The hut is managed on behalf of NZAC by the Department of Conservation, under what is known as The Aspiring Agreement. Meetings are held of a joint steering committee twice a year to decide on work plan priorities.
The First Colin Todd Hut
It was proposed that the original hut was to be erected on a west ridge of the 9957 ft peak of Mt Aspiring. It would be the Club’s tribute to one of its most popular and experienced climbers who was killed in a motorcycle accident near Ravensbourne, in May of 1955. (Colin Todd obituary from 1955 NZAC Alpine Journal PDF)
The timber for construction was to be airlifted and dropped at the site, with 5% extra allowed for breakages. An RNZAF Bristol freighter was commissioned as part of a training exercise, but bad weather hindered several attempts to make the drop late in 1955. As the freighter needed such a long run in and over 60 drops were required, the project of building on that site was abandoned. An alternative was found in Shipowner Ridge overlooking the Bonar Glacier. The area of South Westland between Mt Aspiring and Pyke river was a favourite of Colin Todd. He had made several of the first ascents in the area and named many of the features. Again throughout the 1957-58 season, the scheduled drops of materials were foiled by bad weather. Success eventually came in November 1958 on the 7th attempt, with the supplies being dropped from a height of 500ft. The working party of three that flew in a week later by ski-Auster had the unfortunate experience of their plane flipping onto its back after landing. Luckily no one was injured, but it would be December 1958 before a ground party were able to get to the drop site to stack the materials.
Bad weather continued to hamper further work, until a Christmas/New Year 8-man party were able to get back to the site. They lived in a snow cave, until they ran out of food and had to leave. These members were Les and Doug Brough, Alec Gourlay, Jack Walsh, Owen Wynee, Les Mangos, Ray Sherwood and George Goodyear. A final check of the materials was made in Easter 1959 and work was ready to begin on the construction.
Ten Club members climbed up to the site at Christmas, arriving on January 1st, 1960. They slept in a tent the first night and constructed a snow cave for use in bad weather. Fortunately, they were able to sleep in the open for five nights. As it was a half-hour journey from the air drop to the hut site, two days were spent solely in transporting materials. Within four more days the hut was ready, apart from the bunks and some painting. The work party was headed by Derek Mess. The others were, Ian McKellar, Peter Child, Bob Cunninghame, Dave Boyd, Graeme Bishop, Tony Bowden, Jim Watkins, Ted Saddand and George Goodyear.
This first hut was a corrugated iron building that slept 8, 12ft by 8ft with a cooker, utensils and mattresses. Lined inside, with four perspex windows and a nearby tarn to provide fresh water from melted snow. An exposed ridge was chosen for the hut so that snow would not lie and flatten the building. However, this meant extra strenthening of the walls to prevent the hut from being blown away. They were securely wired and built to withstand wind pressure up to 120lb per square inch. Five heavy gauge wires passed over the hut and were anchored beneath piles of rocks.
– 21 Feb to mid April – extensive remedial work carried out
– Second replacement Colin Todd Hut completed.
– First agreement signed between DoC and NZAC.
– Memorial plaque installed
– Hut completed
– January, Colin Todd Memorial Hut nearly completed by 8-man work party
– Easter, air dropped materials finally made ready
– Nov, successful air drop of materials made
– new Shipowner Ridge site chosen, but bad weather causes delays
– attempts to drop materials for hut at west ridge site abandoned
– Nov, a target of £200 was set by the Otago Section to fund the building of a high alpine
bivvy in memory of Colin Todd (£110 had been collected to date)
– May, Colin Todd killed in a motorcyle accident near Ravensbourne