- a summer success
walkers and hunters utilising the area.
Staff have reported other notable benefits such as less jostling on the track, compliance checking is now much easier and record-keeping is significantly more accurate.
Rebecca (Becs) Crilly, nearing the end of her second summer season as the Lead Hut Warden for the area, echoes these benefits. “Having bookings has taken a lot of stress out of the warden role. We are able to spend more time with trampers, sharing information about the local area and interesting landmarks to visit while they’re walking.
Trampers are more engaged with us too, as we’re not perceived as ‘just compliance’ anymore. The interactions are a lot friendlier now”.
Working alongside a second Hut Warden and a bevvy of volunteers, Crilly stated that including the Mt Somers facilities on the booking system had been well overdue and the response from trampers to date had been one of “overwhelming joy”.
“Trampers are now able to pace their walk and enjoy the outdoor experience without the time pressures of needing to get to the hut first.
“They know they have a guaranteed bed at the end. There is clear signage at both entrance carparks informing people they have to book a bed before they head up, but we won’t ever turn anyone away either. We just make it clear that bookings will always get priority. There hasn’t been any issues so far this season.”
Both the Woolshed Creek carpark and the Sharplin Falls carpark have reception, providing
Abvove top: Mt Somers Track.
Above: A quiet Woolshed Creek Hut. Photo: Becs Crilly
Right; Dads and Lads.
Photo: Andy Osborne the opportunity for a booking to be placed from a mobile device. And further up the hill, Hut Wardens use their mobile devices to complete online check-ins, confirming exactly who is onsite.
As a direct result of having certainty of visitor numbers, Crilly says she has been able to gain some more structure and productivity from her days.
She plans to be available at the
huts around the times walkers will start arriving and is able to schedule track maintenance activities for the quieter days.
When queried about the downsides of the booking system, Crilly reported very few. Some ‘Back Country Hut Pass’ holders are still learning the huts must be booked first although many are already familiar with the process for claiming their refund.
The booking system itself has some quirks too. There is currently no self-cancellation option, meaning folks who aren’t able to make the trip become ‘no-shows’, if they haven’t rung DOC to cancel. Sometimes there is a ‘sameday booking’ glitch when using a mobile phone to book from the entrance carparks, although this is resolved quickly by the wardens at hut check-in. Another feature Crilly is happy to utilise.
“We have noticed a shift in the demographic of people who are walking too. This walk is the perfect introduction to overnight tramping. Families have confirmed accommodation so they can travel with less gear, at a pace that suits them. Woolshed really isn’t the party hut it used to be.”
Following a recent ‘Dads and Lads’ tramp, Andy Osborne agrees with this comment. He and a family friend took their respective sons (aged 7 (just) to 11) for an overnight stay at the Woolshed Creek Hut.
“We knew that the hut needed to be booked prior and the system worked well. Everyone who was staying in the hut overnight had also booked, so there were no extras sleeping on the floor.”
Of the experience itself, Osborne said they walked in via Rhyolite Ridge, commenting it was “a bit tough for the boys with packs on” so they cooled off in the waterfall gorge swimming hole about 20 minutes from the hut, before heading back to the hut for the evening. “It was a great experience overall”.
DOC is continuing to improve the booking service it can provide to customers and in April all existing bookable campgrounds and huts, that sit outside the Great Walks, will transition to the new booking service.
More information is available from booking.doc.govt.nz.
Above: Chatting with trampers.
Photo: Becs Crilly