Last update 14 February 2016
At 4350 feet (1325 m) above sea level Big Hut is the highest habitation within the limits of Dunedin City.
Big Hut is owned and operated by the Rock and Pillar Hut Trust. It is an historic alpine hut.
The trust was set up to restore the hut to its former glory and ensure its continuing availability to the public. Although situated in the Rock and Pillar Conservation Area, this is not a DOC hut.
We have a 30-year lease from DOC over the area of the hut and immediate environs.
In 1946 the Otago Ski Club opened this spacious 70-bunk ski lodge near the summit of the Rock and Pillar Range. This was a major undertaking. Some 30 tons of building materials were hauled by crawler tractor and trailer 3200 feet up the steep eastern face of the range. This was the era of post-World War II vision and voluntary labour that founded many of Otago's recreational facilities. This was the second of three huts that ski clubs built on the range.
For many years this 'Big Hut', as it became known, provided the venue for large weekend parties of enthusiasts who engaged in all forms of skiing - downhill, slalom, jumping, and langlauf. They climbed on foot to their ski grounds most weekends until finally the attractions of easier access and better downhill slopes on Coronet Peak became irresistible.
Since the demise of the Rock and Pillars as a club skiing venue in 1954 (there was a resurgence of interest 1958-65 at the 'Castle Rock' field) the hut fell into disuse and disrepair. However the Otago University Tramping Club, then the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club, took over the hut in the 1980s and did repairs that kept the elements out. The Hut Trust purchased Big Hut in 2003.
Big Hut is a unique structure. It was built to withstand gale force winds and snow cover for several months of the year. It has withstood 65 years of alpine conditions and today provides welcome shelter and accommodation for year-round recreational activities - tramping, mountain biking, rock climbing, botanising, landscape photography, as well as cross-country skiing.
There is no comparable hut on Otago's many mountain range tops.
It is a unique part of New Zealand's recreation heritage.
The hut provides an ideal base for exploring the natural and recreational wonders of the Rock and Pillar Range.
* There is a severe water shortage at the hut. Best to collect, from stream beside the snow poles, below the hut. *
Big Hut is located at 1325m or 4350ft a.s.l., 1.2km SE of the Summit Rock.
The following grid references correspond to Topo50 maps (NZTM2000).
Grid reference: Topo50 map sheet CD15, E1371240, N4964410
There are two principal means of reaching Big Hut - by foot and mountain bike, and three main routes.
Route 1: Glencreag - Big Hut Tramping Track
This climbs 1000m on the eastern face from Glencreag up a leading ridge south of Six Mile Creek. This is the most direct approach and assured access on foot. It is marked the whole way. Track on map is approximate. 2-3+ hours. Details
Route 2: Lug Creek
This climbs 3000 feet up the eastern face on a vehicle track up a leading spur south of Lug Creek (foot, mountain bike). 3.45-4 hours on foot. Details
Route 3: from Old Dunstan Road
This is a very rough vehicle track from the Old Dunstan Road, northwards along the crest of the range (foot, mountain bike). 3.5 hours on foot. Details
DOC has banned all motor vehicles below the fence along the range crest. Unfortunately there are still occasional incursions by vehicles, some for no other purpose than to rip up sensitive alpine bogs.
If vehicle drivers do not respect the DOC restriction they are liable to be photographed and reported.
DOC Pamphlet: 'Tracks in the Rock and Pillar Conservation Area' (PDF 1.45 MB)
Safety is your responsibility. Before you depart leave your intentions with someone responsible.
Despite a benign appearance this is an alpine environment. Be appropriately clothed and equipped. Snow can be encountered at any time of the year. On the tops fog can roll in within seconds, causing disorientation. It is unwise to travel away from the hut without a means of navigation such as map and compass or GPS. The tops are rolling and relatively featureless. Add whiteout, particularly in the winter, and there is good cause for this precautionary advice. People have been known to be within a few metres of the hut and not see it. Gale force winds are normal. 184 km/hr was reported in February 2012 - hurricane force (causing a day's enforced stay indoors).
Over the last 2-3 winters there has been a noticeable shift to icy conditions. Crampons, or snowshoes with claws (can hire from R&R Sports Dunedin), are strongly advised.
There is variable cell phone reception on the upper slopes of the range including from in the hut (027 text good/voice variable; 021 not so good). Best Telecom reception is from in the loo or above the kitchen table!
The Trust advises that: "in the unlikely event of an emergency" the quickest escape is eastwards down the pole-line from the hut, then down the marked route or fence-line to the base of the range.
Members of the public are obliged to observe the following -
- record your name and date in the hut book, and
- payment of hut fees
Rules are posted inside the hut to ensure the protection of guests and the hut.
The main risks are fire, and damage from snow entry.
One careless moment with a cooker could destroy the hut.
Please keep in mind at all times that this unique building will not be replaced.
Candles are banned from the hut.
Visitors must respect this. If you don't you will be held liable for damages.
Fires are prohibited inside and in the surrounding conservation area.
The hut is run for charitable purposes, not private benefit.
Commercial or fund-raising ventures are required to obtain prior approval to use the hut
(special rates may apply). Discounted fees may be considered for educational groups.
