Griffin Creek Hut
Griffin Creek Hut is apparently fully maintained by DOC, however little if any work has been done on it by the Department since 2004. Its access tracks are not officially maintained, but are being kept open and in reasonable condition by volunteers. Dave Evans of Christchurch has taken an interest in the upkeep of the track from Harrington Creek end on SH 73. In January 2021 Andrew Barker of Nelson with some BCT funding organised a crew that went in and recut the Wilson Knob track, a section of track in the Griffin basin, and cut down from Point 974m to the 850m contour on the Harrington Creek side.
Taramakau catchment. Map BV20. Grid Ref: E1467740/ N5260395 (BV19 677 604). Altitude 665m. Griffin Creek Hut is located in the Griffin Creek basin around four hours walk from from Harrington Creek Bridge on State Highway 73. The Hut is in a small clearing on a terrace next to Griffin Creek and is surrounded by montane forest with emergent pahautea (mountain cedar). Griffin Creek forks into several branches just upstream of the Hut and is negotiable for only a short stretch before becoming gorgy. The first section has a small waterfall and picturesque, amethyst pools that flow through water-sculpted rock. A 40m waterfall bars all progress a kilometer or so further upstream.
Griffin Creek drops from the end of the basin down through a slotted canyon with a 50m waterfall to the Taramakau River. A concession for a small 1.3MW hydro scheme on this section was granted in 2011. This would pipe water from an intake at the lip of the basin down to a small powerhouse near the Highway. It wouldn't have been visible from any of the routes to the Hut, but would have reduced water flows considerably in the lower portion of the Creek. In 2018 the company applied to enlarge the scheme, attracting strong opposition from the NZ Canyoning Association who consider the lower Griffin to be one of Aotearoa's best trips. The concessionaire has come back with another application, that is being challenged by FMC.
All the routes into the Griffin require a climb of some sort. The Hut makes for a great overnight trip and serves as a starting point for a number of longer tops crossings to remoter spots. It currently gets 10-20 visits per year.
The Griffin Creek track starts on SH73 on the TL of Harrington Creek. You can legally park on an old section of highway in the paddock next to the Creek, however it's courteous to check in with the farmer just down the road before doing so. Go through the gate at the end of the old road and follow the outside of the fenceline up the hillside for 800m to where a track goes into the bush. This follows up the TL of Harrington Creek for 10 minutes, then crosses and begins a steep climb up the bush faces of the Griffin Range. The trail connects with the spur bounding Griffin Creek at around 740m and follows this up for half an hour to the Wilson Knob turn-off at point 974m. There there is a small clearing here and the remains of a 44 gallon drum with a bit of water in it.
The Griffin Creek track drops due East from the turnoff down a steep side-ridge into the basin below. Once in Griffin Creek it's predominantly river travel for around an hour to the Hut. Numerous crossings of the Creek are required which are not usually a problem at normal flows. There are two short sections of track on the TR below and above the creek draining Rocky Creek Saddle. The track proper starts 30m up the creek that drains Scottys Saddle. From here it climbs at gentle gradient along the river terraces for 15-20 minutes to the Hut. The track up from Harrington Creek was cut down to the 850m contour by Andrew Barker and crew in January 2021. The rest is in reasonably good shape. The track from the Wilson Knob turnoff down into the basin could do with a tidy up in a few places. Allow 4-5 hours to Griffin Creek Hut from the Highway.
The other commonly used route into Griffin Creek is from the Taipo valley over a low bush saddle near the head of Rocky Creek. The tracked sections of the route were kept open for many years by Frank King and Honora Renwick of Christchurch. Others have added their input more recently, including Eigill Wahlberg and Andrew Barker. From Rocky Creek Biv follow the Creek upstream. The going is fairly rough and bouldery and a fair amount of wading is required. There is small waterfall in the upper section that has a roughly marked detour on the TR. The track up to the saddle starts on the TL just above a large open slip. A short steep 10 minute climb follows to the saddle and over into the Griffin catchment. The TR fork of an unnamed side-creek is followed initially crossing over to the TL branch just above a small waterfall. Continue down the creek to where a track exits on the TL and crosses over a low ridge into the creek draining Scottys Saddle. It goes down its TR for 400m where it intersects with the Griffin Creek Hut track. The Hut is 15 minutes upriver from here. Allow at least eight hours to Griffin Creek Hut from the Taipo bridge, or 3-4 hours from Rocky Creek Biv.
There is a chopper pad next to the Hut. The scrub surrounding the pad was cleared back in May 2016.
Griffin Creek Hut is a standard NZFS S81 4-bunk design with open fire, built in 1963. It was lined at a later point in time. Water is from the small creek just past the toilet. There is a cast iron bathtub next to the river, about 100m from the Hut, and there's nothing quite like firing it up and sitting under the stars on a clear night.
