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Browning Biv

Browning Biv

(Browning Biv: Photo Mitchell Everly 2017)

Maintenance Status

Browning Biv and its access track are fully maintained by DOC, and were in good condition at last report.


Styx catchment. Map BV19. Grid Ref: E1459130/ N5248163. Altitude 1100m. 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.


The start of the Browning Biv track is signposted at the bottom end of Grassy Flat in the upper Styx valley. The track was cut in 2012 and checked again in 2013. It crosses an open marshy area with scattered scrub initially, then veers uphill through hardwood forest on the TL fan of an unnamed creek. It drops into the creek further up and this is followed to the 817m mark, where a second section of track exits on the TL. This leads up a steepish face through montane and alpine forest onto the small bench in the alpine scrub zone just below the ridgetop, where the Biv is located. 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.


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.


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 was replaced. 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 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 steep tussock face 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 can be icy and ice axes need to be carried during the colder months. Around E1458920/ N5245773 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 rway 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, apart from the postponed paint job.

Provisions On Site

Aside from the statutory DOC hand brush and shovel, and an NZFS vintage aluminium basin, all the gear and provisions in the Biv were left there by Mark, and he's happy for folk to used it. There is a a small library, binoculars, emergency food, a litre of Samson red enamel, a litre of "gorse" acrylic paint, three paint brushes, 0.5 litres of Solgaro primer, three tubes of liquid nails, a litre of oil (possibly chain oil), a small grubber, hedgeclippers, a bowsaw, two flat files, a hammer, a wire brush, rat poison, a tube of sealant, loppers, a knife, a scraper, bear tape, a Stanley knife, a screw driver, a small hacksaw, pliers, numerous candles, a gas lamp, sandpaper, a good supply of 2cm flathead nails, a few longer jolthead nails, a small screw clamp, tacks, a chainsaw file, a slasher, and a first aid kit.