Hooker Hut

After our adventure on the Able Tasman track we drove south to spend time with family in Timaru. We also fit in 2 nights camping in Hooker Valley beneath Aoraki/Mount Cook, mainly because my sister Bridget was celebrating her 40th birthday. There were plenty of nervous checks of the weather forecast leading up to the first day but thankfully nothing untoward occurred and we had two beautifully calm, if hot, days. The birthday event was to be held at Hooker Hut, a storied place that has been moved a few times over the past as described by DOC:

Hooker Hut was originally built at the base of Copland Pass in 1910, as a base for mountaineers crossing the Divide, heading further onto the glacier, or scaling the peaks in the surrounding area.

It was moved three times between 1948 and 1994 due to cracking in the unstable moraine wall. Access was cut off to all but the most experienced hikers in 1994 when the track was washed out by heavy rain.

The hut was also struck by an avalanche in 2004. It had become rundown and needed some serious repair work when it was flown out in 2015.

https://www.doc.govt.nz/news/media-releases/2021-media-releases/historic-hooker-hut-reopens/

Subsequently restored the refurbished hut was opened to the public in 2021. Now situated in an easy to reach part of Hooker Valley it has become a popular place for families and those looking to experience staying in a DOC hut without the need for a long or difficult walk.

We drove from Timaru to the White Horse Hill carpark where the Hooker Valley Track begins. We’d had a very short diversion to the nearby Aoraki Mt Cook Visitor Centre to eat some lunch purchased from the Fairlie Bakehouse and also to talk to the staff about accessing the hut. We also bumped into my brother Richard who was also coming to Hooker Hut the next day, but first hiking to and staying at Mueller Hut (a much more demanding hike). It being the holiday season in early January we knew that it was likely to be busy and the cars parked beside the road on the way into the White Horse Hill carpark showed this was true. Thankfully we found a carpark not too far from the start of the track and we were soon enough ready to set off.

The Hooker Valley Track is a well maintained and generally wide track with little cover, the vegetation being low for the most part. There were hundreds if not thousands of people walking the track, it was like a highway. The sun was now high in the sky and it was hot, so we were stopping regularly for a break and taking in plenty of water. DOC suggests it should take around 2 hours to get to Hooker Hut, it took us more like 3 in the end. Hooker Hut is hidden behind a rise and for the last part of the walk we left the main track and followed a much more mundane path through the tussock, occasional orange markers guiding the way. Arriving at the hut it was hard to believe it was only 10 minutes away from the heaving mass of humanity on the Hooker Valley Track. Here it was peaceful, only a few people to be found.

The hut was fully booked for both nights so we knew there would be 8 people staying in the hut and likely a few others camping as we were. We found the designated camping spots and set up our two little tents without any issue. We were all set for the next two nights!

There was another family from Christchurch staying at the hut and Alayna quickly made a new friend, their daughter of a similar age. The dad was also a photographer and later that evening I joined him taking photos as night descended. Before that in the late afternoon we joined together and walked to the end of the Hooker Valley track to check out Hooker Lake. The temperature was cooling and there were only a handful of people on the track so it was a relaxing and peaceful hike. The girls played at the edge of the lake for a while and we listened to the calls of kea echoing off the mountains, and then saw a small flock (also called a circus or curiosity of kea) alight on a nearby ridge above the lake. We got to have a closer look, these kea not interested in us all. The sun was lowering and shadows were creeping up the valley walls as we made or way back to the hut.

The sky cleared up and it was a beautiful and clear night. Those of us taking photos were treated to a stunning night of stars, the moon not rising until the early morning so it was truly dark and the stars had nothing to dim their brilliance. It was of course also chilly in the tents but we just wore extra clothes to boost the warmth provided by our sleeping bags.

Last light on Aoraki Mount Cook
A night under the stars
A chilly morning

We said goodbye to new friends and spent most of the morning relaxing in and around the now empty hut. There were a few visitors during the day, day-trippers and hut baggers and some heading on to other huts. By the afternoon family and friends were arriving, plus some additional people who were camping without a booking. We had a good evening hanging out and chatting, walking and playing plenty of card games. Of course we also sang happy birthday, a great place to celebrate a special occasion!

The night was peaceful and the morning dawned cool and bright. We managed to leave before the sun beat down on the main track and ahead of the bulk of the daily visitors to the valley, so our hike out was much faster and more comfortable. I’ve a feeling we’ll be back to Hooker Hut before long, such a nice place to unwind and relax surrounded by stunning scenery.

Posts created 877

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top