Frank and I had stayed at Jollie Hut before and after climbing Mt Stevenson 9 years ago. We’d gone for a wee reccie in the Jollie River the next day, along an old 4WD track as far as where the river had cut into the true left bank. This time we wanted to go further up and bag 2 huts – Green Point and the apparently derelict Littles Hut.


We drove down to Tekapo and decided to stop for the night there instead of taking our chances at either the Telegraph Hut on the Braemar Rd or Jollie Hut itself. In lieu of an information centre, as it was now closed, we went to the local 4 Square and inquired at the Lotto counter for a backpackers. They directed us to the virtually brand-new YHA, beside the Dark Sky building.


The receptionist there said something about being closed but very kindly continued to find us a room. There were choices of a dorm, some palatial set up costing $200+ for the night and eventually a little dorm of 4 beds with an ensuite which only we would occupy for the price of $52 each. I asked for pensioners’ discount and she gave us the YHA members rate so that was only $46 each.


I heated up coq au vin on the induction plates and we had 3 little mushroom lamingtons for dessert. We settled in our very cosy little room after I’d availed myself of the lovely towel and shower. The bed was great too. What a contrast to the Telegraph Hut! Next morning I directed Frank to drive to that hut which we inspected. It now had 2 mattresses and the fireplace was stocked up somewhat and functional. But it needed a good tidy up and a sweep out. I also wanted to bring some more wood for it when we passed by after our tramp.


We drove on and checked out an easement to the Gamack Conservation Area via the Mary Burn. There was an unnamed hut marked on the map and on my phone’s map, it was named Mary Burn Hut. Then we drove to the Jollie River road end easement where there were about 5 vehicles parked so maybe we wouldn’t have had a bunk the night before. The road was closed for logging though I’m not sure if people are allowed to drive there anyway and last time a hunter had driven in on his motorbike.


We walked to Jollie Hut, taking 40 minutes, and for some reason, I felt a bit unfit as Frank hoofed along the 4WD track, full of beans. We had 3 days of lovely weather forecast though it was a bit chilly in the shade. We passed a friendly couple coming out who may have been foreign and turned out to have Slavic names. The hut had 2 sleeping bags and gear in the bedroom plus a well-stocked fireplace with a log burner installed. It looked as though there were hunters in residence but they hadn’t put their names in the hut book.


The hut had new metal fascia nailed to new boards, a new water tank, flue and porch roof but the old main roof hadn’t been replaced as mooted. It hadn’t had any insulation added either. Willows had been felled and the berries I recalled last time weren’t there. We carried on and crossed First Stream, keeping our boots dry and continued along the 4WD track, taking a shortcut foot trail briefly.


Eventually we spied a tent pitched right on the track. A pair of young hunters had crossed the river and climbed up the slope to shoot a white fallow buck the night before. They tumbled down the slope in the dark, crossed the river and hastily pitched their tent on the first convenient flat spot without rocks. They’d beheaded the deer, skinned it and had 4 cuts of meat laid out. I checked in with them on the condition of Littles Hut and they confirmed it was derelict and you wouldn’t want to stay there unless you had to. We made appreciative noises about their success and moved on. Shortly after we came to the point where the 4WD track ended and as the river was low, we were able to travel hard against it via stones on the true left for some time.


Travel was very easy with no speargrass and very little matagouri along a bit of a foot trail. Eventually we came to a dangerous earthen cliff where the sun had melted rocks loose that were tumbling with dust down onto the bank so I moved along this section briskly, as close to the river as I could. Then there was a single large rock which appeared to be propping up a pile of smaller rocks so Frank briefly sidled up, across and down to bypass this rock and avoid precipitating a landslide of rocks upon us. I followed his route.


He’d been going quite a pace so I called a halt to see how far it was to Green Point Hut and we decided to have lunch even though we were only 2 and a half kms from the hut. We continued and came across bits of cruise tape attached to short-lived Vipers Bugloss! I noticed large dead branches of matagouri intact which was a bit concerning. The track climbed over a small spur and the hut came into view on a lovely flat terrace. Oh oh! No chimney and it was July with a clear sky forecast. It had taken us 2 hrs and 17 minutes plus a half-hour lunch break.


We entered the hut which was warmed from translucent corrugated windows and a double-glazed powder-finished larger window. There were no windows on the northern side though, just bunks. I rearranged the benches to allow my pack to serve as a backrest and used a box of hunting magazines as a footrest. It was only 2.30pm and I didn’t feel like continuing on to stay at the grotty Littles Hut, 5km further up valley. Luckily Frank was happy to stay at Green Point Hut.


We went outside to enjoy the last of the sun on the extensive, browsed flat by the hut and it soon disappeared behind the range. There was plenty to read and eventually I cooked a Back Country Cuisine dinner. I hadn’t had much to drink on the way in with the steady pace. I went to bed early and commandeered a spare sleeping bag to place over my exposed feet. I was warm enough but in the morning woke with extremely cold feet which I managed to warm up with my hands by bending each leg individually so I could hold my foot with both hands. Good yoga. The sleeping bag I’d used smelt very strongly of dog.


