Tough Trails of the Past (Part One)- Mt Larkins (2300m)

“On a Mish” #6 Tough Trails of the Past (Part One). Mt Larkins(2300m). Whakaari Conservation Area. Richardson Mountains. 20.3.2014. It is safe to say that we (the human race) are getting soft these days. We head to places like the Whakaari Conservation Area decked out in the latest hiking clothing, carrying our lightweight pack for a tramp into “the wild”. Where we go for fun, years ago people used to go for work. On this mish I was going to tackle the tough trails of the past…

After leaving the small car park near Blanket Bay (on the shores of the stunning Lake Wakatipu), I began my hike up the well-beaten path of the Mt Judah Road. While walking I was transported back to the time of grueling work in an equally grueling environment. The workers were searching the mountains for precious scheelite and it is amazing what lengths they would go to in order to mine the rare natural treasure. This Tungstate Mineral is used to harden steel, and was extremely valuable during the First and Second World Wars.

Because of the need for Scheelite, the mountains above Glenorchy, at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu, now have a network of bulldozed tracks and old miners huts which once housed the tough-as-nails workers mining the mountainous area. An incredible amount of work has gone into marking all the correct tracks to follow amongst the maze of rough roads, and in restoring some of the huts to serve as accommodation for hikers now visiting the area.

One of my all time favourites is the Heather Jock Hut. Located high on the north west ridge of Mt Alaska(1965m), I have spent many nights enjoying the view from the tiny three bunk hut. As far as mountain accommodation goes it is right up there with the best of them.

On this mish my objective was chilling with intentions of climbing the rather large Mt Larkins(2300m). I had a rare three spare days in a row to complete the climb. I was loving the situation I had got myself into and I was pumped to get going.

My excitement was dulled slightly by the strong wind gusts I faced as I struggled my way up the zigzags carved into the side of Mt Alaska(1965m) to the hut. My pack was a little bit heavier than it should have been due to the luxury food items I had carried with me, possibly a little bit more than required. As I dumped my pack at the hut and began my feast I quickly realised it was well worth the extra weight / effort.

I couldn’t spend much time outside the hut that evening as it was constantly being blasted by the strong nor’west winds and it made the alpine world an unpleasant place to hang out. It was awesome to be able to retreat into the shelter of the hut.

I drifted off to sleep to the rattle of iron and lose bolts and bits. I hoped that, due to the many years the hut has been at this location, it wouldn’t fly away in the wind with me in it. A couple of times I have been sitting out rough weather in a hut and as it has rattled in the wild weather I have wondered about the structural integrity.

At some stage during the night, as predicted the wind switch was turned off. I got up to use the outdoor facilities and while taking care of business I gazed up at a clear sky full of stars.

Early-ish the next morning I was well on my way towards Mt Larkin(2300m) before the sun made its first appearance, on what was going to be an excellent day out in the mountains….

Heather Jock Hut

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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