Lyell Hut is located in the upper headwaters of the Rakaia River, in the Lyell Branch. Lyell is one of the oldest existing structures in the Southern Alps. The hut was built by the CMC in 1931 with loads carried in by foot, an arduous task.
The hut is most easily accessed by foot by walking up the true-right of the Rakaia from Glenfalloch Station. Allow about 6 hours to Reischek Hut, and a further 3 hours over the Mein's Knob track to the Lyell Hut.
One the early explorers Julius von Haast noted the excellent view from Mein's Knob in the late 19th century. Up the Lyell Branch, Mt Nicholson stands dominant, and up the Ramsay branch is the awe inspiring Ramsay (East) face of Mt Whitcombe.
A number of great climbs can be completed in 1 or 2 days based from Lyell Hut. These include adventurous ascents of Nicholson at the head of the Lyell glacier, Malcolm and Blair from the Heim Plateau, Whitcombe and Evans from the Ramsay glacier or Bracken Snowfield. Lyell Hut provides access to the Garden of Allah via McCoy Col, Rangitata Col and Lambert Col.
See ClimbNZ for online route information: http://climbnz.org.nz/nz/si/canterbury/rakaia-catchment
If walking up the river, approach through Glenfalloch Station at the end of Double Hill Run Road,
contacting Charles Todhunter (phone 03 318 5843) for permission. Drive over a small rise to park at
a hay barn or continue on the farm track to Whaleback and the shingle fan above Lake Stream, stopping
before the 4WD track makes a sharp left turn. Walk west down the shingle fan to Lake Stream.
Land west of Lake Stream is part of Lake Heron Station ; ask Phillip Todhunter (phone 03 303 9014)
for permission to cross the land.
To Banfield Hut
The Rakaia River cuts into its steep southern bank, usually necessitating a traverse of Prospect Hill. (If
river levels are low, the river can be crossed to the true left and back again further upstream to avoid
climbing over Prospect Hill.) Cross Lake Stream and aim south-west, to where grassy river flats meet
the Prospect Hill spur. Go through a gate and follow the fence line up a short steep rise, joining a cattle
track which climbs round the end of the spur and drops down to a muddy, matagouri-filled gully.
From here, head up out of the gully to meet a fence line (marked on map sheets 260-J35 / BW19). Cross
to the far side of the fence and follow it west until two gates are reached which are next to an old 4WD
track immediately north of a south-east flowing creek.
Do not follow the 4WD track – a major slip has made this route difficult – instead take a basic
tramping track which initially follows the creek in a north-west direction and eventually leads to an
undulating plateau and terraces above Washbourne Creek. At the end of the plateau, cross a fence at
a wire gate and from here drop down to Washbourne Creek. (When travelling west to east, reach the
terrace and fence via sheep tracks up the spur that rises from the confluence of Washbourne Creek and
the Rakaia River.) Cross Washbourne Creek and follow a 4WD track, which soon gives way to animal
tracks criss-crossing the grassy flats to Jagged Stream. To reach Banfield Hut, follow the southern edge
of the river flats all the way to Jagged Stream and pick up a marked track, which leads on to a narrow
terrace just above the river and goes directly to the hut. Do not follow the maze of animal tracks leading
uphill. Allow at least 2 hours to reach Banfield Hut from the road end.
To Reischek Hut, Evans Hut and Lauper Bivouac
To continue upriver, travel down Jagged Stream to meet the Rakaia riverbed and follow this until
opposite Totara Stream. Pick up the 4WD track, which enters the matagouri here and leads to Reischek
Hut, generally following the southern edge of the river flats. Allow 5–6 hours to reach Reischek Hut
from the road end.
To reach Evans Hut at the foot of Cattle Stream, find a crossing to the true left somewhere
upstream of the Cattle Stream confluence.
To reach Lauper Bivvy a crossing may be found upstream of Reischek Hut.
To Lyell Hut
If continuing to the upper Rakaia River, about 1600 metres upstream of Reischek Hut a cairned track
sidles above the Rakaia River where the main branch abuts a short section of awkward bluffs.
To continue to the head of the valley, follow a marked track that enters bush where Meins Knob
abuts the Rakaia. Follow this track up and over the saddle south of Meins Knob (Pt 1276 metres),
dropping down to river level east of Lyell Hut. If river levels are low, it may be possible to avoid this
climb by continuing around the foot of Meins Knob until a swing bridge crosses to the true left. Cross
on the bridge and continue up stream, re-crossing to the true right in the vicinity of Lyell Lake. Lyell
Hut is situated on the true left of a small creek, just in the bush. Allow a full day to reach Lyell Hut
from the road end, especially if carrying a heavy pack.