Toaroha, Hokitika, Lower Whitcombe Track and Sir Robert Hut

The well documented Toaroha Hokitika Lower Whitcombe track was chosen as our (Anthony and myself) first wander into the West Coast tramping area South East of Hokitika. The trips aims where to visit Sir Robert Hut and as many of the huts and bivs along the way.

It all started with the purchase of the book Shelter from the Storm  authored by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown and Geoff Spearpoint; this is a hut baggers bible. Only fault of this book is that it is far too big and heavy to carry in my pack while tramping, good side of that is it cannot be easily stolen or borrowed.  Buying BV19 and much reading of the Remote Huts website and the NZAC guidebook The Canterbury Westland Alps increased the desire to visit this area of many huts and bivs.

We gave ourselves eight days for the trip, in the end we used seven. I packed light getting eight days of food and gear into my Macpac Pursuit 40 NZAT; as its a size two its capacity is stated at 37 liters.  To compliment my light back pack, at the trip start it was between seven and eight kg, I also wore light weight runners, and had one pair of socks for the entire trip. Good thing I was in and out of rivers every day.
For my feet
Thanks to Brian for assisting us with drop off and pickup and his knowledge of the area.
Brian at the pickup road end
Sunday 06/03/2016
The start of the walk was an easy wander into Ceder Flats hut in mostly light rain. There where four other trampers at the hut, the last people we where to see for the duration of our walk.
Anthony start of track to Cedar Flats
Toaroha River section
Toaroha River
Heading up the track away from the river
Dropping into the river 10 minutes from Ceder Flats Hut

Historic Ceder Flats Hut
Once at Ceder Flats hut parred down my pack to the essentials and then headed off up to Adventure Ridge Bivouac for a quick bag.
Adventure Ridge Bivouac
Got back to the hut and made food and took part in a lively debate about 1080, way better than reality versus religion; and even more fun that the NZ  political scene. Those against 1080 provide lots of "facts" about why 1080 use be banned; however there is no scientific evidence to back up there facts. Check here for "facts" that fail to have any scientific backing:
Then check here and keep following references for some factual research:
Monday 07/03/2016
We left Ceder Flats Hut heading to Top Toaroha Hut with wet weather all day. Didnt do side trips to Yeates or Mullins, next time.
Anthony outside historic Cedar Flats hut
The gorge above the hot pools
The track up the river got more wild and interesting
On the way did a side walk up to Crystal Bivouac; quite claggy up there and low visibility so took a while to find the bivouac.
Start of track to Crystal Biv
A minor view
A view of the Tarn while looking for biv
Crystal Biv
Almost a view down valley
Took just over an hour to get up to the tops and find the biv, then just under thirty minutes back down to my pack. Back on the main track heading to Top Toaroha Hut with constant rain and if not raining drizzling. There where a few rocks to slide down and steep bits to clamber up, this days walk was what I'd call a great walk.
Climbing up the Toaroha River
Climbing up the Toaroha River
Climbing up the Toaroha River
Climbing up the Toaroha River
Clearing a bit
The flats where Top Toaroha hut is
Arrived at top Toaroha Hut to a bit of sunshine and a nice fire. Dry'ed out all our gear.
Top Toaroha Hut
Inside and drying time
This hut is in a nice site with some views of the surrounding hills.

Tuesday 08/03/2016
Left the hut after the early morning showers and some fire wood gathering.
Anthony in front of Top Toaroha Hut
Toilet sign

Looking back at hut as we climb Bannatyne Creek
Steep bit before tussock
In the tussock looking back at hut
Not far from the saddle
Toaroha saddle was one of the trips highlights as we had views from here. Could see right into the headwaters of Sir Robert creek and the glaciers.
Toaroha Saddle Bivouac
View South
Above Toaroha Saddle looking West to the biv
Looking South up Sir Robert Creek, Homeward Ridge on right
After lunch we headed  down the steep ridge into the Mungo River and then down to Poets Hut
Another view South into Sir Robert Creek
Notman and Stout at head of Sir Robert Creek
In the Mungo River
Mungo River
Poets Hut
This is a nice spot and there was a tin of beer left here for the next visitor, we thank you, we did enjoy half each. A warm well maintained hut this one.

