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Hiking to a hut in winter

Austin, Texas
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203 reviews
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Hiking to a hut in winter
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What would be a good 1-2 day hike in late June? My boyfriend and I would like to do a full day hike and stay in a hut. We are in good shape, but not experienced with severe winter conditions. We are aware we'd have to be self sufficient at the hut with gas, cooking, etc.

We are open to both north and South Island hikes

Nelson, New Zealand
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for South Island
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1. Re: Hiking to a hut in winter
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Are you looking for mountains and possible ice/snow? http://doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/fiordland/eastern-fiordland/kepler-track/plan-and-prepare/winter-tramping/

or

in total luxury? - helicopter in/out http://www.wharekealodge.com/nz/story-of-the-chalet/

or

golden sand beaches and ample sunshine - Abel Tasman/Golden Bay http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/national-parks/abel-tasman/places-to-stay/

or

dark stoney beaches and bush clad hills http://www.qctrack.co.nz/

Austin, Texas
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449 posts
203 reviews
62 helpful votes
2. Re: Hiking to a hut in winter
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We would prefer mountains, but want to be safe in the winter conditions,

New Plymouth, New...
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3. Re: Hiking to a hut in winter
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I am somewhat at a loss as to a particular hike to recommend.

This is because hiking in the mountains, in winter, overnight, is really better to do if you have some experience, and know exactly what you are doing.

The thing is, severe winter conditions can appear, in minutes, with little to no warning. While this can happen at any time of the year, winter is by far the worst, and gales, snow, and storms arrive from the south rapidly.

You also need to be able to carry around thirty pounds of gear on your backs, and that is not easy, as food, sleeping bags, dry clothing, gas stove, etcetera, add up very easily. You need to bring proper tramping (hiking) packs, as you cannot depend on hiring them here - although it is possible, and in any case, it is best to have your own pack, adjusted for your own back.

It is not unknown to need gaiters, crampons, and other gear for wet and snowy weather, even if you are sensible and remain below the bushline (generally around 1200m/3658ft, in the North Island, although this, of course, varies.) Aside from the hazards of the tramp itself, I am wondering if it is viable to bring all this gear with you.

My recommendation would be that you choose either Tongariro or Egmont National Parks, or perhaps Te Urewera if you are heading to the East Coast, all on the North Island, get advice from the respective visitor centres in those National Parks, and make a decision which hike to do on the day, and do it as a day tramp. You can visit a hut that way, and I think it would be a safer way to do things.

If you are determined to do an overnight stay, you need to buy hut passes - $5 or $15, at the visitor centre, depending on the services provided. Overnight stays are not guaranteed, and operate on a first-come, first-served, basis.

Most huts provide a wood stove, a supply of firewood, a rainwater tank, sinks with no taps, a pit toilet, and platforms with mattresses. Comforts are very few, unless you are in the Great Walks Huts, which cost rather more. Water from the tank is generally safe to drink, but boil water taken from mountain streams due to the risk of giardia. I sometimes do drink from mountain streams, but only once I am above the bushline, and amongst the tussock. That is because I know the area, don't take a gas stove on day hikes, and am comfortable with the risk. Below the bushline, I don't do it.

I am very sorry to be so discouraging, but I really think that if you are not experienced with winter conditions - severe or otherwise, it would be better not to head out overnight in the winter. You have to be prepared for anything and everything, carry a fairly comprehensive first aid kit, a locator beacon is a good idea too, and I am also wondering about the logistics of carting in all the things you need from the United States. You also may get stuck due to the weather, and this can cause much anxiety and agitation if you need to be somewhere else at that time, or worse again, have an aeroplane to catch the next day!

Now - recommended tracks. Stick to the walking or easy tramping graded tracks - tramping tracks are often guided by cairns or markers, and it is easy to get very lost, if bad weather arrives.

At Tongariro National Park - try the Whakapapaiti Track (18km, has a hut), part of it is on open tussock, the rest is in the bush. I am unsure for other recommendations, as the other tracks I looked through for you have rather more tussock, and it gets very exposed when you are that high up. Tukapakurua Falls may be suitable, although there is no hut. Otherwise I would suggest short walks, like the two hours to Taranaki Falls, if the weather is good. Tama Lakes would be a good walk if it wasn't winter - even in the summer it can get very exposed.

