28 August 2023
Hunting and Wildlife Magazine - Winter Issue 221
Words By: Michael Wilson
On our arrival, Eade Memorial Hut was in poor shape cosmetically, clad in bare iron with a healthy coating of rust.
The South Canterbury branch of NZDA own and maintain a number of South Island huts.
These are Eade Memorial Hut, Red Stag Hut, Steffan Memorial Hut and Veil Bivvy. These are open, public use huts, users are asked to make a donation to help with upkeep. The club also owns Tahr Lodge at Mt Cook village. In the next few issues of Hunting and Wildlife, we are going show case the work branch members and helpers have been doing over the past few years in giving these huts a new lease of life.
Eade Memorial Hut lies near the head of the Godley Valley, above Lake Tekapo. 4WD vehicle access is possible up the true left of the valley to Red Stag Hut, our most recent improvement project, and a little beyond. Past Red Stag (6 bed), about an hours walk from the edge of driveable terrain, also lies the NZ Alpine Club’s Godley Hut (8 bed). On the true right, just a few kilometres further than Red Stag, lies Eade Memorial Hut (3 bed). However, as a very tricky glacial river splits the valley, access to Eade is not as simple as just driving to it!
Following the usual delay for weather, in this case severe gale nor-westerlies, our Thursday to Sunday trip was now scheduled for Sunday to Wednesday, with most of the volunteers to head up the valley on Saturday to be in place for the helicopter arrival at Red Stag hut on Sunday morning. Saturday mid-afternoon I was picked up from Fairlie by Grant Shortus and Noel Welford. The trip went smoothly until the crossing point of the Macaulay River was reached, where, just a few metres short of the far bank, a bed of gravel with just a few inches of water flowing over it proved very soft and embedded the vehicle to the sills in no time at all. Phone calls were made and our local contact for the project, Johnny Wheeler at Lilybank, came to the rescue. Thanks Johnny!
Progress resumed, we continued on our way up the valley. A short time before eventually reaching Red Stag, we met up with two more of the volunteers, Mike Bunkenberg and Michael Midgley. They had decided to start up the valley earlier in the afternoon, however this had been of little benefit to them, as Michael’s truck had now sheared a ball joint. Leaving the repairs for a later date when they could return with parts, we fitted them into our vehicle and carried on to the hut for the night.
The nor-west wind had still been present for much of the day, dying away in the evening, although it picked up strongly again around 4am, waking a few of us. This continued for much of the early morning, placing some jeopardy on the expected arrival of the helicopter. However, the wind began to drop around 8:30, and soon after that we heard the heavy beat of Tekapo Helicopter’s AS350 Squirrel as it lifted the toilet and building materials into position, along with project leader David Keen. After that it collected us from Red Stag for the 2-minute hop across the valley, before leaving us in silence once again. Tent sites were quickly found along the sheltered scrub-edge near the hut, before tasks were set and the team got straight to work.
Eade Memorial Hut was in poor shape cosmetically, clad in bare iron with a healthy coating of rust. This rust was addressed first, scrubbed with wire brushes and then chemically treated. Primer was applied and the first coat of paint began to follow, thanks to the Dulux paint for huts scheme. It proved to be a bit of a race to get the paint off the brush, as the temperature was high and the nor-wester still blew, although the wind was much reduced in the sheltered location of the hut under the moraine wall. Further down the scrub edge, the rest of the team had begun work digging the hole for the new toilet. This was expected to be one of the more gruelling tasks of the project, just as the same task at Red Stag had proved due to the seemingly endless rocks and boulders uncovered there. No mini digger this time, we had Grant!
The renovated hut complete with solar panels to power LED lighting.
Almost beyond belief to most of us, the ground at the chosen spot yielded easily, barring the odd small layer of stones, and was deep enough to accommodate the drum within a couple of hours, instead of the expected day or more of frustrating digging. Dave quickly knocked together his pre-cut platform, which was then anchored into position before the toilet itself was manoeuvred into place on top and secured. Job done.