Wednesday 09/03/2016
Today is our trip to Sir Robert Hut using the swing bridge across the Mungo and the track up Homeward ridge that are not marked on the latest topographic map of BV19. Why not? From Poet Hut it was a ten minute walk to the swing bridge.
Non-existent Swing over the Mungo
Once over the swing bridge its an easy going well marked constant climb with a few rocky outcrops providing views of the ridge to come. Stopped at the first one for photos.
Bush clad Homeward Ridge
Drums and containers abound, old spray gear
The walk in the bush is a calm quiet cruise very enjoyable with our days weather.

View into Sir Robert Creek
Anthony with his Arn pack
Mountains at head of Sir Robert Creek
View into upper Sir Robert Creek
Ridge down to Sir Robert Creek off Homeward
Finally off the Homeward Ridge and easy wander down to the bush, we should have headed South off into the creek sooner. Ended up in the scrub battling to traverse into the creek, bad mistake. Scrub here is scrubby!
Anthony prior to bush bash
Views of ice, afternoons aim
Creek leading into Sir Robert
Sir Robert Creek
Finally got to Sir Robert hut, something that has been desired for several years.
Sir Robert Hut
After a lunch had a walk up to the ice; is it a glacier?
Anthony in the scree above the hut
South to head of Sir Robert Creek

North down Sir Robert Creek towards Toaroha Saddle
South towards Mt Stout etc.
Looking up to the ice below Mt Tregear
North down the valley Sir Robert hut visable
The ice stuff, glacier or not?
North down the valley, a couple of k above Sir Robert hut
We had an evening fire outside the hut in the river bed for a relax, was a very nice evening but cold. While here did a good read of the Sir Robert Hut hut book and took a photo of each page and got the  Sir Robert Hut statistics from the hut book. Put the data into a spread sheet. Graphed as follows. Including our visit, the hut book shows 43 visits since 19/01/1983.
Thursday 10/03/2016
Heavy rain started so we wanted to get up onto Homeward Ridge and back down to Poets Hut, didn't want to get stuck in this valley. So early when the rain slacked off a bit we headed off knowing we would have a fire and be able to dry out our gear.
Sir Robert Hut leaving time
Anthony heading up the access creek
Up higher just before heading up onto the ridge
When we left the creek and headed up the tussock to sidle onto the ridge leading to Homeward it began to rain heavy. No more photos, put cameras away. Wet right thru. We wandered right up to the ridge line and then in the murky weather we carried on up to almost the top, only figured it out as we where in a wide flat place with big rocks. Compass time to get the direction sorted as we where wet and getting colder, had headed South West instead of North East.
Anthony's GPS data showing our wrong way
Down to Poets hut and the weather cleared! We used that sunshine to dry out our gear.
Mungo up and dirty
The weather cleared early afternoon
Drying out in the sun
A relaxing night at Poets, with an aim of heading to Bluff Hut the next day.

Friday 11/03/2016
Left Poets Hut and headed down river on the well maintained track, first good view  was not long before the swing bridge.
Conway Ridge, cleft is Hokitika River
Then a bit further we had views up the Hokitika seeing the drop from about 900 meters down to 400 meters, a very interesting river to come down.
Hokitika coming down to the Mungo
Why is the Hokitika named the Hokitika, as whenever the Hokitika is confluent, the Hokitika is always the smallest? Well have to go do some research on that. Got to the swing bridge and we could see that once across, it is all uphill to Bluff hut.
Anthony crossing the swing over the Hoki
View down the river from big rock - Anthony photo
Ian crossing the swing. Anthony photo
View of bluffs
Anthony in the cave like bit
Old huts water tank down the hill a bit
Old Bluff Hut. Does this count as a hut visit?
Out into the tussock and can see Bluff hut
Arrival at an empty Bluff Hut
We settled into the hut and had hot drinks and lunch, I wanted to go bag Frisco Hut but was having second thoughts about the walk down to the swing bridge. We went for a walk up behind the hut, wearing more cloths as the wind was quite chilling. Good views all around.
Bluff Hut and Mt Ross in the distance
Looking South towards Mt Frieda, Mt Tancred
Up the Hokitika
Ian out above Bluff Hut
Anthony out above Bluff hut
Frisco Hut in the center and Darby Creek on the right
Zoomed in on Frisco

