Mountain Journal has previously covered the issue of huts in the high country. As we said then:
“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)”.
With growing risk of wildfire, and many huts simply ageing and starting to fall apart, there is the chance that the overall number of huts will decline in coming years. Some are carefully looked after (the Kosciusko Huts Association lists the known caretakers of huts in the Snowy Mountains) but others are falling into disrepair.
I am more interested in indigenous history of the high country than huts, but I do appreciate the cultural value they hold for many people and the practical value of refuge huts.
With more people starting to branch out from skiing/ riding in resorts and getting into the backcountry, there is some argument that huts in exposed regions have become more important, simply because these groups are often not as experienced or equipped as ‘traditional’ winter users like cross country skiers. With increased use of sensitive areas like the Main Range, there is an argument that a hut (and – significantly – a toilet) would reduce the overall impact of winter users through ‘centralising’ visitation.
Apart from safety there are the cultural and historic values of huts. As shown in the wonderful book Skiing the High Plains, early huts developed as a result of economic activity (mining, grazing, forestry, etc). There was a network of inns and ‘hotels’ which serviced miners traveling between mine diggings in the alps, and then the recreational boom of the 19th and 20th centuries that saw the eventual development of today’s ski resorts. The 1939 fires brought this era to an end, with the loss of many resource based townships and tourist facilities like the St Bernard Hospice.
But huts remain an important part of the high country experience for many and represent hard work and preservation efforts by many individuals and groups.
Please feel free to post us pics of your favourite huts.
Bluff Spur Hut, Mt Stirling