For Uruwera National Park, the Lake Waikaremoana Track is part of the country's great walks - which generally means several days of tramping, in this case 3-4. As they are Great Walk Huts en route, they cost $32 a night. Lake Waikareiti is a two hour walk - beyond the day shelter the track becomes rather more challenging around to Sandy Bay Hut, and I would not suggest you do that in winter.

For Egmont National Park, I am on firmer ground, as this is my home soil.

Maketawa Hut - follow the Puffer - aptly named - from the North Egmont Visitor Centre, then turn off to the Maketawa track. This walk involves some short ladders up steep banks - at least, it did, the last time I passed that way. You can return the same way, or there is an alternate route through the bush - you will need the skill to cross unbridged streams though.

The Holly Hut Track is definitely not suitable in winter - very exposed areas en route, and you need crampons and an ice axe available.

Waingongoro Track heads south-west from a bit below The Mountain House. Again, you need the skill to cross unbridged streams, and if they are swollen with heavy rain, don't cross them. There is a hut en route.

If you use the LOWER Lake Dive Track, departing from Dawson Falls, it may be suitable, as the higher track, again, needs an ice axe and crampons during the winter. It is 6 - 8 hours return, to the Lake Dive Hut, from the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre.

All of the areas I have described have multiple short walks of 2 - 3 hours, and these are likely to be more suitable at this time of year. I hope this helps you to make a decision.

Oz
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4. Re: Hiking to a hut in winter
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Hi,

Great advice from the others. Seriously winter isn't the time to be gaining this type of experience. There are some great shorter hikes (three hours/half a day) around Aoraki/Mt Cook to blood you for this sort of thing. Even then you need to be prepared for it all to go pear shaped in a heart beat at altitude.

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/canterbury/aoraki-mount-cook/aoraki-mount-cook-village-walking-tracks/

If you are tempted to go off the walking tracks and try tramping please carry an EPIRP it makes it so much easier for the emergency services to find the bodies.

Cheers,

Christchurch, New...
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for Christchurch, South Island, Akaroa
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5. Re: Hiking to a hut in winter
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I'm assuming you have some back-country experience. There are plenty of huts at low altitude just out of Wellington, esp in the Orongorongo River catchment that are easily accessed about 2 hr walk from the Catchepool Valley carpark. The Turere Lodge is even double-glazed & you wouldn't need more than 7-10kg depending on the weight of your sleeping bag & food, as even crockery is supplied.

Around South Canterbury there are huts in the Mt Somers Walkway area (Woolshed Creek & Pinnacles Huts) that are relatively low altitude & easily accsessible with a light snow covering. Similarly in Nth Canterbury the huts on the St james Walkway eg Boyle River, are easy to reach & not prone to heavy snowfalls.

Austin, Texas
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6. Re: Hiking to a hut in winter
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Thank you everyone. This is great information. And have a lot more research to do! I love the mount Cook idea of a shorter hike. I am also looking into the Abel Tasman Coast track.

Nelson, New Zealand
Destination Expert
for South Island
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7. Re: Hiking to a hut in winter
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The joys of Abel Tasman -

- no snow, or extreme weather

- no need to pack in cooking gas etc, huts aren't winterised

- water taxi to your starting point, hike to the hut, then hike to your next selected watertaxi stand and cruise out

- Anchorage Hut is newish and cost over 7 million, really lovely

- no need for crampons, gaitors, full hiking boots or emergency locator beacon - treking shoes will do fine.

possible negatives - the AT National Park is NZ's smallest and most busy. It's a great introduction to hiking for NZ kids. Best book early to ensure a bunk.

Aoraki/Mt Cook has great walks. Check with DOC on arrival at Aoraki as they know track and weather conditions best. They also have maps etc.

enjoy :)

Wanaka, New Zealand
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8. Re: Hiking to a hut in winter
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You could easily walk in to the Routeburn Flats or Routeburn Falls Huts at that time of the year - unless there has been heavy recent snowfall. Route burn Falls will be beautiful if there is a bit of recent snow on the mountains. You would have to have your own cooker - but these can be hired in Queenstown - and all food etc. The Routeburn Track is such a high standard, that the track is quite easy to follow. Check with DOC in Queenstown to check there has not been recent heavy snowfall, but you should be fine on this track. The Flats Hut would be slightly easier. It's 6km from the road end; the Falls Hut is about another hour (or less) from memory.

9. Re: Hiking to a hut in winter

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