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Liverpool Hut

11 August 2010

Coordinates 44°25.857′ S, 168°39.908′ E 

Liverpool Hut and Rob Roy Peak. Photo D Hegg

Liverpool Hut is beautifully located in a small alpine basin on the north side of the hanging valley of Liverpool Stream. High above the Matukituki River West Branch, it has great views of Mount Aspiring, Mount Avalanche and Rob Roy Peak. It is right at the toe of the south-east ridge of Mount Barff, and makes an ideal base for an ascent to its summit. It is also an obvious starting point for parties wishing to cross the Main Divide over Arawhata Saddle

The hut is owned and managed by the Department of Conservation. It has 10 bunks with mattresses, a water tank and an external long-drop. Being an alpine serviced hut, the fee amounts to 3 hut tickets. Built in 2009, it looks brand new and is in perfect condition. 

The old Liverpool Hut. Photo D Hegg


The earliest written record I could find of a party reaching the hanging valley of Liverpool Stream is the one by E. Miller, J.W. Aitken, H.W. Boddy, F. Hansen and R. Stokes on Christmas Day, 1923. They left Pearl Flat around midday, and after a climb through steep bush, they had to work hard to push their way through the snow-covered subalpine scrub. They camped on snow on a small flat just above bush-line, probably very close to the current hut location. During the following days, they made the first crossing of Arawhata Saddle into the head of the Arawhata River [1]. It is entirely possible that surveyors or early travellers would have made it into the upper Liverpool Stream some time during the previous fifty years, but I have not come across any evidence of this. 

As the route over Arawhata Saddle gained popularity, more parties followed this way. In his book Aspiring, Gilkison wrote that “the bush in this area is very thick, and climbing parties had encountered many problems here.” Blazes started appearing on the route, then in 1943 a party cleared a path through the thickest vegetation and blazed it the whole way. In 1947 a large party from a NZAC climbing instruction course spent a day clearing the trail and making it suitable for heavy packing. This is also when the first materials for a hut were carried to the site [2]

The first Liverpool Hut (often referred to as Liverpool Biv) was built by the Otago Section of the New Zealand Alpine Club, and was completed at Easter 1953. It was named after Liverpool Stream, which in turn derives its name from the highest peak in the catchment [3]. The structure (11 feet long, 9 feet wide and 6 feet tall to the base of the roof) was covered with aluminium panels and could fit 10 people – just [4]. Ownership of the hut was transferred to the Department of Conservation in the late 1980s as part of the Matukituki Huts agreement. The original biv was demolished and a new hut was built on the same site in 2009. The number of bunks hasn’t increased, but the new structure fits 10 people comfortably; it has a separated kitchen/dining area and a small room for storage of gear and packs. 

Route description – Pearl Flat to Liverpool Hut 

Rating: tramping track, moderate to hard          February 2010 

Liverpool Hut map. 1 grid square = 1km. Left click to enlarge

The start of the track to Liverpool Hut is marked at Pearl Flat (Matukituki River West Branch), on the true right bank of Liverpool Stream. The track follows the stream up valley for 50m before crossing to the true left on a swing-bridge, then climbs a steep bush face to the north. There is a fairly steep section near bush-line, which can be treacherous if covered in snow or ice; alpine gear (ice-axe and crampons) would be required in this case. At bush-line, a first view of the hut is obtained across a small stream. The route (now poled) climbs another 50m over a bluff, then descends into the basin to the hut. 

Time: 2 hours from Pearl Flat to Liverpool Hut 

A view of Liverpool Hut from above. Photo D Hegg


[1] Stokes, R.: A trip through north-west Otago. Christmas, 1923. The New Zealand Alpine Journal, Vol III, No 14, 1925, p260-272. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club. 

[2] p74 in Gilkison, W.S. (1951) Aspiring – The romantic story of the Matterhorn of the Southern Alps. Whitcombe and Tombs Limited. 80 pages 

[3] Gilkison, W.S.: Notes on names, tracks and fords, West Matukituki. The New Zealand Alpine Journal, Vol X, No 31, 1944, p195-196. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club.

[4] Todd, C.M.: The Liverpool Bivouac. The New Zealand Alpine Journal, Vol XV, No 40, 1953, p253. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club.

One Comment leave one →
  1. brin williman permalink
    2 April 2012 11:51 am

    The old chaaracter filled Liverpool biv was not demolished. It was helicoptered out to Wanaka where it sits at the back of the DOC headquarters, hopefully awaiting to be resurrected as a display item I was told; but perhaps that awaits revised DOC funding priorities.

    brin williman

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