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Hutbagging: Branch Ck-Granity Pass Huts. Jan 8-10 2019

Saturday, January 12, 2019

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Hutbagging: Branch Ck-Granity Pass Huts Jan 8-10 2019

Our latest hutbagging expedition took us north of Murchison deep into the Owen River Valley area to tramp up to Branch Ck Hut, and over to Granity Pass Hut and return, bagging an unmarked DOC hut beside the Fyfe Stream.

The long drive meant we (being Ian Fussell, Tom Cholmondeley, Charlie and myself) left Charlies at 6am (yawn!) and, after a couple of obligatory coffee stops enroute started walking in at 11 am on a very warm day.

Various reports indicate that the walk in to Branch Ck Hut is somewhere between 6-8 hours (the sign now says 8 which is pretty accurate for we “senior” trampers.)  The track was rather “undulating” and very dry and we tramped up Frying Pan Ck before climbing over a ridge and steeply down to the Fyfe River. A delightful river and relatively easy going with many crossings of the river, which had some very slippery boulders in it!

There is a big push on trapping in the Fyfe River and we say dozens of traps labelled “WhioForever” evenly spaced every 100m along the track. Evidently it’s working as we saw two families of Whio and another pair along the river. (We reported the locations of our sightings to DOC at St Arnaud when we came out and they were most interested, as they had a group going in next week to check the traps and look for Whio.)
It took 3 hours to reach the well locked DOC Fyfe Hut (not on maps) which is used by those involved in the predator control. It looked very tidy and definitely “baggable”. 

Our track continued up the river along terraces and through an impressive gorge with huge bluffs towering over us. Long grass (we nearly lost Tom) and occasional patches of Onga Onga made the going slow and we were rather happy when we came to the empty Branch Ck Hut, 8 hours after starting off. It’s a very pleasant hut with 6 beds and a fireplace, in tidy order and we enjoyed staying there. Not a lot of people go there (might have something to do with the 8 hours tramp in) and we saw no OFTC member visits recorded in the logbook. We had a pleasant, relaxing evening with music supplied courtesy of my iPod and a small Bluetooth speaker which is light and nice to have, and enjoyed by us all. (I’m sure some “purists” amongst you will be aghast at the thought-but this is the 21st century now.)

As the next day was apparently going to be easier with various reports of “2-3 hours” to Granity Pass Hut, with day gear only, we had a lie in and left at about 9am. A steep climb for an hour led to open tops with great views all around. Magnificent! At that point, the track stopped and became a loosely described route. Tall grass and scrubby bush, combined with huge areas of Spaniards and an extremely hot day made progress a lot slower than we’d hoped and, after a lot of scrabbling and climbing around stream beds and rocks, we eventually arrived at the splendid Granity Pass Hut, some 5 hours after leaving Branch Ck Hut!

Granity Pass Hut is much easier and quicker to access from the Tapewera end and is used mainly as a place to stay when climbing Mt Owens (advertised as a return trip of 7 hours from the hut.) It has 12 beds, no fireplace, water tanks and an outside cooking area under a veranda-a very newish hut that gets quite a few visits, and is set in magnificent surroundings.

After a longish lunch stop, we headed off back to Branch Ck, trying to find a better way than before. It was hard work in the heat but we eventually got back to the bush entry point (GPS made it a lot easier as the markers were very hard to find) and went down the steep track to Branch Ck hut, arriving at 7-40, nearly 11 hours after leaving. We could only marvel at the superhuman who claimed to have done the trip in 2-3 hours one way! We were pretty knackered, with the heat being the biggest factor, and slept well that night.

Light rain greeted us the next morning as we headed down the Fyfe River to the car. Knowing the track made it a bit easier except for some steep downhill sections where the wet conditions made the track very slippery, especially in areas where there were lots of tree roots. Fortunately, we all survived though we all took the odd slide or two.
Because of the conditions it took us a little longer coming out than it did going in (of course, it might be that we were a little weary after day 2!) Then, we had the long trip home-well done Charlie.

So, another 3 huts bagged, and it’s fair to say, these were hard earned! If anyone queries our times, we will point out that the trip is about enjoying the journey, and not to set records.

Thanks guys for your company again chaps-a solid trip.

Click here for photos
Paul Knox

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