Birthday trip to Burn Hut? she asked. ‘Yes let’s do it’, I replied. And so Sarah (White) successfully twisted my arm (gently) to lead my first trip, to Burn Hut with herself as back-up, on what turned out to be a glorious weekend at the end of May, a few days before my birthday.
At 9 a.m. on a crisp, sunny autumnal Saturday morning, nine members and one non-member boarded the club’s van at Jarden Mile and headed off to Shannon. It was a two-hour trip to the Mangahao reservoir, the last 45 minutes ably driven by Paul along a twisty turny, loose gravelly, lumpy bumpy road.
The six-bunk Burn Hut seemed to be a popular destination. We wondered if a recent article about the hut in Wilderness magazine had inspired others to visit the most northern hut in the Tararuas. There was no need to worry though. We were well prepared and able to accommodate eight of our ten in tents.
From the Mangahao number 2 reservoir we followed the pretty track through the bush beside the river and met a father and his young son heading along the track. We came to a large, recent slip that had wiped out the path ahead – my first leadership challenge!
I sent a message down the line for Sarah to come up front and offer her wisdom on the best way to proceed. In the meantime I scrambled up to the top of the slip and then explored the other side to relocate the track. The rest of the party made their way up and over and before long we were all safely back on the track, starting a well-graded climb up through the bush.
We exited the bush on a wide, recently cleared track. Before long, we could see Burn Hut nestled on a ridge across the valley. Thanks to the mahi of the track clearers, it was easy travel. Before long we arrived at the hut, to find the three men and a dog setting up a fly outside it. The odds of empty bunks were suddenly looking much better, and then we found that we had the hut to ourselves! A quick decision was made to save two bunks for the father and young son we had passed earlier. Five of the group made themselves at home in the hut while the other five set up camp outside. The 360-degree views from the hut were fantastic and the long drop had an amazing view looking south. Ian, Sarah, and I took a stroll to a high point above the hut and found that the cleared track continued a bit further. Back at base we joined the rest of the group piled into the cosy hut. As the sun went down, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset, the lights of Shannon twinkling below and views across to Taranaki in the distance. It looked set to be a clear, starry night.
With space in the little hut at a premium, Sarah took charge of the communal billy. Contributions to the pasta dinner included Paul’s sun-dried tomatoes and…wait for it…the most enormous jar of olives emerged from Colin’s pack! Salami and cheese were added and we enjoyed a delicious, hearty dinner with a dose of banter and David’s stories of Antarctic adventures.
But wait, we weren’t done yet. Sarah had promised to bring cake and also brought candles, and a choir of nine treated me to a rendition of ‘Happy birthday’. Thank you! Celebrations over, we called it a night.
Sunday presented fine, clear, and breezy. After breakfast in the hut, we were away by 8.30. The route along the ridge was cleared all the way to the highest point above the hut; the going beyond was slower. A lovely walk followed, down through the forest to College Creek.
The river level was low, perfect for criss-cross river travel and boulder hopping to Baber forks, where we stopped for lunch. Sarah and Paul decided to strike a direct line across the estuary, navigating through deep mud. The rest of the group stayed by the river, which we were confident would inevitably lead us to the dam. Sure enough, it did.
Conversation during the van ride home was animated after another very enjoyable weekend in the Tararuas. Many thanks to the Burn Hut trampers for making my first trip leading experience such a pleasure, and to Sarah for suggesting the route and organising a special birthday celebration.
Watch Paul’s video on Burn Hut Birthday on Vimeo.
- Party members
- David Barnes, Theresa Davies, Anna Davison (leader and scribe), Susan Guscott, Colin Hoare, Ian Howat, Paul McCredie, Sarah White (leader support), Alan Whiting, Cathy Wylie.