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September 2017 Issue
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Nightmare at Architect Creek Hut

Would you walk up the steps to Architect Creek Hut and lock the door without first checking inside? Photo: Hazel Phillips
Hazel Phillips ponders various tramping nightmare scenarios and then stumbles on a real life example.

Have you ever had a tramping nightmare? Not a bad dream, but when everything has really gone wrong?

Once, on a trip to a dark and creepy hut in the Te Ureweras, we got to talking about what you would do if on arrival at a hut, late at night, you discovered a dead body. (This surely must have happened before – if it’s happened to you, do write in.) Would you camp outside? Would you drag the body out? Would it get eaten by possums? Would the hut then be home to the ghost of the dead tramper? Would you smell it from a distance or only notice it as you happened right upon it?

Since then, I’ve often cooked up oddball thoughts about what sort of difficulties you might encounter while out in the wilderness. Then I ran into one that even I hadn’t thought of.

On a trip to Welcome Flat Hut in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, I stopped by Architect Creek Hut for lunch. Reading through the hut book (always the best thing to read in any given hut), I discovered that two women had recently been locked inside the hut by someone passing by.

Ingrid and Sarah, who were on their way back from Douglas Rock Hut further up the Copland Valley, discovered they had been shut in thanks to an exterior bolt that couldn’t be opened from the inside. They wrote: ‘Got locked in by a guy who passed by at 8pm. Felt window [was] too high to jump [out], attempted to reach lock by putting hole in wall, sorry! Eventually managed to open with scissors and tent peg. Will inform DOC Westland.’

Now there’s a tramping nightmare for the best of us. It brings up a lot of questions:

• What was the guy thinking, to lock the door without checking if there were people inside?

• Why did he pass by the hut, lock it, but not use it?

• Did he do it on purpose? (He’s going to tramping hell if he did)

• What kind of naughty possum passes a hut and doesn’t come in to sign the hut book?

• What if you were locked inside and needed to go to the loo? Would you pee in the ash bucket?

• What if you didn’t have scissors and a tent peg, or another implement, to prise the door open?

• And, most of all: will the guy who locked them in read this story and realise it was him?

I’ve often thought those bolts were dodgy – the ones where there’s a separate one inside to the one outside. It means not only can you lock someone in, you can lock others out.

Most horrifying is the hut longdrops that have the same bolt setup. I can’t imagine anything less appealing than getting locked into a backcountry bog, particularly a smelly one with an abundance of spiders (Architect Creek Hut’s bog is certainly nothing to write home about). And it’s extremely unlikely you’d have scissors or a tent peg with you for your foray to the loo to get yourself loose again.

Just goes to show we should all take a leaf out of MacGyver’s book and carry a Swiss Army knife and a roll of duct tape at all times. And from this account, some good reading material to keep you occupied.