Hut Bound (Part One) – Aparima Forks Hut

“On a Mish” #71 Hut Bound (Part One) – Aparima Forks Hut. Upper Aparima River. Takitimu Conservation Area. 21.5.2018. Mountain weather is an extreme and never forgotten experience when held up in a tiny backcountry hut. A couple of times I have hiked to a hut knowing the weather would keep me held up for at least a day. Of course this is all part of the plan, and the spare day at the hut is spent marvelling at the wonder of the weather in the mountains. But for me to experience this I need a few things to fall into place on their own…

First is having three consecutive days off work. Next is to have the weather work in your favour during those three consecutive days. Last is finding the motivation to go for a walk in the rain.

Luckily for me the last on the list is never a problem, but the first two I have very little control over.

After the summer season had come to an end I was looking for a challenge in the mountains. To the south of Te Anau are the Takitimu Mountains, a range that would dominate most places around the world. But in Aotearoa the Takitimu Mountains sit directly beside Fiordland National Park. Unfortunately this renders the Takitimu Range the less attractive (but still very good looking) sister of the iconic gem that is Fiordland.

I had a chance to witness the early arrival of winter during May, so I quickly packed my gear into the car and headed for the start of the Aparima Track in Dunrobin Valley.

The forecast was for heavy rain overnight, awith a southerly change the next day and snow to about 800m. Perfect! I knew if I moved quickly I could get to the hut, which involves a crossing of the upper reaches of Aparima River just before the hut. After heavy rain sets in this becomes a watery barricade barring access to or from the little mountain hut. The key was having enough food so that if I was held up for more than just the one day I had planned, then I could stay put in the hut, and wait out the rain and high river levels.

Unfortunately in New Zealand people have put their schedule ahead of their life, and met their fate in one of our many dangerous rivers while in flood. The walk in the rain was excellent, and along the way I had time to have a look at the Aparima Huts(8 bunk). The hut is a stopping point on the Te Araroa Trail (the track spanning the entire length of New Zealand), and looks like a cool place to spend the night.

For me this was only around the halfway point of my journey, so after a quick look around I headed into the beech forest for the last section of track and the crossing of Aparima River.

A factor I have worked out over time is that huts with easy access usually have hiking times that are very easy to accomplish. However once on a more remote backcountry track, the times become a challenge. This was definitely the case on this mish, as I got to Aparima Hut well ahead of the stated hiking times, and this gave me the false impression that I would smash the time from Aparima Hut to Aparima Forks Hut.

As the time went on I kept following the trail through a very cool section of beech forest. The forest prevented most of the light from penetrating through to the forest floor, and as afternoon became early evening I started to think I might need my head torch. Hiking alone through a thick forest in the dark does make you thankful that we don’t have any dangerous animals hiding behind any of the trees!

I popped out of the forest at the Upper Aparima River to see the hut on the other side at exactly the same time as stated on the DoC sign. I had reached my destination, apart from the crossing of the river. Now raining heavily, I could see that the river was rising and would become uncrossable if it kept falling as heavily as it was. After a few reluctant splashes I was through the river and in the little hut just as the rain began to increase in intensity…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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