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Crystal Biv

Crystal Biv

(Crystal Biv looking down the Toaroha valley: Photo Andrew Buglass 2019)

Maintenance Status

Crystal Biv was designated as minimal maintenance by DOC in 2004. The original NZFS access track from the Toaroha valley hadn't been maintained for over 30 years, but was reopened by Permolat members in 2009. It continued to receive intermittent community maintenance after that, then in February 2019 Rob Brown of Permolat did a major overhaul using Back Country Trust funding. The Biv is now in excellent condition and should remain that way for many years to come. Thanks Rob.

Location

Toaroha valley. Map BV19. Grid Ref: E1449410/ N5237943. Altitude 1070m. Crystal Biv is located on the dividing spur between the Pretty and Crystal Creek catchments in the Toaroha. It is a peaceful and beautiful spot with a large picturesque tarn and great views out over the main valley to the Diedrich Range. The Biv can be accessed from the Toaroha roadend in a day by a fit party, either by the main-valley track, or over the tops from Yeats Ridge Hut. The latter shouldn't take much longer than the valley route in good conditions. Visits to Crystal increased from one every 2-3 years to around three per year after the Biv was profiled on this website. It currently receives around 10 visits a year. There is limited cell phone reception from around the Biv.

Access

The track up to Crystal Biv was recut and marked in February 2019 and is in good condition. The track turns off the main Toaroha valley track at the top of a steep section just upriver from Pretty Creek. From Cedar Flat Hut to the turnoff takes around 2.5-3 hours, then it's 1-1.5 hours straight uphill to the tussock. There is a short diagonal climb marked by warratahs and snow stakes from the scrub edge to the Biv. Allow 8-9 hours if coming from the Toaroha roadend.

The tops route to Crystal from Cedar flat via Yeats Ridge Hut is probably a bit shorter than the valley route if conditions are good, as well as providing excellent views. From Yeats Hut head West across the basin below the Hut and follow the snow stakes up onto a low scrubby ridge bordering Zit Creek. A trail leads South along the ridge to a broad face at the foot of a prominent western outlier of the Toaroha Range. A marked trail leads up the face through a band of alpine scrub onto a tussock spur at the 1200m mark. Warratahs lead from here up onto to a flat bench with tarns around 1300m. Here the SW fork of the outlier provides access down to Crystal Biv. It is easy travel down to the Biv which is visible in fine weather from around 1200m. A band of scattered scrub just above the Biv is best negotiated North of the tarns. Allow 1.5 hours to get from Yeats Hut to Crystal Biv, or 8-9 hours from the Toaroha roadend. Snow during the colder months may increase travel times on the tops crossing.

Type

Crystal is a NZFS B55 two-person design built in 1964 with two sleeping platforms. The platforms have now gone. Rob has modified the Biv somewhat by replacing the end louvre window with a single pane double glazed one, adding interior ply lining, increasing the frame bracing, and adding roof flashings. Water is from some small tarns close by the Biv. There is no toilet.

Condition

Crystal Biv didn't receive any maintenance from the early 1970's when under NZFS tenure, until 2004. Leaks at the end wall around the window had rotted out parts of the floor and some of the internal framing. DOC replaced some of these and repainted and sealed the Biv in 2004. The sealing at the window end was ineffective and moisture continued to get in, so by 2014 the studs and floorboards at the back end had rotted out again. I did some basic repairs in 2014, replacing the rotting bits. Rob's maintenance amounted to a complete overhaul comprising replacement of the roof, all rotten framing, the iron wall cladding, and end window. An internal ply lining was installed and the last remaining sleeping platform was removed. The rebuild crew were Rob Brown, Ted Brennan, Kennedy Warne, Joke de Rijke and myself.