Hunting parties must
have a valid hunting permit from DOC
and are required to obtain prior approval from the Hut Trust to use the hut.
No firearms inside hut.
There are two bunkrooms, a large common room with table tennis table, dining tables and seating, a relatively small kitchen, a gear room and a wash room/entry lobby, all with solar-powered lighting. There is a tank water supply and an outside toilet. There is no artificial heating in the hut - it can be subzero in winter.
In recent years there has been a major increase in hut use. It has become a year-round attraction by a wide variety of users. To avoid congestion it is important that groups of 8 or more book in advance (see below).
The Hut Trust reserves the right to decline bookings that are inappropriate or potentially damaging to the hut or conservation area.
The hut has two management regimes - unwardened and wardened:
Unwardened (16 persons max)
When unwardened the hut is available for casual public use by up to 16 persons overnight.
Groups of 8 or more are required to book in advance. This allows the Hut Trust to juggle use if necessary to avoid exceeding the 16-person limit - to comply with fire regulations.
The fees are $10 per person per night, or $5 if 12 years or under.
Payment is to be made at the hut.
Mattresses for 16 are provided.
You need to bring sleeping bag, food, cooker + fuel, torch, and toilet paper.
If bookings are accepted from more than one group, exceeding a total of 16 persons, a warden may be required and the wardened rates and conditions below will apply.
Wardened (25 persons max)
When wardened by a Trust volunteer the hut is available for pre-booked group use by up to 25 persons.
Please book as soon as you know your plans so that a Trust warden can be arranged - use is conditional on a warden being present.
The fees are $12 per person per night, or $7 if 12 years or under.
Each group is expected to combine their cooking to avoid congestion and hazards in the kitchen (there isn't room for lots of individuals 'doing their own thing'). On acceptance of booking you will be advised what gear to bring.
Exclusive booking of the hut will normally be avoided.
0274 358 311 (text)
email: firstname.lastname@example.org (if no reply within 2 days text cell phone above)
We prefer cancellation of bookings rather than damaged vehicle tracks on the range through use in wet conditions (DOC has prohibited vehicle access to the hut below the summit ridge fence), or the endangering of visitors by attempting access in storm conditions.
Access to Big Hut is very weather dependent. If there are doubts about weather conditions we can provide advice close to the event. It is your decision and responsibility to ensure the safety of your group. However if the Warden determines that conditions are dangerous for him/her to access the hut they reserve the right to cancel a booking and use of the hut.
Gold coin for day use.
The trust has completed the main restoration. Further improvements are planned. All work has been voluntary - approximately 3000 man/hours and $55,000 spent so far.
Substantial work on weatherproofing the exterior, and internal repairs, was undertaken in the 2003/4 summer. This was funded by personal contributions by the trustees.
The majority of internal restoration (extensive replacement of snow-damaged ceilings and walls) was completed and the roof partly painted during a generally unfavourable 2004/5 summer. This was funded by donations and grants.
Better weather during the 2005/6 summer allowed all the outside to be painted. Ceilings were insulated. Some fire-resistant mattresses were installed.
During the 2006/7 summer the entry lobby and gear room were relined and painted. The second bunkroom was painted. Windows were modified to provide fire escapes. This largely completed the initial 4-year restoration plan.
A thermosyphoning (solar) air panel was installed as a trial in February 2008 - the kitchen is noticeably warmer. A new lid for the water tank and another kitchen bench were installed in April. The toilet was repositioned. The table tennis table was refurbished. All other tables were repaired. Installation of storm windows commenced.
Display panels showing the history of hut building and skiing are installed. Further panels showing the natural history of the Rock and Pillars are planned.
During February-March 2011 the exterior of the hut was re-cladd with corrugated Coloursteel, greatly improving security against storm damage. The hut is noticeably drier and warmer. View the Big Hut Re-cladding Movie.
As a fire-prevention measure, solar-powered lighting was installed – to negate any excuse for candles being used.
Provision of Coloursteel by enabled re-roofing of the hut during March 2012.
Tasman Insulation New Zealand provided further ceiling insulation.
This was the last major stage of hut restoration. Without the generous support of the above businesses, it would have been many years before the Trust could have contemplated doing this essential work. Press releases
Volunteer builders Wayne Johnston (left) and Geoff McHardy (right)
The hut is ideally suited for use by organised groups. The large common room and large bunk capacity makes the hut ideally suited (subject to weather and accessibility) for educational and environmental studies, and for special events related to the outdoors.
Contact us if you would like to use the hut for these purposes.
Hut fees cover less than our operating expenses. You can help by making donations or becoming a Friend of Big Hut.
Pamphlet (pdf 60 KB
Poster: pdf 1.7 MB
Thermosiphoning Air Panel
Deed of Trust - Rock & Pillar Hut Trust (pdf 528 KB)
Certificate of Incorporation (pdf 48 KB)
Become a 'Friend of Big Hut'
Skiing and hut history
The wonders of the Rock & Pillars
Link: Kindred enthusiasts saving West Coast huts
This web site created 24 September 2004
Suite 6142, PO Box 39018, Harewood, Christchurch 8545