after he arrived at the flat on Christmas Eve during his pioneering expedition in 1894. His Christmas treat “a small piece of suet and a few raisins [with which I] made a pudding”.

Christmas Flat Hut is most commonly used by hunters who fly in, but deeper rewards exist for those who reach it on foot. From the quiet Haast Highway, you’ll traverse country little changed from the time of Douglas as you make your way to Cassell Flat Hut – a place to overnight before the following day’s longer and harder tramp. Between Cassell and Lame Duck Flat several beautiful schist streambeds are crossed, the water lazily trickling from pool to pool. These make great spots for a break.

Onwards towards Christmas Flat Hut there are two mandatory river crossings – easy in low flow, but potentially hazardous in prolonged rain.

If the hut is busy there is plenty of camping space.