KOSCIUSZKO HUTS ASSOCIATION

Tin Hut is one of two huts built by the NSW Tourist Bureau in 1925-6 to provide ski touring opportunities on the main range between Mt Twynam and Mt Jagungal. The hut’s location was chosen by Dr Herbert Schlink, who led the first party to ski ‘Kiandra to Kosciuszko’ in July 1927, coming via Tin Hut and taking just three days.

Up to the mid-1920s, NSW skiing was concentrated around Kiandra and the Kosciuszko Summit Road. Skiers began to lobby the government for access to the ranges between Mt Kosciuszko and Mt Jagungal and one, Dr Schlink of the Ski Club of Australia, proposed a ski touring route between Kiandra and Kosciuszko.

The Club negotiated with the Litchfield Brothers to develop a ski touring hut upon their grazing lease on the Finns River. In 1925 the Bureau agreed to fund this and another hut on the Snowy River — Tin Hut #1 (renamed Pounds Creek Hut, now Illawong Lodge).

Tin Hut #2 (the current Tin Hut) was built by Con Bolton over the following summer, incorporating some materials from the ruin of a grazing shelter nearby, and stocked with provisions for winter use.

In 1926, a party led by Dr Schlink attempted the first K to K tour travelling from the Hotel north toward Kiandra. After becoming trapped by foul weather at Tin Hut for three days this attempt was abandoned.

The following July, Dr Schlink with Dr Eric Fisher, Dr John Laidley, Bill Gordon and Bill Hughes, set out from Kiandra to ski the reverse route. In excellent skiing conditions they made good time, reached Farm Ridge Homestead on the first night, and upon arriving at Tin Hut at 1pm on the second day, decided to press on to Pounds Ck Hut — skiing a total of 60km that day — before continuing to the Hotel on the following day.

Tin Hut – Background

Pastoralists were grazing stock upon the main range by the mid-19th century. South of the Snowy River was the Excelsior Run, the north side of the River including the catchments of the Whites, Finns and Burrungubugge Rivers was part of the Murryang (Munyang) Run, whilst the Valentine and Geehi River catchments up to Mt Jagungal were part of the Agintoothbong and/or Tooma Falls Runs. James Spencer of Waste Point, one-time lessee of the Excelsior, complained the main range runs were not viable during the early years. Changeover of the Murryang lessees every 1-3 years through the 1870s and 80s suggest grazing was hampered by lingering snow coverage well into the summer months and difficulties of access.

Cattle and sheep were grazed in this area during the late 19th century at intervals one comes across camps, in each of which about half a dozen men live for the five months during which the mountains are accessible. These camps generally consist of two or three good tents surrounded by a palisade of bushes. Add to these a roughly built fireplace with a few round ovens as its accessories and the camp is complete.” Stock were brought up each summer from the Monaro via Snowy Plain on the Gungarlin River. Following the termination of squatting in the 1890s, the Reid and closely related Bolton families were grazing the lower valley of Finns River and its major tributary Farm Creek prior to selecting four freehold blocks (portions 3,4,5 & 6) along Farm Creek in 1911-12. The Reids/Boltons had a bark hut on their freehold, possibly dating from the late C19th and which eventually burnt down in the 1939 bushfires, to be replaced by Henry and Ross Bolton with a small slab hut nearby — Boltons Hut — which was lost in the 2003 bushfires.

Just north of the Reids, the Litchfield Brothers of Cooma held grazing leases around the watershed of the Finns and Valentine Rivers through the early 1900s. In 1912 Bill Napthali of Snowy Plain built a small shelter for the Litchfields on the headwaters of Finns River, within a few hundred metres of the present hut. Also known as ‘Tin Hut’, it measured 2.4 x 3.6m with an earthen floor, corrugated iron walls and roof. There was no chimney — a hole left in the roof allowed the smoke to escape, no window, and the door was merely a spare sheet of corrugated iron draped across the opening. Described as a ‘cooks galley’ it was used to prepare meals for the stockmen working the lease, who camped around the hut in tents. It may have doubled as a general shelter/dining room during bad weather. Some of the iron was later incorporated into the current Tin Hut — a sheet of iron uncovered in recent works at Tin Hut features graffiti recording a 1914 visit by Bill Napthali and Simon Kidman, with Bill’s daughters Ida and Mary, and Simon’s nieces Kittie and Myra. Both Simon and Bill worked as stockmen for Litchfields.

The first use of skis in the Snowy Mountains was by Kiandra miners in 1860, primarily as a practical means of travel during winter. The ‘Recreational’ skiing movement did not really develop in Australia until the 1890s and 1900s; following trends in Europe and North America. The NSW Government fortuitously decided there were sufficient regional economic benefits to warrant investing in the construction of the summit road and accommodation houses along it — the Hotel Kosciusko and New Betts Camp — during 1906-08.

The Ski Club of Australia was formed in 1920 as an offshoot of the Kosciusko Alpine Club, with a focus on exploring and developing ski touring opportunities across the main range. By 1925 members were exploring the range from Mt Twynam north past Mt Tate to the Granite Peaks and proposing tours to Mt Jagungal. One senior member, Dr Herbert Schlink, was pressing for the establishment of a ski touring route between Kiandra and the Hotel Kosciusko.