The Biv was vandalised a couple of weeks later, had its ply lining ripped off and sawn up by an unhappy person acting on a conviction that the modifications we made ruin the historical character of the Biv. Unfortunately, the ply lining had a structural as well as a cosmetic role in the modifications. An accompanying rant in the hutbook describes Permolat as a late 20th century male chauvinist clique. Fortunately, DOC were planning to do some work in the valley a short time later and flew in and installed some new lining. They also trimmed the barging while there. Thanks guys. The last bit of finishing work was carried out by Mike Lagan of Permolat when he flew in to do some hunting with a mate in April. He replaced the piles, added an additional one under the door, sanded and laminated the floor, and installed small cooking bench. He added framing to the end walls and in addition to all the stainless pan head screws, there are 4x 75mm bugles attached through the ply into the framing, so good luck to anyone trying to remove it. There were also some new mattresses in the slingload. Thanks Mike.

Routes

Access to Top Kokatahi Hut via the Toaroha range is up the spur directly behind the Biv. A steep section at around 1400m can be sidled around on the Zit Creek side. Once on the crest of the Range, head North from point 1694m to a point around E1451479/ N5239437 and drop down the tussock faces into the upper Kokatahi. Follow the riverbed down to the Hut. An ice axe may be necessary on some of the steeper bits on the Kokatahi faces during the colder months. Allow four hours for the crossing.

Adventure Biv can be accessed by continuing along the Toaroha Range. There is a narrow section of ridge just before Zit Saddle that needs to be sidled on the Kokatahi side. The slopes are steep here and care is required in wet or icy conditions. Recently, and with the increased popularity of this traverse, a few parties have found this bit too exposed for comfort. It shouldn't be a problem for those confident with heights, but take a rope if you are unsure. Continue past Zit Saddle to where the poled route from Top Kokatahi Hut crosses over and drops down a steep tussock face onto a narrow rib on the Toaroha side. The rib is followed to where it flattens and widens and a short tracked section leads down through a band of alpine scrub into the upper TR branch of Zit Creek. Cross and climb up onto the Creek's TR terrace and follow the poles and markers downhill a short distance. The trail then veers North across scattered scrub and open tussock to connect with Adventure Ridge. A short section of track leads down the ridge through the alpine scrub to the Biv. Don't try dropping into the Toaroha directly from Zit Saddle unless you have a rope and a spare day up your sleeve. Allow 5-6 hours for the trip from Crystal Biv to Adventure Biv.

Mungo Hut can be accessed by heading South along the Toaraoha Range. There are no tarns on this section so carry some water. A vertical bit on the Range just South of Mt. Chamberlain can be sidled around on the Park Stream side. Access into Park Stream is from the low point between Mts. Chamberlain and Bannatyne. Drop down a steep gut below this into head of Park Stream. The top half of the gut is snow-filled for most of the year and the very top can be icy. An ice axe should be carried during the colder months for this bit. Once in the Park it is easy travel down the riverbed to the start of an old NZFS track on the TL. It enters the bush where the Stream veers SW, and climbs steeply up to Mungo Hut. The track is not marked on the current topo map, but was recut by volunteers in 2012. Allow 5-6 hours from Crystal Biv to Mungo Hut.

It is also possible to access Top Toaroha Hut over the tops from Crystal Biv. Head up the spur behind the Biv to just above the 1100m contour, then drop down the first steep open tussock gut into Crystal Creek basin. Follow the Creel down to around 960m then sidle out due South through open tussock patches towards the ridge bounding the TL of the basin. Head up onto the ridge via the side spur with the more obvious open tussock patches. There are a few unavoidable bands of alpine scrub to bash through on this section. Once on the main ridge follow it down past where it veers South. The Hut is visible directly below from 1100m. At around the 1050m contour a steep open, freshly blown-out gut can be picked up and followed all the way down to Bannatyne Flat. Allow 2-2.5 hours to get from Crystal Biv to Top Toaroha Hut in good conditions.

Repairs needed

Nil currently

Provisions on site

Some replacement piles, a plastic bucket, a plastic basin, an aluminium wash basin, a camp oven, a small pot, a shovel, a small quantity of permolat and nails and some rat poison, a sleeping mat and a fold- out chair. There is a roll of No.8 wire, some chicken wire, and some odd bits of timber underneath the Biv.