NZ Ski Touring: STFU Brewster Hut

Within the Makarora region of Mount Aspiring National Park and heading west through the Haast Pass at Fantail Falls (pink star), we decided to tramp up with our splitboards to Brewster Hut for another epic Kiwi-style backcountry ski adventure.

When looking from a topo map the tramp (black dashed line) is only 2.5km in distance, however gain in elevation to the hut itself is ~1000m (an average grade of 40% uphill climbing).


This STFU (straight the f*** up) 4.5 hr tramp carrying all of our gear on our backs began with a fairly high river crossing that linked to the start of a well marked steep trail head comprised of roots and rocky beech forest reaching the bushline at 1160m (blue star). The last 200m of the trail continued along a snowy ridge that eventually lead us to the alpine hut situated at 1450m (red star).


This bright red 12 bunk hut, serviced with water and a toilet for use was where we spent the next 2 days with hopes the weather would be in our favor to skin further up the ridge to the summit of Mt. Armstrong (2174m) and traverse over into Brewster glacier.


(September 1st, 2016)
We were lucky the previous day with a clear bluebird ascent up to Brewster, however mother nature gave us a different story the next day as we set off for a split further up the ridge to Mt. Armstrong.

The clouds were heavy in the morning with patches of blue breaking through around the time we decided to begin our 700m skin up to the summit of Armstrong. What seemed would be an easy skin up with crampons, turned into a 4 hour whirlwind adventure of unpredictable weather changing from sunny skies to high winds and no visibility every 10 minutes.


As we reached the summit of Armstrong, the winds increased and the view of Brewster glacier was nowhere to be seen (similar to the shot I got of Mitch at the top of Armstrong). We decided to switch over to board mode, call it a day and make our way back down to the hut. As soon as a clear window of sun and visibility appeared, it was a race down to Brewster carving through soft deep pow turns that eventually turned into wet solar affected slushy snow.


As we approached the hut, we decided to continue our ski further down below the ridge and ventured  towards a creek bed with cascading waterfalls above.


We eventually skinned our way back up to the hut before the winds increased and the rainstorm began. For the rest of the night we had a feast with the plenty of pasta, salmon, chocolate and liquor we brought up for Mitch’s birthday ski tour. Like most huts we’ve come across in NZ, a deck of cards and candles tend to be left around. We took advantage of the situation and played a few rounds of rumi before bed.


(September 2nd, 2016)
After a night of hearing nothing but rain and howling winds, we took our time in the morning to head back down to the car park. The weather was definitely not as pleasant the day before, but eventually started to calm around noon with light winds and minor rain as we began our 3.5 hour descent down the Brewster ridge.

We were able to cut some time of the start of the treck back split-skiing as far as the snowline would let us. Once we reached the bushline it was a swap from skiing to hiking slowly down what was now a washed out creek and slippery root trail with our gear once again on our backs and this time wearing our snowboard boots.


By the time we finally reached the river crossing it was clear the increase in precipitation had raised the level of water. At this point we were less than 100m to the carpark and fully soaked from the rain and tramping down what felt like a 2.5km waterfall tramp. We decided to keep it simple and cross with our boots on.


From there it was a mad dash to unload our gear back into van as what felt like a slight drizzle for most of the tramp down became a full on downpour. We managed to beat the brutal rainstorm and headed back south down the Haast Pass towards Wanaka.

Posted by Marisa

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