Donald Lousley

A full-on winter and a new web site to publish photos onto

It’s been a crazy winter weather wise with lots of SW and S weather bringing front after front. Good for photos and cross country skiing but hard living.

So time to enjoy the fine spells and work away when it’s miserable. In this case a new site. Take a peek:

Wanaka Images
Wanaka snowfall

I’ve not uploaded many images yet, but they’re coming. The structure of the site had to come first.

Since Wanaka is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park and in the middle of routes to South Westland‚Äôs¬†glaciers, the historic gold bearing Cardrona Valley and Queenstown ‚Äì all with Central Otago‚Äôs nearby golden landscapes to the east, the site¬†and it’s blog will span and incorporate all these regions.

An online shop is in the plan too


A fine autumn

Since returning from my work with DOC up the Matukituki Valley in Mt Aspiring National Park, I’ve been delighted to find myself in the midst of the the most beautiful autumn in Wanaka, The Southern Lakes and Central Otago. Here are a few images:

Shotover flood skippers

Road to skippers

Horse jumps arrowtown

Hawea river

Autumn bremner bay

Autumn arrowtown

Mt maude

Christmas and New Year at Aspiring Hut

It’s turning out to be a delight as to how I may feel walking in to begin my 15 day stints as hut warden at Aspiring Hut, and then finding that the mood of the weather has as much to do with it as anything. It really dictates the whole “energy” internally and externally, with the latter definitely impacting on the former.

It’s a fine day for the hour long drive up the Matukituki Valley, and for a minor delay while a farmer herds these cattle into making a flurry of dust…
Cattle Matukituki Station

And then a pleasant surprise: this time “in” I’d decided to take my mountain bike and I caught up with this guy Mike, and what he was able to do in this self designed and built wheel chair buggy amazed me. I only caught him because he was part of a multi family group. Part of the journey in, involves a steep hill climb covered with loose rocks that makes a 4wd scrabble a bit, but he sailed up it [minus the trailer that converts into a normal wheel chair]. He was very inspiring, and as we knew mutual friends and we’ve both done a lot in the mountains, we had a many a good chat while we waited on the track, and latter settled in at the hut…
Wheel Chair acces Mt Aspiring National Park

Mike’s family and friend’s and their families…
Family Group Mt Aspiring National Park

A couple of evenings after my arrival the light was quite flat under an overcast sky, so I went for a walk to see if I could spot some deer thought to be nearby, but alas no! However the soft light continued and as it was agreeable for a few tree photo ideas this is what I tried. Having got the shot and regarding it as my blank canvas I went to work on it digitally…
Mt aspiring National Park Matagouri

And ditto on the nearby mount Islington…
Mt Islington Mt Aspiring National Park

Then a few days later a rainbow conveniently displaying over the river from Aspiring Hut…
Rainbow from Aspiring Hut

Moody times in the rain near Cascade Hut, 20 mins down valley from Aspiring Hut…
Bush near Cascade Hut

A type of fungi I came across while doing some track maintenance. One I’ve not seen before…
fungi, Mt Aspiring National Park

Waterfalls off Mt Glengyle, Mt Aspiring National Park…
Waterfalls off Mt Glengyle, Mt Aspiring National Park

Rainy times at Shovel Flat while doing some track maintenance…
Shovel Flat, Mt Aspiring National Park

The above is about half the images I’ve taken on this roster, so watch this space for¬†some more as soon as I have time. They’re pretty moody ones too as prior to this post being published from clear blue skies in Wanaka, there was a spell of rainy days

And a Happy New Year too :))

Magical forests, butterflies – memories to carry and share

After a wild and prolonged spell of spring weather it is looking a little like the flavour of summer is now settling on the Southern Alps, and from where I’m sitting in same at Aspiring Hut in the West Matukituki Valley in Mount Aspiring National Park it’s a reminder of the magic of the seasons.

The hut wardening job is turning out to be all I hoped for, so for this post I thought I’d gather together lots of photos to illustrate the nature of the job.

School groups come no matter what the weather, because I guess they’ve been planned for ages. I don’t interact with them much, but do clean up after them [not onerous]…
Aspiring hut school group


There have been a surprising number of older overseas students doing environmental studies, and I’ve even been interviewed by some of them. I think they learn more about what goes on the outdoors of this country, than most of the locals do.

