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Browning Biv

Browning Biv

(Browning Biv: Photo Andrew Buglass 2020)

Maintenance Status

Browning Biv and its access track are ostensibly fully maintained by DOC, however the Government/ volunteer interface is getting increasingly blurry. In February 2020 some Back Country Trust funding was made available to Permolat volunteers who went in and repainted the Biv and did some trackwork.

Location

Styx catchment. Map BV19. GPS Ref: E1459182/ N5248255 (BV19 591 482). Altitude 1048m. Browning Biv is located on a ridge in the alpine scrub zone on the Browning Range. It has great views out over the Styx valley to the Newton Range and is most commonly used as a stopover on the Lathrop Saddle - Zit Saddle circuit. This is a reasonably popular tramp of medium difficulty. Browning Biv was maintained and kept in a homely fashion from 1986 to 2004 by Mark Crompton of Hokitika. This coincided with a period in which DOC wasn't particularly active maintenance-wise. Mark made numerous visits to the Biv while doing a snow retention study and made sure it stayed weatherproof and well provisioned. He made a compilation of old hutbook entries from the 1970's onward and left a copy at the Biv.

Access

The Browning Biv route up the TR of the Styx valley was officially closed to trampers in 2019 following a series of extreme weather events that severely damaged benched portions of the Grassy Flat track. In December 2019 work was started on an alternative route up the TL the River that connects with the Mid Styx Hut track and fords back to the TR further upvalley. The Styx valley is still OK for experienced trampers despite its "closed" status and the TR can be followed all the way to Grassy Flat using the riverbed where the original bench track has been scoured out. There is only one washout where this can't be done, just opposite Tyndall Creek. There is a bypass here marked with orange triangles and cruise-tape, however there is no ground-trail and the route is quite rough going. The easier option at this stage is to ford the Styx above Mt. Brown Creek, follow the new TL route, then ford back to the TR 500m upstream from Tyndall Creek. Both routes can used with discretion at normal or low river levels but shouldn't be attempted in flood conditions.

The start of the Browning Biv track is signposted at the bottom end of Grassy Flat. It crosses an open marshy area with scattered scrub, then veers uphill through hardwood forest connecting with the unnamed access creek. The topo map has the track going up the TL of this creek however the creek is incorrectly mark and the track goes up the TR and connects with it at around the 680m contour. Follow the creek to the 820m mark where a second section of track exits on the TL at GPS: E1459548/ N5248492 and leads up a steepish face through montane and alpine forest onto a bench just below the ridgetop, where the Biv is located. The track from the creek up to the Biv was recut by the volunteers in February 2020. Allow 1.5-2 hours from Grassy Flat to the Biv, or 5-6 hours from the Styx roadend.

An open knoll on the ridge 10 minutes walk above the Biv provides helicopter access.

Type

Browning Biv was was built in 1961 and was one of the first of the NZFS B55 designs. It has a corrugated iron roof, a single louvre window at the back end, and two narrow sleeping platforms. There are two mattresses, and some sleeping mats and pillows. There is no toilet. Water is provided by a small roof-fed tank that was installed by Mark Crompton.

Condition

Browning Biv was repiled, painted and re-sealed, and had some of its framing replaced by DOC in 2004. In 2016 there was another major lot of maintenance done. The roof and end walls were removed, reframed, papered, re clad and sealed. For the interior some flooring and the bunks were replaced, and the bunk area lined. The ridging, window, and door and window flashings were replaced. Door stoppers and a door threshold were added. The vegetation around the Biv was cut back. It missed out on a paint job due to a hard helicopter drop which crushed the paint tins. The Biv was repainted by the Permolat crew in February 2020.

Routes

The route to Lathrop Saddle and Top Crawford Hut follows the ridge above the Biv. There is a cut track through the alpine scrub to the tussock, then snow poles. The ridge eventually narrows and peters out and the poles lead up a sloping tussock rise to the Saddle. Lathrop Saddle is a spectacular U-shaped corridor with beautiful amethyst tarns and a huge, shattered boulders. At the end of the corridor the route the poles veer SE and sidle across some steepish screes to avoid a band of bluffs directly below the Saddle. The sidle is South-facing and usually snow covered until late spring. Conditions are often icy and ice axes and crampons need to be carried during the colder months. Around E1458920/ N5245773 (BV19 589 458) the poles veer downhill and follow a broad spur towards the basin. The spur bluffs out lower down and the route drops over and down a tussock face into the side-creek catchment on the TR of the spur. Poles lead down the slopes parallel to the creek to the basin. Top Crawford Hut is on the TL of the TL fork of the upper Crawford and is clearly visible on the way down in fine weather. The travel time from Browning Biv to Top Crawford Hut is around 3-4 hours in good conditions.

Mt. Lathrop is an easy climb from Lathrop Saddle, and the Browning Range is relatively straightforward all the way down to Tyndalls Knob. It would be possible to get from Browning Biv to Crawford Junction Hut in a long day using an old tops track down Whitehorn Spur to get down to the Junction. Whitehorn Spur Biv marked on some of the older maps was removed in 2006. The track down the Spur is very overgrown and peters out completely on the lower faces. A swingbridge across the Crawford at the bottom end of the track was removed in 2012, however it is usually easy to ford here at normal flows.

There is high-level route to Mid Styx Hut from Lathrop Saddle, although it's much quicker just to drop from the Biv down to the Styx valley and go downvalley to the Hut. Sidle from the Saddle at around the 1700m contour into the tussock basin at the head of the big unnamed side creek that flows down to the mid Styx. An old NZFS tops track goes down a ridge from the TL lip of the basin to Mid Styx Hut, and was retrimmed and marked by Permolat volunteers in 2014. The top section through the alpine scrub is marked with orange electric fence gate flags. Allow 5-6 hours for the traverse.

Repairs Needed

None currently. The weather wasn't great during the 2020 paint job and the roof missed getting a second coat and could really do with one.

Provisions On Site

Aside from the statutory DOC hand brush and shovel, and an NZFS aluminium basin, all the gear and provisions in the Biv were left there by Mark. There is a a small library, binoculars, hedge clippers, a bow saw, two flat files, a hammer, a wire brush, loppers, a knife, a scraper, a Stanley knife, a screw driver, a small hacksaw, pliers, a slasher, and a first aid kit.