Cameron Hut, a tribute
May 31, 2018
Words & Photos: Joe Patchett
I am sitting in the shadow of the Cameron Glacier, on the banks of the Cameron River, overlooking Cameron Valley, in the aptly named Cameron Hut.
Only a stone’s throw (and two hours’ drive inland) from central Christchurch, the hut is an accessible escape into the Canterbury wilderness. Cameron Hut sits in an amphitheatre of the Southern Alps. Mt Arrowsmith, The Marquee and Upham Peak stand sentinel, as avalanches paint the slopes nearby. Glaciers, which once carved out the moraine valley below, cling to the side of the peaks. A sterling example of a Kiwi backcountry hut.
My journey to the hut begins through the burnt landscape of the Canterbury high country, as the Southern Alps - which we we all too often observe from afar - are seen looming in the distance. It is both refreshing and daunting to know I will soon be surrounded by these pillars. The hike meanders beside the Cameron River with short rises into the tussock-covered slopes above. Soon I come across a local farmer’s hut, pretty enough in itself, and a perfect spot to rest and admire the view.
“Evidence of previous adventures lie all around. I can imagine the characters that have slept in these bunks and sat at this bench.”
The pole-marked track rises steadily up the river valley, and as the tussock gives way to rock and ice, I look back down the valley and realise how far I have come. After one final climb, Cameron Hut is straight ahead, standing shyly on a rocky plateau, seemingly lost within the scenery around.
The door is distinctly painted a once-vibrant purple, framed against corrugated iron walls which match the surrounding ground-cover, and crisp white window frames. The colours of Wimbledon, as my father noted. The door exudes an opulence that suggests it had lost its way on a journey to a far more appropriate doorway.
Mounted on this purple door, framed by the dark green iron, with its white window frames, sits a steel sign proclaiming “CANTERBURY MOUNTAINEERING CLUB HUT”.
This is a hut to be proud of and the CMC sure seem to know it.
“It is a place to witness beauty, to be fearful of mother nature, and to reset the clock temporarily until your next adventure.”
The shelves are stocked with plastic bowls, cutlery, Weetbix, puzzles, candles, matches, maps, books, and a single egg left over by the last visitor (as shown by the date kindly written on the shell). There is a radio for emergencies, a solar light for nighttime, and a loyalty box for the $5 hut fee. Evidence of previous adventures lie all around. I can imagine the characters that have slept in these bunks and sat at this bench. The hut paints a pretty picture of the New Zealand alpine culture.
A short clamber from the front door lies the Cameron Glacier. You can spot the glacier from the kitchen window, stacked and folded onto itself down the steep face of Upham Peak, but I was glad not to miss the opportunity to follow the rough track for a closer view. To think this was achievable only a short trip from central Christchurch makes it that much sweeter.
This mission to Cameron Hut proved to be the taste of wilderness I needed, and I believe we all need, from time to time. Its roof provided refuge to escape the world below. The colourful door proved a gateway into the Southern Alps. It is a place to witness beauty, to be fearful of mother nature, and to reset the clock temporarily until your next adventure.
To plan your trip to Cameron Hut visit http://www.cmc.net.nz
Trailhead: 2kms North of Lake Heron, take Hakatere Heron Road 20 kms past Mount Somers.