Griffin Hut is in reasonably good condition still. It received little official maintenance from the mid-1980's until 2004, but during this time was adopted and kept lovingly maintained, embellished and provisioned by John Dainty and friends. A mining company that briefly opened up the Mt. Griffin serpentine mine kindly dropped off that bathtub in the Griffin for John Dainty, who installed it. The Hut was repainted and resealed by DOC in the Autumn of 2004. Currently the interior is still dry and sound except for some warping in the wall lining under both windows and a couple small damp patches on the floor, one on the right of the hearth, and the other at the base of the northern cupboard divider. The outside of the chimney has a rust line across it level with the top of the hearth. This is going to split at some point in the not too distant future. The chimney flashing is rusting quite badly and the paint on the external end window frame and sill is flaking. The southern end wall is getting patchy with red algae. There isn't a great deal of dry firewood in the immediate vicinity and hut users aren't taking the time to forage further afield. The woodbox is more often than than not empty or near so, with just a few scraps of scrub tossed in to make it look good.
An old NZFS track providing access to Wilson Knob and the Griffin Range branches off from the Griffin Creek track at point 974m. It was recut in 2021 and is in good condition. It follows an undulating ridgeline through scrub and open patches, before climbing and emerging in open tussock in a shallow gully at GPS Ref: E1467135/ N5261729, just below point 1126m. There is a small depression to the east of the point with a sheltered campsite and some small tarns. The ridge is followed from here up through a narrow band of scrub between the 1130 and 1160m contours to Wilson Knob. The scrub here has been roughly cut and cruise-taped. The remnants of a pre-WWI serpentine mine and cableway can be found further up the Range on the flanks of Mt. Griffin. The serpentine was sawn into slabs and used in several major buildings such as the D.I.C. Building in Dunedin, and the National Insurance Building in Christchurch. The quarry closed in 1915, but was re-opened briefly in 1991 by South Pacific Resources Ltd. to produce tiles. There is a breathtaking drop-off on the the Little Wainihnihi side of the Range.
Scottys Biv can still be accessed up the second side-creek downstream from Griffin Creek Hut, however changes in the streambed have made it impossible to go directly up a set of waterfalls at around the 1000m contour. A fairly high and difficult scrub detour on a side ridge on the TR will get you around these but tends to take the fun out of things. The Rocky Creek track can be followed up the side-creek to where it crosses to the TR, and the creek followed from this point. Travel is straightforward initially, but gets progressively steeper and rougher further up. A second smaller waterfall above the aforementioned ones can be skirted through the alpine scrub on its TR. Above this the creek opens out and becomes a dry gut. Exit the gut around the 1320m contour and head up a scree on the TR to the unnamed saddle directly above (E1469280/ N5259365 (BV20 693 594)). There is a large boulder near the top with a cairn that is visible from the gut. The Saddle is 200m South of Scottys Saddle (the approaches to Scottys Saddle from the TR fork of the creek are very steep and not recommended as a route). From Scottys Saddle it is a 20 minute descent in an easterly direction down a series of tussock benches to Scottys Biv. Allow 3-4 hours for the journey over from Griffin Hut.
Newton Creek basin and Newton Creek Hut can be accessed from a number of points on the Tara Tama Range. There are numerous lines down the tussock faces or ridges. The upper basin is open tussock and easy travel. Further down in the alpine scrub zone it pays to stick to the creekbed as much as possible. A scrub-bash through montane forest on the TR is required to skirt a bouldery section of the Creek not far above the Hut. This isn't too bad if you pick the right line. Allow 5-6 hours from Griffin Hut to Newton Creek Hut.
Dunns Hut in the Taipo can be accessed from Griffin Creek via the Scottys Biv route and the Tara Tama Range. This is a relatively easy route when the mountain is snow-free with some nice tarns and campsites SW of point 1516m. Drop eastwards from Tara Tama's summit onto a flat rocky bench at around the 1650m mark. Head SE from here and drop off the bench into a scree gut bounded by large and spectacular rock outcrops that leads onto a broad spur bounding Dunns Creek. Access from the spur into Dunns basin is down an open gut that enters Dunns Creek 20 minutes upstream of the Hut, at E1471066/ N5256463 (BV20 711 565). There is a cairn at the top of the drop-off, and a steep tussock face provides access into the gut, which is easy open travel. In the colder months the gut works as an avalanche chute and should be avoided after heavy snowfalls.
It is also possible to access Dunns Hut from the Griffin via the Tara Tama Range, Dunns Saddle, and the upper TL branch of Dunns Creek. A steep section of the Range immediately above Dunns Saddle can be avoided by dropping from the bench NW of point 1751m and sidling across a steep scree on the Newton Creek side. Sidle at around the 1520m contour and back onto the main ridge just above Dunns Saddle. Travel down the TL Branch of Dunns to the Hut is usually straightforward, although there is some avalanche risk in the head of the Creek head from the Tara Tama side after heavy snowfalls. Ice axes (and possibly crampons) may be necessary on both traverses during the colder months.