A WildLand Studies group camping by the hut…
Aspiring hut camping


Lambing is all over down the valley, and the lambs are growing really fast. The cattle always seem to stay the same, and I often marvel at how they can cross the river in conditions that I’d not even try…
Cattle crossing Matukituki


I’ve previously posted pictures of the historic Mt Aspiring Hut, so here are some of the warden’s quarters and the toolshed behind the hut – this shot taken on the little track I travel daily to check the hut water supply…
Aspiring hut wardens quarters


The settling tank [left] and the holding tanks that feed all our needs, especially the flush toilets [which I’ve found use a surprising amount of water]. Should the water intake get clogged by sediment or vegetation then these tanks would only keep things going for about two hours if the hut was full with 30-40 people…
Aspiring hut water supply


Both my warden’s quarters and the main hut have a backup rain water supply for emergencies. My one was quite polluted with leaf litter and soot, so I spent a day dismantling it, getting it on the ground, then crawling partway into it to scrub it out. The boxes on the outside of the wall are for the fridge and for the on-demand supply of hot water…
Aspiring hut wardens quarters


It’s not all beer and skittles on a day like this one. Severe SW gales race across the sky, leaving shadows to catch up on the mountains, not to mention the odd raindrop. Not the place up there on Glengyle for a butterfly…
Glengyle from Aspiring hut


But around the hut ever since mid Oct. a butterfly flutters about bringing such incongruous feelings on days like this one. It seems such an unlikely companion to myself on “my rounds”, [whom it’s said travels a bit like a bear in the mountains – not with a sore head I might add]…
Aspiring hut toilets


On sunny days I leave the butterfly meadows for track work up valley. This involves crossing Rough Creek by swing bridge. Quite a high one at that – the assistance of wings could be welcome…
Rough Creek Mt Aspiring National Park


A butterflies view of Rough Creek…
Rough Creek Mt Aspiring National Park


A really big event in the valley a couple of weeks ago was a poison drop. I was not directly involved in this predator control, as I have my own workload, but none-the-less there were things to do, and I had other DOC staff staying with me a couple of nights.

A stoat like this may not look it, but they’re a very efficient and deadly killing machine. I had to retrieve this one, so it could be analysed as to cause of death…
Mt Aspiring National Park Stoat


Roaming about on predator and native bird work I get to spend time in some magnificent stands of native red beech. It is just pure magic to spend a few hours at a time in such places.

I’ll carry what are for me highly emotional memories of these places wherever I go, as they’re now lodged in my heart…
Mt Aspiring National Park red beech


Unfortunately little fledgling robins like this do fall out of nests – at least that is the assumption, so I carried this one back and stored it in my freezer pending my return to Wanaka, where it can be examined…
South Island Robyn fledgling


Lunch time by a delightful creek so typical of the Otago Alps, and no sandflies…
Aspiring Hut warden Donald Lousley


Other tasks include getting firewood ready for when I’ll need it in Feb/March [yes summer is short in the Southern Alps]. And although there will be no warden in the winter we’ll be up there regularly doing bird work, and we’ll soon go through heaps…
Splitting wood at Aspiring hut


We also keep the grass around the buildings tidy. We were using a weed eater, but it’s slow and the people traipse the grass into the hut, so I resurrected my old lawn mower and have lent it to DOC. It’s like part of the family, and who would have ever thought during those hours of mowing sections in Twizel years ago, that it’d end up in the very heart of such beautiful mountains…
Mowing grass at Aspiring hut


My days up there¬†are becoming reminiscent of the 70’s when we were all off-line.

I think we need to be attracted less to glamour and be on our guard to investments we can inadvertently make in same, and tune in more to the wonders of nature around us.

Birds can teach us much [who after all naturally live between the skies and ground, so you could say spiritually speaking they link lightly to heavenly spaces], as can the flow of water – the greatest force that shapes our planet.

While we stress and live anywhere but in the present, they flow on seemingly not ruffled by our daily dramas and worries. They’re in the moment, for centuries!

Which bought to mind the lyrics of the song; We Need A Whole Lot More Of Jesus (And A Lot Less Rock & Roll) by Linda Ronstadt: Written by Wayne Raney

Whatever our beliefs maybe we do need to get back to them!

Well you can read it in the morning papers
Hear it on the radio
Crime is sweeping the nation
This world is about to go

We need a good old case of salvation
To put the love of God in our souls
We need a whole lot more of Jesus
And a lot less rock and roll

We need more old time camp meetings
And a lot more prayers of faith
Prayers that will move a mountain
Save our souls from the burning waste

We need a good old case of salvation
To put the love of God in our souls
We need a whole lot more of Jesus
And a lot less rock and roll

We need more old fashioned preachers
Pouring out their hearts in prayer
When you’re in their presence
Well you know that the Lord is there

We need a nationwide revival
To put the love of God in our souls
We need a whole lot more of Jesus
And a lot less rock and roll

We need a whole lot more of Jesus
And a lot less rock and roll

Stepping back in time at Aspiring Hut

Following on from my last post awhile back about my summer job looking after Aspiring Hut up the West Matukituki Valley this evening I find myself writing this up on site as the rain falls steadily to the tune of seriously flooded mountain rivers, my laptop being charged via solar, and my only immediate contact to the outside world being via VHF and/or HF two way radio.

