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French Ridge Hut – History

French Ridge Hut

Pre-1940 – First bivvy on this site: NZAC Alpine Journal June 1940, Vol VIII p160/240



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.


History Timeline

– Second replacement French Rigde Hut completed with $50000 from Club funds and $25000 from the Otago Community Trust. Fabricated in the builders yard in Gore, it was then stripped down into helicopter loads from trucking into Raspberry Flat carpark. Both commercial and RNZAF helicopters flew loads into the site. The official completion date and hand over to NZAC Vice President and Project Manager, Chas Tanner, was 29th June.

– First management agreement signed between DoC and NZAC.

– January 18th – Ralph Francis Larkins died after being caught in a storm high on Mt Aspiring’s SW ridge. A barometer and plaque, donated by his family, are mounted on the wall of the second replacement hut as at 2010.

– Work on new bivvy commences January. Bivvy opening held on the 31st March. Dedication by the Reverand John Brinsley.
Named the Lucas-Trotter Memorial Hut. Facilities consisted of a stainless steel bench and bunks with mattresses for 15, only with no cooking facilities, or utensils supplied.

– Proposal put forward by Otago Section for bivvy replacement. Funds from Club required $1400. Assistance with funding was received from the families of the late CR Lucas and R Trotter (see 1970 below) Prefabrication assembled in a Dunedin wharf shed at the end of the year.

– Colin Ralph Lucas and Ruth Trotter died crossing the Breakaway.

– AJ37 June 1950: The number of climbers in the Matukituki Valley at Easter made it possible for the material for the Arawata Bivouac to be packed to the head of Pearl Flat and for the timber required for the rebuilding of the French Ridge Bivouac to be carried up to the new site for that hut. A part of the reconstruction of that hut was undertaken at the same time and the work finished during the Christmas period.

– AJ36 June 1949: The French Ridge bivvy has been dismantled, and such material as can still be of use has been prepared for the work of reconstruction.

– Extract from NZAC Bulletin number 3 – 24/4/1947:
Easter – Bruce Gillies again took his GMC truck up the Matukituki and Brian Pattersen went up to supervise the dismantling of the French Ridge Bivvy, which was flattened by the heavy snowfall of the previous season. Apparently, so much so that little of the old material can be reused when the hut is rebuilt on a more suitable site.

– Heavy snow storm in 1943 damaged hut. Easter work party stripped weather side of roof and found all the rafters broken and the frame very wet. New rafters fitted and the frame was stiffened by diagonal bracking. New iron added to the old iron to increase the overlap. All the felt was removed due to dampness and the ridging was hammered down on the roof peak. Hut painted and the rock wall raised to the level of the eaves. Two oregon props were fitted to the interior of the hut to take the strain of any snow on the roof.

– Ventilators fitted, leaking roof soldered, windows repaired, shutters painted and repaired. conduit frames with bird-netting fitted to keep out the Keas. Hut colours green and aluminium.

– roof battons taken up and nailed on

– In 1940 a 9′ x 8′ iron bivouac, lined internally throughout and assembled in Dunedin, was broken down and transported to Cameron Flat, then packed to Pearl Flat by Jack and Jerry Aspinall. As the track across Rough Creek had been washed out, the material had to be unloaded, pulled across the creek on a wire, and reloaded and packed to its destination. As Jack Aspinall made a gift to the Club of two-thirds of what was already a most reasonable charge for this packing contact, it is but another addition to the imposing list of good works which leave climbers owing him for ever a debt of gratitude. Packing parties were arranged daily to get the 1600lbs of material up 2000 feet of very steep, bush-clad hillside and 1200 feet of tussock ridge, to the hut site, ready for H J Stevenson and his band of workers to erect the new French Ridge Bivvy.

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