The likely loss of another alpine hut in the Aoraki/Mt
Cook National Park is a serious blow for back-country
enthusiasts, a leading mountain guide says.
The Department of Conservation's 37-year-old Gardiner Hut was
knocked from its foundations by a huge rock avalanche from
the south face of Mt Cook earlier this week and it is unclear
whether it can be salvaged.
The hut sits above the Hooker Glacier and is the fourth in
the national park which has either been destroyed or become
unusable in the past two decades.
De La Beche Hut was demolished in 2012 because of extensive
deterioration; Beetham Hut was destroyed by an avalanche
about 20 years ago and the Hooker Hut was now recommended by
Doc as an emergency shelter only because of safety issues.
Dave McKinley, chief guide for Mt Cook-based Alpine Guides,
said the damage to the hut was a major concern to the
''We're losing those back-country assets and they're not
being replaced and obviously I understand it's a budget thing
but it's quite noticeable for those users.
The damaged Gardiner Hut on Mt Cook. Photo supplied.
''The opportunity to go and stay in these amazing
environments ... and have that shelter in these back-country
areas is being rapidly decreased. And to be honest, in the
current political environment, I can't see them replacing this
hut in a hurry either.''
With Gardiner Hut now closed indefinitely, of the three huts
that were once in the Hooker Valley, only Empress Hut
remained, Mr McKinley said.
It was the highest in the Mt Cook National Park at 2500m
above sea level and was only accessible to experienced
mountaineers after a long day's travel over ''heavily
''Everybody that comes to Mt Cook , whether they're a
geriatric visitor or a keen young mountaineer, they all get
to Mt Cook and they look straight up the Hooker Valley and
less and less people actually walk up the Hooker Valley and
spend the night up there because there's less and less places
for them to do so.
''There's lots of resources and pretty signs in a car park
where a busload of overseas tourists will spend five minutes
taking photos. We'll spend an awful lot of money making that
car park look pretty. But the back-country shelter for a
person that walks deep into the mountains, the options are
While the shell of Gardiner Hut building looked like it might
be salvageable, it would not be a quick or cheap fix, he
Doc conservation services manager Mike Davies said the
department was waiting on a geological assessment by GNS
Science before a decision was made on the future of the hut,
which had sustained ''considerable'' damage in the rock
avalanche. Doc shared mountaineers' concerns about the
decline in back-country shelters, Mr Davies said.
''They are the stakeholders who have a very clear interest in
these things, so that's what will be part of our
consideration in terms of the future of [Gardiner Hut].
''For us it's a huge blow to lose another hut ... So then it
puts into focus all of the other huts.''
The ''down-wasting'' of glaciers had made access to high
alpine huts increasingly difficult.
''We do recognise that you're dealing with a very dynamic
landscape and these things will always be an issue and we
can't always anticipate things.''
A proposal was still in the pipeline to move Hooker Hut to a
safer location, Mr Davies said. However, he would have to
look into the background of the other huts to determine why
they had not been replaced, he said.