When the weather is fine this is the view up valley from the deck/verandah of my little cosy home. The foreground roof is the ablutions block [I have my own ‘tho, just by my bed]. And the larger roof to the left is the hut itself which was built in ’49 and will easily hold 30 people…
Aspiring hut

My daily tasks begin at 8 am with Wanaka Base calling me up via VHF radio via a repeater above me on Mt Tyndall. I then relay the number of people in the area, not only Aspiring Hut, but Liverpool, French Ridge and Colin Todd [the latter two being mountaineering huts]. And after I’ve received a morning weather forecast I then go write it up on a white board in Aspiring Hut, then walk up the back to check the water supply intake then usually then have breakfast.

I’m often woken much earlier by one of my mates up here. Yesterday morning he played noisily with some kindling I’d left on my deck, and he also cleverly learnt how to turn on the tap at the hut’s camping spot a few minutes walk away…
Mt aspiring kea

In a few days I finish my second 15 day roster. The first was punctuated by lots of people coming and going between some wild weather days. This one is the other way around a bit, with more visits by wild weather fronts than I’ve known for many years.

Each front has been leaving lots of new snow, often down lower than bush line shown here on the popular Cascade Saddle route over to the Dart Valley. Right now it’s a mountaineering proposition ‘tho and hardly anyone is taking it on…
Cascade Saddle, Mt aspiring national park

As well as my obvious tasks of advising people on conditions, cleaning the hut, collecting fees and monitoring visitor number and the choices they make, I also do track maintenance up valley cleaning out water tables clogged by winter storms and help other projects such as programmes aimed at protecting and growing native bird populations/species. Every day I’m very active and I’m finding my fitness is quietly improving. I know this because every night I need more sleep than when I’m in town!

Lately I’ve been going up valley an hour to Shovel Flat where I’ve cached a shovel, and there just back from this view I clear from the channelling beside the track a hundred meters or two each day of silt, leaves, mud, and branches bought down by winter winds and rain. I usually work alone, and of late in the rain as per this photo. To get there and back is a beautiful walk…
Shovel Flat, Mt aspiring national park 2

Then every other few days I walk down to the Raspberry Creek car-park to clean the toilets there, and since I’m in here for 15 days at a time I store food in the cleaning cupboard there. When I come in at the start of my roster I carry the fresh veges and items to be stored in my fridge/freezer [gas/solar powered], then bring up the heavier non perishables later.

By the time I check and unblock the water supply up Raspberry Steam aways, and clean the three toilets the round trip takes about 6 hours. On the rare fine days I’m rewarded by views like this – the Rob Roy Valley and glacier…
Rob roy glacier, mt aspiring national park

But then on other days I battle back in 100k/hr gales, with the rain stinging my face. I only have micro seconds to capture these sort of images before my camera lens has very soft focus rain drops all over it…
Tree mt aspiring national park

And then there is the washing to be done. That is the HF radio aerial on the left – one of two with wire strung between…
Mt aspiring hut washing

I’ve no pictures yet, but every night there are people in the hut and I’m over there with them collecting fees and answering questions. Already I’ve made a host of new friends and met some wonderful and interesting people. On first acquaintance too there are few clues as to a person’s social standing.

So far though what I’ll never forget is the weather and violence of same during this drawn out spring. It has it’s own dynamic flavour which I like…
Mt bevan and mt aspiring

Tonight as I work on this post [for uploading in a few days] darkness settles on very heavy rain lashing my wee house, while thunder echos around the valley underscored by the literal roar of rivers rushing down the valley. Sometimes the thunder actually shakes the building quite violently.

I’m not taking a lot of images, but every couple of days I see something to have a go at capturing, and then process on site…
Mt glengyle mt aspiring national park

I’ve the privilege here to reflect a lot on my journey so far in life, and I’m making the most of it! I do find too that I’d forgotten that this more simple way of living was once the norm.

Now lets get back to my new friends. It’s possible that one is female and the other an older male. Certainly the one who flew up onto my table to examine the Mac I’m creating this post on, was learnedly fast and astute.