I rose after 8am and we breakfasted and packed for a day trip up to Littles Hut, including taking our lunch as we estimated it might take 4 hours for the trip there and back. Travel remained easy up the valley on the true left. We would need to cross the river to get to the hut but knew to leave the crossing for as far up valley as we could as the river would then be smaller. Looking at the map it showed the valley flattening out 500m downstream of the hut and there were 2 braids shown with one being wide, i.e. shallow, we hoped. The Jollie Saddle was covered in snow and looked inviting.


We climbed up over a shingle fan which gave us a good view of the river and also the hut on a scrubby terrace opposite. We dropped down and found a good place to cross. Frank managed to boulder hop across whereas I had bitten the bullet and scampered across, getting a bit of wetness where my laces were but it wasn’t much. I could see a possible route onto the terrace and we headed for that. There was a fence post at the top and a good track up the steep slope to gain the terrace. We walked briefly along a track through the dracophyllum to the hut. It had taken us 1hr and 48 minutes to get there.


The hut was missing a door and some of the wall perhaps or maybe a window but a blue tarp had been fixed over the wall. There was a fireplace but the flue had come away from the chimney so perhaps there wouldn’t be much draw. There were 3 bunks that looked ok and people had left closed cell foam mats on them. We could have stayed here the previous night but maybe we wouldn’t have enjoyed the fire though there was a sack of coal sitting there. There was sufficient dead scrub nearby to ignite the coal if need be.


I could see we would only have 10 minutes or so of sun remaining at the hut so suggested we move across to the true left of the valley. Once we were off the terrace in the riverbed, the chilling wind was evident but we carried on across and I found a shallow sunny dip with lovely flat spots for sitting in and for me a back support so we were happy. The sun disappeared after 18 minutes so we called a halt to lunch and moved on.


When we got to the bypass to avoid the killer rock coming away, I noticed the earthen slopes were still sending rocks skittering down, even bouncing into the river. We hoofed it briskly through that zone and carried on to Green Point Hut for a hot drink and a snack while we packed up for our trip back down to Jollie Hut. The hut book had mentioned a circuit over Jollie Saddle, down Ailsa stream to the Cass and then down the Cass to Tin Hut stream and back over into the Jollie done by Eric Skea and one other.


We got back to Jollie Hut and set about gathering kindling from the wood pile as there had been none left in the hut. There were rounds of wood but no axe to split them. Frank had a go with his bow saw, managing to quarter one round. I got the fire going but alas, most of the bigger stuff was damp and the fire diminished so I went out in the dark and investigated the felled willows with good success at finding smaller dead branches I could snap off for Frank to saw into usable lengths.


By this stage around 6.30pm, suddenly 2 other teenage hunters arrived from the plateau somewhere near First Creek where they’d camped. One of them had got his first tahr and the other had shot yet another white fallow buck the day before. They ensconced themselves in the very chilly bedroom to cook their evening meal so I opened the door but I think it didn’t warm up that room and only served to chill down the main room where the fire was going. We talked with them a bit but they weren’t especially responsive which I put down to typical teenage disengagement with the older folks.


Anyway, they were soon in their sleeping bags so Frank and I kept the noise down and the fire going though it wasn’t putting out much benefit unless you were sitting right beside it as I was. I went to bed and didn’t feel as warm as the other night. The lads had said it was much colder in the valley compared to the plateau. But I was warm enough and didn’t dare expose my feet to the cold air this time. We all slept in till after 8am with Frank being the first to rise. He was thinking of going for a walk up the 4WD track we’d used to access the route through the pines to Mt Stevenson to warm himself up but I soon got up and eventually lit that fire again with the kindling I’d ensured was dry the night before, so I could cosy up to the open door and enjoy the radiant heat.


The lads got up just before the rays of the sun hit. We tidied up and swept the main room and I went out and grabbed plenty of bone-dry poisoned broom for kindling plus larger broom to help get the fire going to dry out the larger blocks for firewood. We packed up and walked out to the road end. As we were eating our sandwiches, a man drove up and asked us if we’d seen the 2 young hunters. He was the father of one of them and said his son had lost his $4,000 rifle the day before. He’d had cell phone reception so could tell his dad. No wonder they’d been a bit subdued, the poor buggers. I’d collected some old willow sticks for the fireplace at the Telegraph Hut and loaded them in the boot.


But he was not only proud of his hunter son. He told us about the 18 year old brother who’d won many categories at the Golden Guitars at Gore. So we noted the name to google and watch on YouTube. We drove off as the young lads arrived and headed to the Mary Burn easement, considering whether we wanted to walk the 5km or so along the vehicle track to the Mary Burn Hut. But in the end, I decided it was too cold and bleak and we could leave it for another time after a bit of researching of the hut to see if it was a DoC hut etc. which it isn’t, not surprisingly.


We drove on to Telegraph Hut. Someone had stayed there and burned a bit of the firewood but tidied up the fireplace somewhat. The hut was still unswept so Frank got on to that, beating the mat and dusting the place down. We both shook out the blanket which may have had a dog sleeping on it at one time. I donated the wood and put small stuff for kindling inside the hut to keep it dry (duh).


We carried on to the Reflections restaurant at Tekapo for a satisfactory meal and drove back Chch without delays.