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PacificEdge | November 17, 2018

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A pictorial tribute to our mountain hut heritage

A pictorial tribute to our mountain hut heritage

An envelope arrived in yesterday’s mail. I don’t get much snail mail these days so, intrigued, I opened it.

Out slid a calendar. Now, I know printed calendars are artifacts of the time before we carried calendars in those flat, metal and plastic devices in our pockets, however this one was special. I could see that by looking at the cover as I held it in my hand.

It was special because it is themed on something that has been a presence in my life, something that has given me shelter from rain, wind, sleet and driven snow, something in which I have shared much conviviality with fellow travelers of the high plains and mountains. I’m talking about mountain huts. Specifically, I’m talking about Tasmanian mountain huts.

Flicking through the calendar I held my hand my mind flashed back over the years to Horse Camp hut in the Snowy Mountains where I realised the youth who wandered in, behaving sluggishly and disoriented, was suffering from hypothermia and insisted to his walk leader that he be put into his sleeping bag and brought back to normal body temperature immediately.

I flashed back to the little firewatchers hut on Tasmania’s South Coast range where Flora started suffering cramps and stomach upset and how we sat with her until she recovered enough to finish the descent. I flipped to memories of the fuggy warmth of winter huts with their slow combustion stoves and the distinctive aroma of drying bushwalkers’ socks. I pictured the welcome sight of a hut in the distance as we trudged those final kilometres at the end of a strenuous, tiring day in the mountains. Huts exist as much in the mind of those they shelter as they exist in physical reality.

Huts in memory

I have spent nights in some of those rudimentary bush huts in the calendar.

High Camp Hut, a small structure of stone high on the shoulder of Mt Anne, the highest peak in Tasmania’s South West wilderness, was built by the late Roy Davies and others from the Hobart Walking Club in the 1970s. Old Waterfall Valley Hut below the dolerite pinnacle of Barn Bluff accomodated me on a couple occasions walking the Overland Track, once as the last vestiges of the Tasmanian winter were fading, the last time when I made the multi-day walk solo and saw no one for days. Old Pelion Hut on those broad button grass plains in the centre of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, an old miners’ hut so I understand, stands not far from New Pelion Hut, or new in the 1970s, anyway.

High Camp Hut on Mt Anne shortly before construction was completed. The person in the photo is Charmaine Gibson, now a Launceston lawyer.

Narcissus Hut on the banks of the river of the same name at the northern end of Lake St Clair… it was here that I realised that next day, seven or so hours on the trail through the forest would deliver me to the trailhead. Despite visions of non-dehydrated food and a hot shower I was pulled back into the mountains by that contradictory feeling of looking forward to getting out and not wanting to leave. Narcissus… it sheltered our party that rainy Easter way back then when heavy rain and snow promised flooded creeks to cross and deep snow in the passes, and forced us to turn back.

A modest contribution

My contribution to the calendar is a photo of the FA Peterson Memorial Hut, a small A-frame structure above the treeline on K-Col that joins the Mt Field East massif to the more remote Mt Field West. I still recall that day I made the photo, decades ago now, a day of warm sun and clear skies. Looking for an interesting foreground behind which to situate the hut in the photo I found the remains of an old, low-growing tree, its branches bleached white by sun and wind and the passage of decades, and probably the victim of some past, forgotten bushfire there in the alpine zone.

Flicking through the calendar I saw that there are many Tasmanian mountain huts I have not been to. They are there, summer and winter, sunshine and snow. They await.

…………..

The 2019 calendar of the Mountain Hut Preservation Society is a full colour quality production with superb photos of the mountain hut heritage of Tasmania. Proceeds from the sale of calendars goes towards the work of the Society in maintaining Tasmania’s mountain huts.

The calendar features 12 full-colour photos of Tasmanian mountain huts and large, easy-to-read dates. It is $15 with postage free within Australia (yep, that’s only the equivalent of four cuppuccinos).

To purchase online, email Marg: kelgara@activ8.net.au

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