The first one on site this morning was the more cautious one and he/she was a bit bedraggled by the night’s rain, but it did not stop a “kea” call to summon the other…

Wet kea on aspiring hut deck

First a cautious look around by the more experienced bird…
Kea on aspiring hut floor

Then a quick ascent using wings…
Kea on aspiring hut desk

But it was my hut cleaning bucket that just had to be towed across the slippery floor, with the intent being to get it outside where it’s contents could be examined and dismantled…
Keas in doorway

Since I’ve got as far as kea shots in my wee house, then here are a couple of shots of the interior:

The red door leads to a bunkroom and storage cupboard area. By the notice board are two radios – VHF and HF. The former usually gives the best clarity, but when it is scratchy then HF does the trick. Also HF as it bounces off the ionosphere, allows me to communicate with other huts in the Dart, Routeburn and Caples and Queenstown if needed, and even further afield…
Aspiring hut warden's quarters

Aspiring hut warden's quarters

Lastly, yes due especially to the weather I’ve been reading a limited, but rich number of books of many genres in the warden’s hut library. One called Living with the Himalalyan Masters by Swami Rama is a memorable read. I like the astute¬†way he for example can write about many religions and contextualise them in relation to each other, eg since I was raised to a Christianity model, I’ve found him to be masterful at contextualising this into eastern religions.

If you Google “Swami Rama” there are some long YouTube videos worthy of some time

My new summer job in Mt Aspiring National Park

It’s all been a bit serendipitous how after lightening my journey of baggage and possessions, how I was “ready” [for what some asked, and I had no answer], that I now find myself being the new summer warden of the iconic Aspiring Hut .

It’s in the West Matukituki Valley, Mt Aspiring National Park, near Wanaka., and is owned by the New Zealand Alpine Club and managed by the Dept. of Conservation.

Built in 1949, and in those days was about 6 hours walking from where early mountaineers left their cars. Now it’s about a 2.5 hour walk and frequented more by family groups and/or overseas backpackers…
Aspiring Hut

My humble abode for the summer. Note the Aspiring Hut wall on the right. I’ll be over there in the mornings cleaning when everyone is gone, then later in the day and evening to track parties, collect huts fees and/or tickets, and answer questions. The person in this photo is my friend and fellow volunteer Martin Curtis, a well known Cardrona folk singer, especially famous for his song about the Gin and Raspberry mining days of old up there
Aspiring Hut Warden's Quarters

I won’t have a cat or dog for company, but these are some friends I made last year at this time. Hopefully they’ll be back soon…
Aspiring Hut

There is 4wd truck access across the farmland leading the hut and the National Park. Although I’ll be walking back to the car-park every couple of days to clean the toilets there, and can have food left in a little cupboard, other workers will be up the valley regularly in vehicles, so I won’t have to carry heavy loads too often…
DOC truck in Mt Aspiring National Park

The winter view up valley from the warden’s quarters veranda/deck. Mt Aspiring on the right…
Mt Aspiring from Aspiring Hut

The same view a few days ago, with a very active and violent front coming in. This will be a regular sight in summer…
Mt Aspiring in cloud from Mt Aspiring Hut

Cascade Creek is about 10 mins walk from the hut…
Cascade Stream near Aspiring Hut

The view up the Rob Roy Valley to the glacier of the same name. It’s the most popular side walk in the valley, with 23,000 visitors annually. However I won’t see much or them unless I walk up there. It does make the car-park busy though, and I’m sure I’ll be asked many questions when I’m there in my uniform, looking like Yogi Bear…
Rob Roy Glacier Mt Aspiring National Park

As mentioned a lot of my time will be spent on the farmland as I come and go…
Mt Edward, Mt Aspiring National Park

Every 10 days either myself or my relieving warden will have to go up to French Ridge hut. It’s a bit of a grunt up a steep track, but it then flattens a little. This photo from above the hut a little way is typical of the wonderful views…
French ridge

The main Matukituki River, West Branch near the car-park and Rob Roy track…
West Matukituki River, near Rob Roy Walk, Mt Aspiring National Park

This change in life-style has all been a bit sudden, but that is how it is with opportunities. There has been a mass of paperwork to address, uniform fitting and a First Aid course update among other details, so I’ve been a bit slow getting word out.

Should you need to contact me while I’m away messages could be left with DOC’s Wanaka office, and they’ll relay them to my radio. Or I’ll be checking my email every couple of weeks when I’m back in town. When I see the pattern and get in my stride I’ll probably post my schedule on the top right of my work web site: