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.

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