Whilst exploring the best route on horseback during the summer of 1924-25, Dr Schlink and Douglas Reid were forced by bad weather to turn back on Mt Gungartan, but were fortunate to come upon a semi-derelict stockmen’s shelter. Dr Schlink realised the location was the ideal site for a touring hut midway between Betts Camp and Farm Ridge, and led the Club in negotiations with the grazing lessee Owen Litchfield and the NSW Tourist Bureau to upgrade the existing hut for ski touring use. Support from both Litchfields and the Bureau enabled the proposal to evolve into the construction of a larger new hut, better suited to touring use. In 1925 the Bureau announced it would finance two new ski touring huts — Tin Hut #1 on the Snowy River (renamed Pounds Creek Hut and now Illawong Lodge) to facilitate touring access to the main range between Twynam and Tate, and Tin Hut #2 (the current Tin Hut) on the Finns River site to facilitate access between Gungartan and Jagungal.

The existing Tin Hut was built by Con Bolton during the summer of 1925-26. Materials were brought in on horseback via Snowy plain and the Big Brassy, although some corrugated iron and probably the stonework for the fireplace was salvaged from the previous hut. As originally completed, the window was just an opening covered with a hessian sack. Upon completion the hut was stocked with 24 blankets, some tools and firewood for the winter. The Ski Club of Australia appears to have been tasked with coordinating the construction, maintenance and all use of the hut well into the 1930s.

Whilst the hut was under construction Dr Schlink, with a party that included Dr Eric Fisher, Dr John Laidley and the Ryrie sisters, Da and Dee, undertook another horseback survey of the route between Kiandra and the Hotel. It was deemed preferable when skiing to cross the Snowy River up near Pounds Creek and avoid the steep forest and scrub that existed downstream, although one possible line of retreat from Tin Hut in an emergency was identified as the bridle track down the Finns River to Island Bend and on to the Hotel .

In July 1926, six men led by Dr Schlink attempted the first K to K tour travelling from the Hotel via Betts Camp, Pounds Ck Hut and the Rolling Ground to Tin. The party was trapped at Tin by foul weather for three days. After running out of food they were forced to retreat down the Finns River and back to the Hotel via Reid’s Hut — where they left their skid — and Island Bend. (Refer attached ASYB1928 article by R Allen & J Laidley).

Over the following summer, Dr Schlink again traversed the route on horseback and arranged for the huts to be restocked with provisions. Unfortunately, Mr Speet, manager of the Kosciusko Hotel, was turned back by bad weather in his attempt to get supplies into Tin Hut, leaving them at Reid’s Hut. Shortage of provisions in the huts would limit the size of the next party to five.

On 28 July 1927, Dr Schlink with Dr Eric Fisher, Dr John Laidley, Bill Gordon and Bill Hughes, set out on the second attempt to ski Kiandra to Kosciuszko, this time coming southward from Kiandra after five days of training around the Hotel Kosciusko. Hughes guiding the initial part of the way through the Nine Mile and down Mulligans Ck to the Happy Jacks River, reaching Farm Ridge Homestead on the first night. In the excellent snow conditions they reached Tin Hut by 1pm on the second day. Rather than stop there, they decided to press on to Pounds Ck Hut for their second night — skiing a total of 60km that day — before reaching the Hotel via Betts Camp on the third day. (Refer attached ASYB1928 article by Dr Herbert Schlink).

In the winter of 1928, Tin Hut was used as a base for two summit attempts on Mt Jagungal; one party under Dr John Laidley successfully skiing to the summit — for just the second time in history. Shortly after, in contribution to the search for Laurie Seaman and Evan Hayes, Bill and Bob Hughes skied ~50km to Tin from Elaine Mine in a single day. Bill repeated this feat in 1929 with Dr Lennox Teece, Dr Ashleigh Davey and Bill Gordon; leaving Elaine at 2:15am and arriving at Tin at 3:30pm. They found a new stove had been installed the previous summer: “not only has It abolished the smoke nuisance, but with its use the hut is now as warm as could be desired, whereas previously no one had ever experienced other than a night of torture in this hut.”

Access to the hut was controlled by the Ski Club of Australia, members of which used Tin as a base for tours through the 1930s. In 1932 HG Purcell led a party of Snow Sports Club members there on a trip reported in the Ski Yearbook, and in the 1934 Ski Yearbook Colin Guilder described the hut and how to find it:

Tin Hut, No.2 (Gungartan) . . this hut was for some years an essential link in any contemplated trip to the country beyond Gungartan. The hut consists of one room, equipped with a Canadian stove and bunks for four people. Firewood, blankets and sleeping bags are stocked there, but no emergency rations are available. The hut is situated approximately 1 ¼ miles north of Gungartan, and by a glance at the accompanying map should be located in any weather. Travelling from the Kosciusko end of the Range, the fence which runs through the Pass between the two high peaks of Gungartan·should be located on the White's River-Dicky Cooper Creek Saddle and should be followed through the Gungartan Pass down to the Finn's River-Valentine Saddle, where it takes a right-angle turn eastwards. The hut is on the left-hand or north side of the fence, approximately 200 yards down the fence, just before it dips steeply down into the Finn's River Valley. Water should be available In close proximity to the hut, under any conditions, from a stream located about 100 yards from the hut, in a due SE direction. Before using Gungartan hut, one should obtain the permission of the Ski Club of Australia.”

