Ranger res­ur­rects old min­ers huts

Old sheel­ite min­ing huts in the moun­tains are be­ing re­stored for tram­pers

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS -

Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion Queen­stown ser­vices ranger Jim Croawell works on pro­tect­ing and restor­ing the his­toric her­itage of the dis­trict.

His favourite place is the old scheel­ite min­ing huts to be found high up in the moun­tains above the small town­ship of Glenorchy.

In the early 20th cen­tury min­ers tun­nelled high in the Richard­son moun­tains to find the trea­sured scheel­ite, amin­eral vi­tal to make ar­ma­ments for the war ef­fort. The min­ers were sub­ject to the ex­tremes of weather, at times they would bear the full force of the west­erly storms.

To pro­vide com­fort from the rigours of al­ti­tude the min­ers built sev­eral huts around the loft peaks. Th­ese huts were rudi­men­tary, how­ever they pro­vided much shel­ter and cheer for work­ers at the end of the day.

Sev­eral of th­ese huts re­main stand­ing and are now pro­tected within the Whakaari Con­ser­va­tion Area. In re­cent years the depart­ment has been pro­gres­sively restor­ing th­ese huts to pre­serve the her­itage of this min­ing era.

Tram­pers can now visit the huts, ei­ther as a lunch stop dur­ing an ac­tive day in the hills, or an overnight trip – some of the huts have been decked with bunks and camp­ing is pos­si­ble out­side.

Sleep­ing in th­ese high huts pro­vides unique sun­rises and sun­sets, and the joy of a hot cuppa un­der the stars. The views across Lake Wakatipu to the Caples, Route­burn, Rock­burn, Dart and Rees Val­leys must be one of New Zealand’s finest. In win­ter the huts sit above the val­ley cloud, in the sun for most of the day.

Some of the first huts to be ren­o­vated in­clude the McIn­tyre, McIn­tosh and Heather Jock Huts.

Last sum­mer Jim set his sights on the run­down ‘‘Shick­ers Hut’’, a short dis­tance from the McIn­tosh hut. This hut is perched high at 1400 me­tres, a short dis­tance from the sum­mit of Mt McIn­tosh (1700m). The hut has views di­rectly to Mt Earnslaw /Piki­rakatahi. ‘‘Shick­ers Hut’’ was named after ‘‘Shick­ers Point’’, a nearby rocky out­crop. Rel­a­tives of the old min­ers re­call sto­ries that there was of­ten an over ap­pre­ci­a­tion of liquor on ‘‘Shick­ers Point’’ when­ever the moon was full.

To as­sist him in the restora­tion Jim was joined by vol­un­teers and the team’s first job was to clear the site of rub­bish and re­move rot­ten tim­ber. They then worked to re­build the hut, in keep­ing as close to its orig­i­nal con­di­tion as pos­si­ble.

The hut now has a floor of re­cy­cled rimu, a door of re­cy­cled beech and the roof is re­cy­cled cor­ru­gated iron – which was wa­ter proofed. The walls of the hut were re-built with the orig­i­nal flat tin cladding.

Whakaari Con­ser­va­tion Area is lo­cated just south of Glenorchy, about 45 min­utes drive from Queen­stown.

Ac­cess is mostly along bull­dozed trails that zig-zag across the steep slopes. From the carpark on the Queen­stown-Glenorchy road the Heather Jock hut is a three to four hour walk one-way, McIn­tyres Hut is about the same while the McIn­tosh Hut will take most peo­ple five to six hours.

Shick­ers hut will soon have bunks in­stalled. The ad­ja­cent McIn­tosh Hut al­ready has four bunks, and wa­ter.

Room with a view: DOC ranger Jim Croawell and the view from inside McIn­tosh Hut.

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