Back to the hut for a bit of late lunch, then more painting continued while a couple of us began work on installing the LED lights and running the wiring. This was slow and fiddly work, in the heat of the hut! While the solar panel would not be fitted until painting was complete, we managed to complete the rest of the interior setup, getting a chance to see the lights in action. Soon enough the evening drew in and we took a moment to consider just how much of a change we’d achieved in one day. The hut now sported a new colour scheme, with the first coats complete on the roof, walls, and even inside the porch. The LED lighting was much appreciated inside the hut that night.
Monday morning dawned cool, as expected, with a touch of moisture in the air. This was the day the weather forecasts had warned us about, with a southerly change expected to bring showers. Luckily for us, the southerly was gentle and soon dissipated, and barring the morning clag around the hills, it proved to be another clear and warm day. Perfect for painting! Those faced with that task got to work bright and early, before the sun struck the hut, while I in turn also picked up a brush and began applying the first coat of stain to the weather-worn timbers around the base of the hut. New timber battens were then cut and painted to go on the roof and the guttering and log fire were both removed from the hut for some rustproofing, with the guttering also painted before reinstallation. Once the third coat of paint was dried on the roof, we fitted the new wooden battens to the wire bracing, and then fixed the solar panel in place before running the last of the wiring.
Building a throne fit for a king. L-R: Mike Midgley, Noel Welford, Grant Shortus.
Mid-afternoon, a young bull tahr was spotted making his way up the riverbed. With the whole working-party stopped to observe, he made his way within 300 metres of the hut before continuing along up the riverbed and out of sight. We all enjoyed the encounter and left him in peace, hoping he may one day grow into a worthy trophy.
At this point, the exterior of the hut was now complete, and a moment was taken for Dave and Michael Midgley to fit the new sign. Michael’s involvement seemed particularly appropriate, as his father had been a member of the original team who had brought the hut up the valley and onto location in 1963. Michael had also played a part in the original fitout of the hut, when he along with a friend, had carried the bunks across the glacial river.
While we hadn’t sighted many other tahr, that evening a couple of mature-looking bulls were spotted picking their way well down the mountainside, so Mike Bunkenberg and Noel, keen to nab some meat for the freezer, fetched their rifles and made their way up the hill to try and head them off. After a short stand-off observed from the hut, Noel eventually managed to secure his first mature bull just before dark.
The next day was to prove much more relaxed, as the majority of the work had been completed and all that remained were any small unplanned jobs we could find to do. Grant made a fine job of colour-coding the benches from inside the hut to match the external paint scheme, while the interior of the hut was also given a coat of paint to tidy up most surfaces. Further tidying was also done in and around the hut, as we enjoyed this last day on-site. Soon enough the lazy heat of the afternoon dissipated into a surprisingly cold night, with temperatures dropping low enough to form a thin sheet of ice on the surface of a water bowl. Welcome to autumn!
The final morning dawned, and after breakfast we broke camp and completed tidying the site, before some final photos and a look back on all we’d achieved in just a few days. All too soon the helicopter touched down and we began our journey home, more than ready for a hot shower, but all the better for our time in the hills.
The rebuild crew. L-R: Michael Midgley, Mike Bunkenberg, Noel Welford, Grant Shortus, Michael Wilson, Dave Keen.
The Huts and Tracks Fund from the Outdoor Recreation Consortium has proven to be of significant benefit to the backcountry facilities provided by our branch. By shouldering the financial load, the fund has allowed us to show just how willing our volunteers are to put in the time and effort. With our 3 huts now brought up to date, and hopefully all set for another 10 years, we really appreciate the help, and we’re sure all the users of our huts will too!
Our thanks must go to - The ORC, NZDA and FMC in their partnership distribution of this fund, DOC for the project support, Dulux for the paint, David Keen Building, Tekapo Helicopters, KM Electronics, Johnny Wheeler at Lilybank, and last but not least, all of the volunteers who have given days of their time without complaint, all for the benefit of others.
A special thanks to David Keen, as the driving force behind our hut work of recent times, and for his immense generosity in both time and supplies for these projects.