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February 2014 Issue
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Easy going up the Waimak

The trip to Carrington Hut involves crossing the Waimakariri River. Photo: Vincent Groenhuis
Time
4-6hr
Grade
Moderate
Accom.
Carrington Hut, 36-bunks
Access
From the flood track at the bottom of Bealey Spur, or from Klondyke Corner
Map
K33
Carrington Hut, Arthur’s Pass National Park

Ask any experienced tramper about expeditions in the Waimakariri River catchment and chances are they’ll mention Carrington Hut as a good base, or the place where they last put on dry socks before heading over a nearby alpine pass.

Despite its reputation as the halfway house of the Waimakariri, Carrington Hut is a superb tramping destination in its own right, and a good step up for those Great Walk graduates wanting something to sink their teeth into.

From the car park on the south side of the Waimakariri River Bridge, a well-benched track immediately makes its way along the northern flanks of Bealey Spur. The track, like most in the Arthur’s Pass region, packs no punches and heads steadily upwards.

Relief comes in the form of tantalising glimpses of the river valley below. Less than an hour after entering the bush, the track breaks out onto the grassy expanse of Turkey Flat. This area is a favourite with trail runners and several passed us as we lumbered along with full packs.

Despite our burdens, the three kilometres of river flats make for easy walking and in turn easy conversation. It wasn’t long before Anti Crow Hut came into view.

The hut, only two hours from the road end, was an obvious choice for lunch. A classic Forest Service six-bunker, it’s popular with hunters and those who just want a short day walk in the area.

It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that the entire route to Carrington Hut is along the river banks. Instead, shortly after leaving Anti Crow Hut, the track swings back into beech forest before ascending a prominent rocky outcrop and meandering through a swamp.

Unexpectedly, the river turns to the north-west, and the valley walls close in. The lack of track here combined with the wide river beds create numerous opportunities for river crossing practice. While the river can be fast flowing in places, in normal conditions the sweeping corners and safe run-outs make for manageable crossings.

All too soon the ubiquitous orange triangles reappear, bringing us back to the track on the true right side of the river.

Carrington Hut is situated at the confluence of the White and Waimakariri rivers. Built in the 1970s, the current hut is the third incarnation of the original structure built by the Canterbury Mountaineering Club in 1926. The original was described by local legend John Pascoe as having “no warmth, no grace, little light, and less design”. The second hut featured bright orange corrugated iron walls and a green roof. This latest version is a little more sedate in colour, but comfortably sleeps 36 and is the only hut I have ever visited that has two identical common areas separated by a foyer!

From Carrington Hut there are endless options for the aspiring mountaineer or experienced tramper – or, you can shoulder your pack and head on back to the Waimakariri River Bridge, comfortable in the knowledge that you’ve given your feet and your river-crossing skills some good exercise.