Following construction of Whites River Hut in 1934-5, which had a better situation as a ski-touring base, use of Tin Hut waned. Upon completion of the Alpine Hut ski lodge 5km to the northeast in 1939, Tin became a popular side trip. Ted Winter stated visitors to Tin during the 1930s-50s included the Pattinson brothers from Kiandra, Charlie Bell, Don Mowatt, the McPhies, Jim O'Connell, Jim Muir and Owen Martin.

In 1946 Ken Breakspear and Fred Fletcher relocated the Canadian stove — which had not been used for some years — to the back room at Whites River Hut.

The Litchfields retained snow lease Blocks J1 & K1 to graze around ~5000 acres around the hut through the 1930s and 40s, these being transferred to RG Mould and WH Allen in 1950. Stockmen including the Bolton brothers, Lyndsay Willis, Amos & Tom Blyton used the hut for summer graziers up until the cessation of grazing above 4500’ in 1954. A party of women from the Sydney Bushwalking Club, reported being given a gift of chops and a fresh loaf of bread by the Blytons whilst stopping at the hut in the 1940s.

In 1967 the YMCA Ski Club decided to caretake the hut and upgrade it for ski touring use. The entry door, which had originally been on the eastern side beside the window — where it was frequently buried by a large snow drift — was relocated to the west side, routed through a new woodstore that would also serve as an airlock. The linings were replaced, doors were fitted across the fireplace and a number of fixed bunks were installed. The Canadian stove had been removed by this time.

In the 1970s NPWS flew in the parts for a small outhouse to be erected. It had an artistic lean and for many years was the smallest at any mountain hut, the door having a large cutout so it could open inward whilst missing the seat. Interior snow, having to stand at an angle to match the building and an ‘open door’ policy had to be accepted.

During the 1990s the NPWS installed a small wood-burning stove in the fireplace and replaced the leaning outhouse. Structural repairs were undertaken c2010.

The hut has a long-standing reputation for being difficult to locate in bad weather. Wind-blown snow coming out of the Valentine catchment tends to accumulate around the hut site. Some time prior to the 1980s a series of three stone cairns were erected atop the knoll west of the hut to assist in locating it and warn of the cornice that regularly occurs along the east side of the knoll. These days the hut is mostly concealed by a belt of snowgums and is located primarily through its proximity to the swamp at the head of the Finns River.

Documentary Sources

Schlink, Dr H: ‘Kiandra to Kosciusko’, article, Australian Ski Yearbook 1928, p128-146.

Unnamed (Schlink, Dr H?): ‘The Government Tourist Bureau’ article, Australian Ski Yearbook 1928, p167-168.

Allen R & Laidley J: ‘The Tin Hut Expeditions of 1926’, article, Australian Ski Yearbook 1928, p58-72.

Pursell, HG: ‘An Expedition to Gungartan and Tin Hut 1932’, article, Australian Ski Yearbook 1933, p72-74.

Gilder, C: ‘Skiing Huts of NSW’, article, Australian Ski Yearbook 1934, p

Gilder, C: ‘53 Ski Huts of NSW’, article, Australian Ski Yearbook 1935, p28.

Hughes, W: ‘Kiandra to Kosciusko on Horseback 1926’, article, Australian Ski Yearbook 1930, p154-156.

Laidley J, Allen R, Gordon W & Stephen A: ‘The Jagungal Expeditions of 1928’, article, Australian Ski Yearbook 1929, p18-42.

Teece, LG: ‘The Kiandra to Kosciusko Traverse of 1929’, article, Australian Ski Yearbook 1930, p21-32.

Arnott, B: Seventy-Five Seasons – The Ski Club of Australia, Allen & Unwin 1998, p11-15.

Hueneke, Klaus: Huts of the High Country, ANU Press 1982, p58-60.

Downing, P: Historic Homesteads and Huts of Kosciuszko National Park, p179.

KHA Hut Information Sheets (various dates, unnamed authors), records, database and images.

Kidman, Neen (pers comm) on NPWS/KHA files

NSW Dept of Land and Property Information: parish maps c1880s-1970 (Munyang Co Wallace), pastoral run maps & gazette records for Murryang Run, Snow Lease Lithograph # 2 1931, 1945, 1952.

Download PDF files -

Some Nearby Points of Interest

Amenity

Water – at the creek in the midst of the swamp 100m west of the hut. Limited supply during droughts.

Toileting – pit toilet 50m south of hut.

Firewood – limited in immediate surrounds; reasonable in open woodland 150m+ to east.

IN AN EMERGENCY

Nearest Phone Reception Point –??

Nearest Trackhead/Public Road – Guthega Power Station (unstaffed) & Guthega Road 15km via Schlink Pass (5hr walk – 2 hrs over the open exposed ridge of Mt Gungartan, 3 hrs down road)