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January 2021 Issue

John Tait Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park

John Tait Hut is named after a Scotsman who emigrated to New Zealand after the Second World War and joined the Nelson Tramping Club. It was largely thanks to his efforts that the first John Tait Hut was completed in 1951.

But within 25 years that original hut was proving too small for the growing popularity of the Travers Valley, now part of Nelson Lakes National Park. Rangers George Lyon and Bruce Postill set about constructing a larger hut in a sunnier clearing a short way north of the old site.

The new hut was completed in 1978 and despite significant renovations since, retains something of the ‘Lyon style’ of hut design unique to Nelson Lakes.

It’s a grand position for a hut, open to sun from the north, and surrounded by beech forest to the south. On a fine day, the clearing offers good views of Mt Travers.

The hut is easily reached on the Upper Travers Valley Track, now part of Te Araroa, which climbs gently up the valley from the head of Lake Rotoiti. Beyond, the track climbs more significantly to Upper Travers Hut and Travers Saddle.

Despite the ease of access, trampers are advised to take care during the winter months, and not to linger on the signposted avalanche paths. John Tait Hut itself almost got wiped out by an avalanche in 2008, when a colossal amount of trees were flattened only 50m from the deck. Most of the logs have now rotted away, although the scar remains as a reminder that these mountains are the mighty Southern Alps.

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Total Ascent
Easy / Moderate
To Lakehead Hut (28 bunks) 2-3hr. To John Tait Hut (27 bunks) 4.5hr
Lakehead Hut ($15, 28 bunks), John Tait Hut ($15, 27 bunks)
St Arnaud
BS24, BS24

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