Seeing Frisco from up above Bluff made it seem not so far, so later in the afternoon I headed off aiming to bag Frisco Hut. That is an incredible track up there on a skinny ridge, kudos to who ever worked that one out, probably they spotted it from above Bluff hut? All easy down hill and across the swing bridge. Could see an old trail heading down river on the true right, opted to get down on the side of the river to get to Darby Creek. Easy going.
Anthony in the sun at Bluff Hut
View up Hokitika of swing, on way to Darby Creek
Cairn at Darby Creek
Bluffs above Darby Creek
Diedrichs Range
From this good view spot the hut was another forty minutes crossing a few gullies that are well marked.
Frisco Hut
Frisco Hut Interior
Stayed for ten minutes, long enough to read and photo the pages in the hut book. Frisco Hut is quite popular with 53 visits in the hut book since 1983.
Data from Frisco Hut book
Frisco Hut with Conway Ridge in background
South to Conway Ridge
Views South East with Homeward Ridge
Headed back down to the Hokitika, which was much quicker than coming up.
Waterfalls at head of Darby Creek
Mt Ross and bluffs at head of Darby Creek
Back into the Hokitika
A clamber up to the swing bridge
Heading up to Bluff hut view back to Mt Ross
Got back to a warm Bluff Hut and a late meal. Got quite windy in the night, huts sings a bit.

Saturday 12/03/2016
Really enjoyed the walk up the Hokitika from Bluff hut to Frew Saddle, once above Steadman Creek I found it easier to stick with the river crossing from one side to the other, a bit cold on the feet. Initially it was cloudy and cold, but within a couple of hours it was a nice warm day with good views.
Hokitika gorge just after leaving Bluff Hut
Looking up the Hokitika
Valley opens out after Steadman Creek
Expressive sign post with Frew Saddle pointer
Following photos are from Frew Saddle.
Up the Hokitika with Mathias Pass low in the left
Down the Hokitika to Bluff Hut
North along Meta Range
North West with Frew Bivouac and Whitcombe River in the distance
We stopped at Frew Bivouac for a lunch, then descended into Frew Creek. The creek being the track. Frew Saddle to Frew Hut is quite like walking in the trackless river valleys of the Tararua's. Later down in the lower forest we did spot a couple of interesting fungi
Frew Saddle Bivouac
Heading down to Frew Creek
In Frew Creek
Frew Creek our track
Anthony at our rest stop
Entoloma Hochstetteri
Tremella fuciformis
Anthony at the junction - we checked out the hut
Whitcombe River
Frew Hut
Stopped at Frew Hut for food and drink and debated if we should stay here the night or carry on. We ended up carrying on to Rapid Creek hut due to Frew hut lacking in character, looking more like something a concrete inner city building would excrete.
Whitcombe River heading to Collier Gorge
Interesting large colorful rocks
Access onto swing bridge at Collier Gorge
Swing bridge at Collier Gorge
Collier Gorge
River flats heading to the Whitcombe Hokitika confluence

Anthony at rain time
Hokitika Whitcombe confluence
Rapid Creek swing bridge
Leaving the river for Rapid Creek Hut

This was the second confluence where the Hokitika consumed the larger river, first Mungo and now the Whitcombe. We originally attempted to cross Rapid Creek, but gave up as it was as its named, would have been foolish to to add to the statistics so close to the hut. Rapid Creek Hut was a pig sty with rubbish every where and pots that hadn't been cleaned, rather grubby and smelly. At least we where out of the rain.

