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Colin Todd Hut

15 July 2010

Coordinates 44°22.288′ S, 168°41.595′ E    

Colin Todd Hut and Mount Aspiring. Photo J Morris

Colin Todd Hut is located at 1780m a.s.l. on Shipowner Ridge, between the Bonar and Iso Glaciers at the head of the Waipara catchment. At the toe of Mount Aspiring’s NW ridge, it is most commonly used as a base for ascents to the highest peak in the Otago Alps. The best access routes are from the Matukituki River West Branch, either via Bevan Col, the Breakaway, or Quarterdeck Pass.    

The hut is meant to have 12 bunks (a limit set by the Mt Aspiring National Park Management Plan), although it really fits 14. It is equipped with water tank, DoC radio and an external toilet. Owned by the New Zealand Alpine Club, it is managed by the Department of Conservation as part of the Matukituki Huts Agreement. Due to  the popularity of the climb to Mt Aspiring and climbers flying in to Bevan Col, Colin Todd Hut is chronically overcrowded. A night there will make for a most unpleasant experience more likely than not, and in fine weather, a bivvy site on Shipowner Ridge is to be preferred by all means.    

History

The hut is dedicated to Colin Todd, a Dunedin climber who was very active in the post-war years and was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Ravensbourne at the age of 28 [1]. Shortly after his death, the Otago Section of the Alpine Club received an anonymous donation to finance an alpine hut in memory of the young climber.    

A location for the hut was chosen at the head of Scott Creek (Copland Valley), on the standard access route to Mount Sefton. The Royal New Zealand Aviation Force offered a Bristol Freighter to fly the materials to the site, and on 29 November 1956 a first attempt was made at dropping the hut. The plane took off from Dunedin, but West Coast clag made it impossible to drop the materials. Bad weather again thwarted a second attempt two weeks later. A building party of 20 decided to walk in nonetheless, to survey the site and prepare a building platform. After crossing Copland Pass, the builders were bluffed in Scott Creek and had to retreat [2].    

After the failure by the building party to even reach the site and the waste of four more air trips where bad weather again made it impossible to complete the air-drop, the Otago Section’s committee decided to try a more accessible site, this time at the base of the NW Ridge of Mt Aspiring. In November 1958, the eighth flight succeeded at last, and the hut materials were delivered – alas to the wrong site – on the ridge between the Iso and Therma Glaciers, south of Rolling Pin. To make things worse, a party sent in to retrieve the materials were lucky to survive when they flew to the Bonar Glacier in a ski-plane that botched the landing and flipped on its back. The occupants of the plane were able to descend to the valley floor on their own legs, but needless to say no work was done on the hut. It was only in late December that a group of 6 were able to reach the site of the air drop. By then, one bundle was lost in a crevasse, and much of the materials had slid a long way down the Therma Glacier. Thanks to some food that they could salvage from the air-drop, the 6 climbers were able to move all the building materials (2 tons of it!) to the selected hut site at on Shipowner Ridge. The actual construction of the hut had to wait until early 1960, when an 8-men work party completed the job from January 7th to the 12th [2].    

Management of the hut was transferred to the Department of Conservation in 1987 as part of the Matukituki Huts Agreement. The old hut was demolished and a new hut was built in 1996 at the current location, 200m from the original site [3,4].    

Colin Todd Hut in front of Mts Avalanche, Joffre and Bevan. Photo N Dickerhof

Access

Colin Todd Hut is most commonly approached from the Matukituki River West Branch, either via Bevan Col, or Quarterdeck Pass.    

From Bevan Col, it’s a brief descent to the plateau of the Bonar Glacier. Aim directly for the hut, well visible just over 2km away. In fog, follow the compass on a bearing of 360 degrees magnetic. During peak climbing season, there’s likely to be a highway of footprints leading to the hut. The Bonar Glacier is crevassed. Allow 1 hour from the col to the hut.    

From Quarterdeck Pass, it’s a good two hours down the Bonar Glacier to Colin Todd Hut. Allow at least three hours in the opposite direction. There are some heavily crevassed areas to be avoided on the way, and a compass would be of little use in whiteout. The Bonar Glacier is a fearsome place in bad weather, and any attempt at navigating it in a storm would go against common sense.    

References

[1] Harrington, H.J.: Colin MacDonald Todd. The New Zealand Alpine Journal, Vol XVI, No. 42, 1955, pages 217-220. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club.    

[2] Davidson, B.F. & Goodyear, G.W.: The Colin Todd Memorial Hut. The New Zealand Alpine Journal, Vol XVIII, No. 47, 1960, pages 369-376. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club.    

[3] New Zealand Alpine Club website. Accessed 15 July 2010

[4] Uren, A.: Aspiring Area Report. The New Zealand Alpine Journal, 1996, page 101. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club.    

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