heather jock hut
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Before arriving in New Zealand Elena and I had big plans to climb peaks and walk some mighty trails. The weather though had some very different ideas. Since we were working while traveling we had only three days a week to make anything happen. Those three days were constantly filled with poor mountain weather, bad avalanche conditions, and a lack of time.
After our third week in a row of not being able to climb Mount Aspiring, we once again settled on an easy walk to a hut to spend the night. Our original plan was to walk to McIntyre Hut and watch the sunset over Mount Earnslaw to at least get a taste of that alpine feeling.
The first several kilometers of the trail was easy but they followed a road so it made the walking quite boring. Despite that, the views over lake Wakatipu were an excellent way to take our minds off the monotony.
Outside of the mountain views, the most interesting thing we encountered was the herds of goats. At home in Washington State, I am used to large white mountain goats roaming around the hills. But here there are small goats that resemble farm goats in the US all over the hillsides. It seemed like every time we would round a corner there were 5 or 10 more munching on grass and staring at us.
After the main road walk, the trail dips down into the valley where it is supposed to cross a creek that runs through the valley before rising back up to the hut. However, once we arrived at the creek it was moving fast, was discolored, and looked like it was not going to be safe to cross. Once again our weekend plans had been foiled.
Instead after some discussion, we chose to head back up the hill and walk to a small hut named Heather Jock that sits below mount Alaska. It was along the main road and looked much easier to reach. It was supposed to have a fireplace and at least from the map looked like it might have a decent view for the night.
The walk back up to the main road was steep and not very enjoyable. Being back on the road was even less so. Outside of a few mining artifacts and old mine shafts, the entire area seemed pretty boring to explore. Alas, we had nowhere else to sleep for the night so we pressed on hoping for the best.
There were a few day-use huts along the way to enjoy some history, and one even had some old tractor equipment used by the original miners. But like I said most of the hike up to Heather Jock hut was quite plain and fairly boring.
To both of our surprise, the Heather Jock Hut itself was actually quite enjoyable. There are only four beds available which was the biggest drawback. Luckily no one had gotten there before us for the day so we had it all to ourselves. The hut overlooks the Glenorchy area and has a fantastic view across lake Wakatipu to a ridge of peaks I cannot find the names for. Best of all it has a perfect view to watch the sunset. The bench and eating area inside of the hut has a window that looks directly out towards where the sunset making the hut far more magical than it appears from the outside.
While our plans were destroyed once more it was nice to experience an incredible view while sipping tea and listening to the wind whipping around outside. Due to the very boring road walk, I don’t imagine I will ever be coming back for round two, but if you want a one-time view of the sunset the walk to Heather Jock Hut might just be worth it.
Other than a ranger showing up the next morning to check Heather Jock hut’s log book, the second day was uneventful. Just a long slow boring walk back out along the Mount Judah road. At least the views still made the walk feel worth the effort. Plus, having a sunset all to ourselves while we sipped tea is a hard experience to pass on. Everything comes at a price even if that price is a boring trudge along a gravel road.