Sunday 13/03/2016
The last day and its a short walk out in the drizzle, slippery going on the rocky bits. Goodbye to Rapid Creek Hut.
Rapid Creek Hut
The cable across the river was fun and then it was a flat walk down the river to the cow paddocks where Brian was waiting for us.
Retrieving the bucket at the cable way over the Hokitika
Anthony Heading across
The speed when the bucket took off!
Me half way across
View down the Hokitika from the cable way
Anthony cranking me in
A three kilometer walk out to the car after the fun of the cable way; and an end to a great seven day journey with Anthony. Hut bagging BLISS of thirteen huts. BV19 has got one of the highest (if not the highest) hut densities for a NZTopo50, there are at least 31 huts on the 1.01 map, 32 counting the new Mt Brown hut. These huts are in great country to travel, not at all crowded, and for the best documentation check out huts listing on the remotehuts website.

Map of the Area

View Larger Topographic Map

Trip Times
Sunday 06/03/2016
1317 Left the Toaroha road end 
1630 At Ceder Flats Hut
153 Left Ceder Flats hut to bag Adventure Bivouac.
1807 At Adventure Bivouac
1817 Left Adventure Bivouac
1911 Back at Ceder Flats Hut
Monday 07/03/2016
0717 Left Ceder Flats hut
0744 Adventure Bivouac track
0855 Mullins turnoff
1030 Dropped pack for a quick bag of Crystal
1133 Crystal Bivouac
1144 Left Crystal Bivouac
1213 Pack at pack
1351 Top Toaroha Hut
Tuesday 08/03/2016
1011 Left Top Toaroha Hut
1210 Toaroha Saddle Bivouac
Wednesday 09/03/2016
0716 Left Poets hut
0726 Swing bridge
0845 Out of the forest onto the ridge
1048 Heading down the ridge to Sir Robert Creek
1310 In Sir Robert Creek
1325 Sir Robert Hut
Thursday 10/03/2016
0731 Left Sir Robert Hut
Homeward Ridge
Almost at the top
1215 Poet Hut
Friday 11/03/2016
0749 Left Poets Hut
0932 Swing Bridge
1113 Bluff Hut
1411 Left Bluff Hut
1446 Swing Bridge
1502 Darby Creek
1653 Frisco Hut
1704 Left Frisco Hut
1824 At Hokitika River
1852 At swing bridge
1944 Bluff hut
Saturday 12/03/2016
0723 Left Bluff Hut
1049 Frew Saddle Bivouac
1120 Left Frew Saddle Bivouac
1501 Frew Hut
1556 Left Frew Hut
1914 Rapid Creek Hut
Sunday 13/03/2016 
0728 Left Rapid Creek Hut
0915 Road End

No bibles from Seek Freedom or other individuals in any of the huts visited.

Lessons Learned
  • Take extras for porridge, like brown sugar, cinnamon
  • Anthony needs more of his favourite crackers
  • Evening meals are spot on
  • Take 50ml to 150ml whisky each per evening
  • A measuring cup is important for freeze drys protein shakes
  • Ian should take a spare pair of socks
  • A kindle would be good


HJ said...

Great trip, those huts are all on my to-bag list!
Some info, although I'm no expert, but in the early days (ie 1860s) what is now the Whitcombe River was also named the Hokitika River (being another branch of it). It was renamed in honour of Henry Whitcombe, surveyor, who, with Jakob Lauper, made the first epic crossing to the West Coast over the pass that bears his name. He drowned in the Taramakau on the same journey, trying to cross it in a state of exhaustion when in flood.

Unknown said...

Good article.FYI,I ran into a couple from Dunedin at Crooked Spur Hut,who informed me that Sir Robert Hut was named after his grandfather,Sir Robert Stout,our 13th Prime Minister.Always curious about the origin of the name & had to do the Stag Saddle bit of the Te Araroa to find out.Haven't got there yet.