Built in 1910 Hooker Hut has been shifted several times over last few decades as the Tasman Glacier slides, grinds and settles into it’s forever changing home. Originally built at the base of Copland Pass in 1910 until a crumbling moraine wall threatened its existence and it was shifted. The hut was also moved a further three times between 1948 and 1994 and after being hit by an avalanche in 2004 the hut was in serious need of a refurb. The entire hut was moved by helicopter in 2015 to Twizel for a full make over which took the best part of five years before being relocated back into the park in autumn 2021.
After seeing Hooker Hut as an orange dot from Sealy Tarn Ridge on a recent trip to Mueller Hut we were intrigued and keen to visit this hut which has been causing so much logistic fuss. Multiple moves aside Hooker Hut also seems to be the newest big secret in Aoraki. Its location is not sign marked or marked on any DOC maps and unless you already know about you won’t find DOC or anybody else giving away its location, unless you’ve booked and paid for a night at the hut of course. When we enquired at the DOC visitors centre the warden seemed almost reluctant to give us any information. She was more interested in ensuring that we knew that Hooker Hut was booked that night and to not ‘ruffle any feathers’. I couldn’t blame her. Perhaps its the nature of being somewhere like Aoraki where the clientele are used to $300 helicopter rides and nights at the Hermitage. I’m sure DOC’s been given plenty of grief over the years when a hut party has had to share its paid for space with hut-crashers. But we were just curious day trippers keen to go see the new shiny hut so the warden threw us a bone—‘the turn off is after the public toilets.’
As we make our way into the Hooker Valley I couldn’t help but ruminate on the burgeoning secrecy of outdoor locations and communal resources after our awkward exchange with the DOC warden. There’s no denying that Aotearoa is a special place that deserves respect. Prior to the pandemic when tourism was in full swing there was undoubtedly abuse of our sacred places and covid has provided a much needed reset. But there is also a rather nauseating aspect – much talk on outdoor social media pages and forums about keeping things ‘secret’ or on the ‘DL’ along with posting pictures but never disclosing locations smacks of privilege, yet the generally accepted notion is that by keeping these locations secret the environment and communal resources are protected. It would be easy to say these concepts stem primarily from pakeha conceptualisations of outdoor space particularly when it comes to quasi feelings around scarcity. The truth is there is plenty for everybody if everybody cares enough. The Tiaki promise outlines some solid foundations and a wise alternate to spouting scarcity. That aside we had a hut to find……
Just after the public toilets on the boardwalk over the valley tussocks we discover one orange triangle hammered to a board that points towards Mt Sefton. The well trodden dry grass is the next giveaway followed by alpine tramping poles hammered so low to the ground you’d never see them from the main Hooker Valley Track. As we skirt the ancient moraine wall, terrific mounds that make a natural wind break, and follow the gentle sound of waterfall creeks we suddenly see Hooker Hut in the distance. The sweet little hut with its blazing orange roof has a stunning outdoor deck covered with several families who eye us up and down before going back to their beverages—the adults sinking beers and wine (with wine glasses!) while their young children play games at their feet. We slip inside to see the interior of the hut which has been lovingly restored with original windows and timber walls but all new bunk mattresses and a wood stove. The huts location is priceless, overlooking the Hooker Valley and directly aligned with Aoraki. The monstrous mountain looms over us as the sun dips behind the mountains. As much as we wanted to linger we knew not to push it—we had been warned. It was a very quick visit and before we could ruffle any feathers we were out of there, back to the Hooker Valley Track to enjoy the rest of the trail and views of Aoraki on this perfect day.