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February 2021 Issue
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Mountain hut survives 30 years in extreme environment

Caroline Hut has survived amongst the country's highest mountains for 30 years. Photo: Alexander Hasskerl

Aoraki/Mt Cook’s Caroline Hut has celebrated its 30th birthday – a significant milestone for an alpine hut.

Mountain and ski guide Elke Braun-Elwert, whose guiding company Alpine Recreation built the hut in 1990, said getting to 30 is a real achievement.

“A lot of alpine huts are on the decline, and it’s hard even just to keep the ones there maintained,” she said. “There is a long list of huts that have been taken out in the last 10-15 years, and there are not many remaining.”

Maintaining an alpine hut is a never ending battle against the elements, dampness, and kea, and any tools or materials have to be walked or flown in during weather windows.

“Trying to schedule repairs can be a challenge,” Braun-Elwert said.

The hut was dreamed up by Braun-Elwert’s late father, Gottlieb, who saw a need for accommodation on the Ball Pass route. It is now used for guided trips to Ball Pass, Kaitiaki Peak and for mountaineering courses. Its emergency shelter is available for members of the public.

Braun-Elwert rates its views as some of the best in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.

“You’re looking straight out of the window at Caroline Face – it’s the best spot to watch avalanches from a safe distance,” she said.

Alpine Recreation will celebrate the milestone with a BBQ at Edelweiss Lodge in Lake Tekapo, a Ball Pass crossing and Ball Pass summit trek.