Stepping back in time at Aspiring Hut

Following on from my last post awhile back about my summer job looking after Aspiring Hut up the West Matukituki Valley this evening I find myself writing this up on site as the rain falls steadily to the tune of seriously flooded mountain rivers, my laptop being charged via solar, and my only immediate contact to the outside world being via VHF and/or HF two way radio.

When the weather is fine this is the view up valley from the deck/verandah of my little cosy home. The foreground roof is the ablutions block [I have my own ‘tho, just by my bed]. And the larger roof to the left is the hut itself which was built in ’49 and will easily hold 30 people…
Aspiring hut

My daily tasks begin at 8 am with Wanaka Base calling me up via VHF radio via a repeater above me on Mt Tyndall. I then relay the number of people in the area, not only Aspiring Hut, but Liverpool, French Ridge and Colin Todd [the latter two being mountaineering huts]. And after I’ve received a morning weather forecast I then go write it up on a white board in Aspiring Hut, then walk up the back to check the water supply intake then usually then have breakfast.

I’m often woken much earlier by one of my mates up here. Yesterday morning he played noisily with some kindling I’d left on my deck, and he also cleverly learnt how to turn on the tap at the hut’s camping spot a few minutes walk away…
Mt aspiring kea

In a few days I finish my second 15 day roster. The first was punctuated by lots of people coming and going between some wild weather days. This one is the other way around a bit, with more visits by wild weather fronts than I’ve known for many years.

Each front has been leaving lots of new snow, often down lower than bush line shown here on the popular Cascade Saddle route over to the Dart Valley. Right now it’s a mountaineering proposition ‘tho and hardly anyone is taking it on…
Cascade Saddle, Mt aspiring national park

As well as my obvious tasks of advising people on conditions, cleaning the hut, collecting fees and monitoring visitor number and the choices they make, I also do track maintenance up valley cleaning out water tables clogged by winter storms and help other projects such as programmes aimed at protecting and growing native bird populations/species. Every day I’m very active and I’m finding my fitness is quietly improving. I know this because every night I need more sleep than when I’m in town!

Lately I’ve been going up valley an hour to Shovel Flat where I’ve cached a shovel, and there just back from this view I clear from the channelling beside the track a hundred meters or two each day of silt, leaves, mud, and branches bought down by winter winds and rain. I usually work alone, and of late in the rain as per this photo. To get there and back is a beautiful walk…
Shovel Flat, Mt aspiring national park 2

Then every other few days I walk down to the Raspberry Creek car-park to clean the toilets there, and since I’m in here for 15 days at a time I store food in the cleaning cupboard there. When I come in at the start of my roster I carry the fresh veges and items to be stored in my fridge/freezer [gas/solar powered], then bring up the heavier non perishables later.

By the time I check and unblock the water supply up Raspberry Steam aways, and clean the three toilets the round trip takes about 6 hours. On the rare fine days I’m rewarded by views like this – the Rob Roy Valley and glacier…
Rob roy glacier, mt aspiring national park

But then on other days I battle back in 100k/hr gales, with the rain stinging my face. I only have micro seconds to capture these sort of images before my camera lens has very soft focus rain drops all over it…
Tree mt aspiring national park

And then there is the washing to be done. That is the HF radio aerial on the left – one of two with wire strung between…
Mt aspiring hut washing

I’ve no pictures yet, but every night there are people in the hut and I’m over there with them collecting fees and answering questions. Already I’ve made a host of new friends and met some wonderful and interesting people. On first acquaintance too there are few clues as to a person’s social standing.

So far though what I’ll never forget is the weather and violence of same during this drawn out spring. It has it’s own dynamic flavour which I like…
Mt bevan and mt aspiring

Tonight as I work on this post [for uploading in a few days] darkness settles on very heavy rain lashing my wee house, while thunder echos around the valley underscored by the literal roar of rivers rushing down the valley. Sometimes the thunder actually shakes the building quite violently.

I’m not taking a lot of images, but every couple of days I see something to have a go at capturing, and then process on site…
Mt glengyle mt aspiring national park

I’ve the privilege here to reflect a lot on my journey so far in life, and I’m making the most of it! I do find too that I’d forgotten that this more simple way of living was once the norm.

Now lets get back to my new friends. It’s possible that one is female and the other an older male. Certainly the one who flew up onto my table to examine the Mac I’m creating this post on, was learnedly fast and astute.

The first one on site this morning was the more cautious one and he/she was a bit bedraggled by the night’s rain, but it did not stop a “kea” call to summon the other…

Wet kea on aspiring hut deck

First a cautious look around by the more experienced bird…
Kea on aspiring hut floor

Then a quick ascent using wings…
Kea on aspiring hut desk

But it was my hut cleaning bucket that just had to be towed across the slippery floor, with the intent being to get it outside where it’s contents could be examined and dismantled…
Keas in doorway

Since I’ve got as far as kea shots in my wee house, then here are a couple of shots of the interior:

The red door leads to a bunkroom and storage cupboard area. By the notice board are two radios – VHF and HF. The former usually gives the best clarity, but when it is scratchy then HF does the trick. Also HF as it bounces off the ionosphere, allows me to communicate with other huts in the Dart, Routeburn and Caples and Queenstown if needed, and even further afield…
Aspiring hut warden's quarters
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Aspiring hut warden's quarters

Lastly, yes due especially to the weather I’ve been reading a limited, but rich number of books of many genres in the warden’s hut library. One called Living with the Himalalyan Masters by Swami Rama is a memorable read. I like the astute way he for example can write about many religions and contextualise them in relation to each other, eg since I was raised to a Christianity model, I’ve found him to be masterful at contextualising this into eastern religions.

If you Google “Swami Rama” there are some long YouTube videos worthy of some time

About this Like Minds Blog Donald Lousley

Concepts on how New Zealand landscape photography and fine art can be used to stimulate our imaginations to make the world a better and more gentle place. With photos, and some words, we explore with nomadic tendencies and inherited wizardry, all that is New Zealand, and it did not all begin with Lord of the Rings! Cheers Donald Lousley donald@icommunicate.co.nz PS my work site iCommunicate and MacAssist:

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