Huts in the mountains can be a vexed issue. Huts will tend to attract people and so tend to concentrate visitation within a larger area. As one example, most people who climb Mt Bogong tend to then turn towards Cleve Cole hut rather than head across to the Hooker Plateau. This tendency to influence visitation can be both good and bad.
They are part of the cultural history of the high country, and reflect major stages in the post colonisation era: cattle grazing, forestry, hydro, even fire watch towers and, more recently, huts built for recreational purposes. We also have a number of strange and random anomalies, ones that don’t really make sense: Craig’s hut near Mt Stirling as an example, which was built as a set for a film. There are, of course, those whose primary function is safety, such as Seaman’s hut near Mt Kosciusko, and huts that belong to clubs or even schools (Geelong Grammar on Mt Stirling).
I have always tended towards the position that we don’t need more huts in the high country. With incremental pressure as ski resorts increase their footprint and the risk of private developments within Victorian national parks and the precedent of private enterprise in a number of Tasmanian parks, I don’t think we need more infrastructure. There have been some hut removals that make ecological sense (such as Albina Lodge, above the western slopes of the Main Range in the Snowy Mountains). I certainly understand the need for huts in strategic spots for safety. And I do appreciate the history of these places, the incredible work of getting materials into hut sites in the early days and the bush skills of the builders. I love the work of Klaus Hueneke, who has chronicled the heritage of the huts.
With the rise in wildfire over the past decade, we have lost many of the iconic huts. There have been some excellent rebuild efforts, such as Michel’s at Mt Bogong. The Victorian High Country Huts Association was founded after the major bushfires of February 2003, to try and preserve remaining huts. Some huts are looked after by organisations and this can give people a strong connection to ‘their’ hut, and various groups exist to look out for huts in general (partial list below).
For me, it’s a rare thing to find a hut that is more appealing than a tent, but amongst my favourites are Seamen’s and the ‘Schlink Hilton’ in the Snowies, Vallejo Gantner at Macalister Springs, Cleve Cole on Bogong (of course), and the hut at Lake Nameless in Central Tasmania. I love the location of the ridiculously ugly house on Mt Wills.
For hut fans, we have recently been posting photos on Mountain Journal’s facebook page. Please feel free to join in and post your favourite pics.
I recently spotted the article below, highlighting the value of the ‘secret’ hut stash around many resorts, the little known hang out spot. I remember a rough hut that lasted several years on the northern slopes of The Bluff in Victoria which was popular with some backcountry skiers and boarders. I went to look for it one spring and it was gone (it had been tarp and pole heavy, more a glorified camp than a hut).
What I loved about this article is that it highlights that for all of us who use huts, there are personal and social memories that build up: of friendship, adventure, good dinners, long and late night conversations with strangers. I held my 30th birthday at Vallejo Gantner hut and have spent the last 4 new years at Bluff Spur hut on Mt Stirling with a big gang of friends. Part of the cultural – as opposed to technical – history is preserved in log books and, increasingly, on line. For instance, check the newsletters from the Mt Bogong Club, who have been looking after the Cleve Cole hut since 1965. In many countries there is the tradition of the hut warden, which can add to the sense of hut culture. I like the short film Winters of my Life, an appreciation of the decades-long service of Howard Weamer, who for the past 35 years has spent his winters as a hutkeeper in Yosemite’s backcountry.
From Powder magazine.
Secret stashes, shacks included, are a part of skiing in the same way that early mornings and long drives are. If you are dedicated you will have yours, you’ll know the good ones, and the people to share them with inbounds and out. People who love the mountains cultivated them, probably long before you got there.
Kosciusko huts association.
Victorian High Country Huts Association.