50 huts for 50thbirthday
Most people probably won’t visit 50 New Zealand huts in their lifetime, but Mary Culpan did just that - in only a year.
The Titahi Bay woman had always done a lot of tramping, but after her 49th birthday in July 2015, she started to think about how to mark her 50th year.
‘‘I suddenly thought actually I wanted to do something that is entirely for me, something that I absolutely love.’’
Visiting 50 back-country huts in a year was a way to do this and also presented her with a real challenge, she said.
Her husband Angus HulmeMoir gave her a back-country annual hut pass for Christmas 2015 and she started her treks on New Year’s Day 2016.
Culpan, a social worker with Hospice New Zealand, made many weekend trips throughout the year and visited huts in the Kawekas, Ruahines, Aorangi Forest Park, Rimutaka Forest Park, Pureora Forest Park and Tongariro National Park. Of the 50 huts, 28 were new to her.
Her favourite hut was Kylie Bivouac, a tiny two-person biv situated high up on a ridge line in Ruahine Forest Park.
‘‘The wind dropped that night and we sat outside the hut with a tiny fire ... there was a full moon with clouds drifting across ... It was captivating.’’
There were plenty of lighter moments too, including being caught on a long drop by hut companions she thought had already set off on their hike.
‘‘It was really gloomy in the loo and the smell wasn’t very inviting, so I left the door wide open, when all four of our hut companions from the previous night trooped past,’’ she said.
Culpan arrived at her 50th hut on New Year’s Eve 2016, visiting Waihohonu Hut in Tongariro National Park.