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September 2014 Issue
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Hut hopping in the high country

Comyns Hut in Hakatere Conservation Park. Photo: Pat Barrett
Hakatere Conservation Park
5-6hr to hut
Comyns Hut
At Glenrock Stream on the Double Hill Run Road in the Rakaia Valley
BW19, BW20

Comyns Hut, Hakatere Conservation Park

Huts always have a great attraction for trampers, so when a new one comes to my attention I am always quick to pay it a visit.

Hence, to Comyns Hut in the north branch of the Ashburton River. It’s hardly new though, being an old musterer’s refuge now incorporated into Hakatere Conservation Park up in the Rakaia River catchment.

The hut, along with some others nearby, is also now part of the Te Araroa Trail, so you may even meet some intrepid hikers out for a three month walk.

For me it was strictly a day trip beginning on the south bank of the Rakaia at a marked easement that heads, gently at first, into Glenrock Stream.

A poled route then travels up the long river fan, now dotted with pockets of scrub, and further up enters a small gorge where a 4WD trail continues more steeply to the summit of Turtons Saddle at around 1100m. This highpoint of the journey is worth the steady uphill grind as it has a grand view and a spacious location among tussock-covered ridges.

There are two huts up here with the first not far below the saddle on the Ashburton side. A-Frame Hut is set beside a stream running off the Black Hill Range and is a great place to stop for lunch. The landscape is unrelentingly empty; a good point to keep in mind should you come in windy or cold conditions as, save the two small huts, there is absolutely no shelter.

It’s a further six kilometres to Comyns Hut from A-Frame, mostly on the 4WD trail but with some indistinct sections through the river bed where there are also several easy fords. As the trail closes in on the hut, a small gorge is encountered and the river is constricted.

Climbing over the last shoulder above the gorge, I spied Comyns sitting on a nice grassy terrace on the far side of the river – just one kilometre away. A ford of the Ashburton is necessary to reach the hut and although I had little difficulty with it, in high flows, especially during the spring thaw, it may well prove impassable.

Finally I could stride  over the terrace to reach the rustic shelter and push on inside to the cool dark surroundings.

Comyns Hut was built in 1957 as a replacement for the original hut constructed around the 1890s. This much older and now derelict structure is nearby. The whole ambience of the hut and location is remarkable, especially the depth of the valley when seen from outside the hut – a full 1200m altitude lies between the valley floor and the high summits to the east, and that in just two kilometres.

Later, I headed outside  back up the lonely, windswept alley of the Ashburton, planning another rest stop at A-Frame on my hut-hopping mission.