Hopkins Valley Overnight: September 17-18, 2022
Report by Kerrin & Kirsty
Three vehicles met at Ohau Skifield entrance at the respectable time of 10:45am on a beautiful blue sky day. Keith, Susan and Carol were in Keith's Pajero, Johnny and Kate were in Johnny's impressively lifted Hilux, and Kerrin and Kirsty arrived in their unimpressive looking Pathfinder, last (hence why they are writing this trip report!).
Keith was eager to get started as bunk space was limited and several vehicles had already headed into the park. After airing down, we entered Ruataniwha Conservation Park and it was easy travelling through to our first stop at Monument Hut, where a group of hunters with 6x 4wds had already setup camp.
After checking out the hut we made our first crossing of the Hopkins River, which went smoothly due to the unusually low river levels. Just past Monument Hut lunch soon beckoned, where Johnny amazed us all by announcing he had a pie warmer installed in his truck and then went on to produce delicious looking pies for both Kate and himself.
After lunch we decided to delay visiting Red Hut on the east bank and instead continued on up the river to Elcho Hut, via alternating smooth and bumpy track interspersed with rough, rocky river crossings.
On approaching Elcho Hut we were slightly concerned to see a quad and several motorbikes rapidly converging on the hut, but we were fortunate to find out they were only there for a day trip, with Elcho Hut in fact empty and we each found a bunk for the night.
That marked the end of our driving for the day, but in typical Keith fashion he mustered our enthusiasm for an afternoon walk up Elcho Stream through the beech forest, which was a pleasant change from sitting on our backsides all day.
Breakfast steak and one fire alarm later (Johnny), we packed up and gave the hut a good tidy up and then we were ready to go. We decided to make the most of the low water levels and to continue on upriver towards Dodger Hut.
The track North involved multiple river crossings, more rocky track and spectacular scenery. On arriving at Dodger Hut (the northernmost vehicle accessible hut in the Hopkins Valley) a call for a late 'second breakfast' was made and the deck chairs set up.
After enjoying some sustenance and a hot beverage, we pushed on further North beyond the hut. As we progressed the valley became narrower and narrower and eventually the beech forest closed in until we couldn't go any further by vehicle.
A short walk later we stopped on a rocky outcrop to enjoy the view, where Keith pointed towards various things in the distance in an intelligent fashion.
Back in our vehicles, we turned around and started back down the Hopkins Valley. On the way south we stopped in at the two huts we had bypassed on the way in, Cullers Hut and then Red Hut.
On the approach to Cullers hut, a short diversion from Keiths recommended line by the author resulted in his vehicle bottoming out on an embarrassing easy looking section of track. Fortunately Keith had me mobile again in a short matter of minutes.
Cullers Hut is nestled in an elevated clearing in the beech forest, and it would likely make an excellent camping spot, even in windy conditions.
Red Hut is also a very interesting hut to stop in at, having originally been built in 1916 as a waypoint for commercial guiding through to Mount Cook village.
Low water levels enabling us to explore the full length of the valley.
Keith's general commentary, radio banter and frequent references to the Lower and Upper Hopkins Motorway and flyovers.
Johnny's in-vehicle pie warmer.
Johnny's culinary skills, involving breakfast steak and smoke alarms.
Huts (In Order Heading North)
Monument Hut (6 bunk)
Red Hut (12 Bunk)
Elcho Hut (Alpine Club, 12 Bunk)
Cullers Hut (6 Bunk)
Dodger Hut (4 Bunk)
If you subscribe to the idea that 'what doesn't break a vehicle only makes it stronger' then my vehicle is definitely stronger having completed the Hopkins Valley trip if the sound of numerous rocks scraping the underside of my Pathfinder with stock 29" tyres and minimal ground clearance is anything to go by!