Restoring the Two Mile Hut, Remarkables Conservation Area
by Ian Turnbull
Two Mile Hut in the Hector Mountains was built of local stone by John Cockburn, boundary keeper for the Kawarau Falls Run, about 1900. It was owned for many years by the Jardine family of Kawarau Falls, later to become Remarkables Station, and is mentioned in “Cap” Jardine’s book “Shadows on the Hill” (photo 1). Their mustering parties from the 1920’s to the 40’s have left a legacy on the rafters (photo 2).
Two Mile Hut was used for mustering until the 1960’s, when these high basins, now part of Loch Linnhe Station, were retired from grazing. The hut then fell into disuse and dilapidation, until stumbled upon in July 1977 by a party of back country skiers on a Gibbston to Garston traverse (photo 3). These skiers, led by Ian (Mo) Turnbull, repaired and weatherproofed the hut in 1978, with the cooperation of Murray Scott of Loch Linnhe Station (photo 4). They used it as a base for more than thirty years when skiing, climbing and geologising in the Hector Mountains and Remarkables (photo 5). The hut also had occasional visits by trampers, hunters and mountaineers.
An episode of vandalism by heli-skiers in the 1980’s saw the sleeping platform, mattresses, hut book and all the coal and firewood burned, so the hut became just a shell. A second round of repairs by Ian Turnbull and friends rectified this in 1990.
Following tenure review of Loch Linnhe Station, Two Mile Hut became part of the Remarkables Conservation Area. With the increase in back country ski touring and tramping the hut received more usage and DOC upgraded the old mattresses and added signage.
In 2013, Ian Turnbull and Jane Forsyth saw that it was suffering from weathering by sun, rain, snow, and the growing number of visitors. They began the process of applying for funding from the Outdoor Recreation Consortium to do more serious repairs in early 2015. Ensuing consultations with DOC included a site visit with DOC staff in May 2015, and subsequent approval from their archaeologist to undertake the work on this historic hut. Jim Croawell, DOC Queenstown’s historic ranger, threw his enthusiasm and experience in restoring old stone huts into the project. A Memorandum of Understanding with DOC was signed in September, and the ORC application for funding for helicopter support was approved in December 2015.
In early February 2016 a team of Jim Croawell, Stew Hardie (ex DOC, of Frankton), Alan Knowles (Wellington, ex Queenstown, and one of the 1970’s skiing party), and Jane Forsyth and Ian Turnbull of Lake Hawea flew into Two Mile Creek with tools and building materials. Jim and Stew removed the roof and lead-headed nails, spliced some of the old 4×1 purlins, lined and replaced the roof, and added flashings to the roof and around the chimney. They also replaced the old makeshift door installed in 1978 with a replica of the original, using the original hinges which had been carefully stashed behind the hut. Alan, Jane and Ian re-mortared the whole hut with a lime and local mud mixture brewed to Jim and Stew’s secret recipe, and dug a drainage ditch around the back (photos 6-14). A final brew in the fireplace celebrated the fact that the old Two Mile Hut should now last another hundred years.
Funds for helicopter support for the Two Mile Hut restoration came from the NZ Outdoor Recreation Consortium. In addition, the Department of Conservation, via Chris Hankin and Jim Croawell, provided transport, materials and tools, camping gear and food during the work in Two Mile Creek, and a great deal of Jim Croawell’s time; the project would never have succeeded without him and Stew Hardie.
*The Two Mile Hut is still small, dark, and dusty. It has two mattresses, but can sleep more. There is no easy access (see Moir’s Guide North). The best route is via “Skingut Pass” from the South Branch of Wye Creek. The area does have good campsites and reliable water. Access from SH6 requires prior permission from Loch Linnhe Station.
Photo 1: Two Mile Hut in the 1930’s (from Jardine, “Shadows on the Hill”)
Photo 2: “Dipping muster roll 1936” (Ian Turnbull foto)
Photo 3: Max Garden, Alan Knowles and Chris Jackson at the derelict hut, July 1977 (Ian Turnbull foto)
Photo 4: Max Garden, Dave Clough and Chris Jackson fixing the hut, September 1978 (Ian Turnbull foto)
Photo 5: Winter at the Two Mile Hut, September 1999 (Ian Turnbull foto)
Hut repairs, February 2016:
Photo 6: Ian Turnbull and Stew Hardie inside, before roof removed (Jane Forsyth foto)
Photo 7: Jim Croawell off for smoko: front roof removed (Ian Turnbull foto)
Photo 8: Stew Hardie fixing the purlins (Alan Knowles foto)
Photo 9: Rear roof partly repaired (Jane Forsyth foto)
Photo 10: Rear roof replaced (Jane Forsyth foto)
Photo 11: Alan Knowles mortaring (Ian Turnbull foto)
Photo 12: Jane Forsyth beside the new door; old door by chimney (Ian Turnbull foto)
Photo 13: South wall renewed (Ian Turnbull foto)
Photo 14: Two Mile Hut, Hector Mountains, good for another hundred years (Ian Turnbull foto)