Top Olderog Biv can also be accessed from the Griffin via the Scottys Biv route and the Tara Tama Range. Once on the crest of the Range, it's an easy traverse around to point 1572m. The obvious traverse of Mt. Olson along the Olderog Range to the Biv is not recommended due to having a number of exposed, vertical sections. The alternatives involve either dropping into the head of the Wainihinihi basin, or the head of Olderog Creek, and climbing back onto the Olderog Range from further down these valleys. Access into the Wainihinihi is down a prominent spur that drops in a NW direction from the Range 500m SW of point 1572m. Don't drop all the way into Wainihinihi Creek, as there is a small canyon in its head at around 1000m. Instead sidle off the spur and across the tussock terraces on the TL of the valley at around 1050m. Cross a small side-creek around E1465798/ N5258420 (BV19 658 584), and continue sidling into the next creek catchment. Access is down a series of smooth rock chutes in the creek bed to the Wainihinihi, then downriver to the large open flat in the upper basin. There are plenty of great camping spots here and no obvious signs of human visitation. Access up onto the Olderog Range is via the first side-creek downriver from Magnesite Creek. Head up through scattered alpine scub on the TL, dropping into the creek bed where it veers SW. Continue up a short distance the exit the creek up a steepish face that leads to the crest of the Range East of point 1430m. The drop-off point to the Biv is a couple of hundred metres east along the Range (around E1464410/ N5257820 (BV19 644 578)),and is marked with a cairn. The Biv is sited around a 100 vertical metres below the crest of the Range and is visible from near the top in fine weather. It would be quite easy to miss the bench where the Biv is located if it was claggy!
The second access option for Top Olderog is to continue along the Range from point 1572m to the col between point 1566m and Mt. Olson. Drop from here down a steep narrow rock gut into the head of Olderog Creek and follow it down. There are a couple of small cascades to negotiate, the longest of which can be skirted on a smooth-rock ledge on its TR. Exit the Olderog at a small side-creek that comes in on the TR at E1464688/ N5257080 (BV19 647 571). Climb up the side-creek, then some steepish tussock ribs to around 1250m, then sidle downriver to the bench where the Biv is located. The crossings from the Griffin to Top Olderog would take a fit experienced party a long day in good conditions. In would be worthwhile to carrying a tent and breaking the trip into two stages. There is purportedly a rock biv somewhere in the head of Olderog Creek, but no information on hand about its exact location, size, or suitability.
Scottys Range can be traversed from Scottys Saddle and is quite easy travel in good conditions. An old NZFS tops at the end of the Range provides access down to the Taipo valley just below Seven Mile Creek. Its top entrance is on the scrubline around E1473975/ N526143 (BV20 740 614) the track has been kept in useable condition by the Permolat Group. It was last given a trim and some marking in 2015 and should still be reasonably easy to follow. A ford of the Taipo is required at the bottom, making it a fine weather only route. There used to be quite a good one where the track hits the River, but apparently this has all changed and it may be necessary to head up or downiver to find a suitable crossing. Water needs to be carried from Scottys Saddle onward, as there is no reliable source until a rusting drum at 950m on the tops track. Allow 8-9 hours from Griffin Creek to Seven Mile Creek.
Razorback Ridge in the head of the Griffin is true to its name and not traversable without ropes according to the few who have passed this way. It is possible to sidle beneath the troublesome section on the Wainihinihi side. The approach from the Tara Tama Range is down the ridge SW of point 1572m, then into the head of Wainihinihi Creek. Sidle out of the Creek on the TR and head along the 1060m contour to the fork in the first side-creek downvalley (E1465628/ N5258785 (BV19 656 588)). Climb the dividing ridge between this and the next creek downriver, onto the Griffin Range West of point 1491m. It is easy tops travel from here around to Wilson Knob. The top entrance of the track down to the Griffin Creek track is a couple of hundred metres NE of point 1126m at GPS Ref: E1467135/ N5261729.
Some painting and sealing work will be needed in the medium term. Someone would need to be there during heavy rain to find out if and where water was coming in. The chimney is likely to need patching as well although a better longer term solution might be to remove it and put in a small wood burner. The Harrington Creek track below the 850m contour and the track section down into the basin could do with a little more tidying.
Provisions on Site
Six Billies, two small frypans, a camp oven, an axe, and an aluminium basin. John has left a heap of his gear and provisions in the Hut with an invitation to to make use of them. There are several buckets, blankets, pillows, a spare mattress, multiple utensils, nails, a roll of permolat, sealant, a sealant gun, flat files of various gauges, a wire brush, a sledgehammer, a hammer, a slasher, a pruning saw, shovels, tins and buckets of paint, cans of oil (chainsaw?), 10 spare glass louvre panes, and more!