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Newton Range Biv

Newton Biv

(Newton Biv looking along the tops to Mt. Newton: Photo Rob Owen 2005)

Maintenance Status

Newton Range Biv is designated as minimal maintenance. It became somewhat run-down after its last NZFS maintenance in the 1970's and some one-off DOC maintenance in 2004. The latter was welcome, but not comprehensive enough to prevent further slow deterioration. Permolat picked Newton up as a concern quite early in the piece, and in March of this year Bruce McLelland and Chris Matheson, of Ashburton (Bruce is an ex FS culler) carried out some major repairs on it. Newton Biv had been long isolated after an NZFS track providing access up to it from the Styx valley vanished back into the scrub. For a couple of decades the only route to it of any practical value, was up a fairly rough, steep side creek from the Styx valley. This wasn't a particularly easy route, and so visits were few and far between, despite the Biv's relative closeness to the Styx roadend. The Permolat group recently reopened the old ridge track and another from the Lower Arahura valley that provides access further along the Newton Range.

Location

Newton Biv is located on the crest of Newton Range between the Arahura and Styx catchments. Map BV19. Altitude 1155m. GPS Ref: E1458873/ N5251148. It is tucked against a bank at the edge of a large flat peaty area, with beautiful panoramic views of the Alps and coastal plains. The setting is serene and tranquil and there are numerous small, deep tarns, with the odd interesting 3-4 metre deep subsidence in the peat layer. Newton Biv is now accessible in a day from the Styx roadend. Prior to it being profiled on this site and the recent trackwork, gaps of 2-3 years between visits were common. Traffic has picked up significantly now with foot visits averaging around 10 per year, and the odd fly-in hunting party.

Newton Range Biv location

Access

The Newton Biv route starts on the main Styx valley track on the TR of the large unnamed side-creek situated 1/2 an hour below Grassy Flat Hut (E1458968/ N5249853, or between stoat traps 87 and 88). The track entrance is 100m up the creek from where the Grassy Flat track crosses over and is marked with a routered sign. The track goes directly up the ridge through the various vegetation zones to around 960m, where it sidles East off the ridge and crosses some eroding faces in the head of the unnamed creek. It then climbs back up onto the ridge for a last short steep section up through the alpine scrub zone.

Once in the tussock, the route climb/ sidles in a NE direction onto the crest of the Range. There is the odd bit of cruise tape on the scattered shrubs marking this trajectory. Once on the crest its an easy amble East along to where the Biv is located, tucked in against the bank at the western edge of a large flat peaty area. It's easy to walk past, so watch out. Allow 4-6 hours to reach Newton Biv from the Styx roadend.

Type

Newton Biv is a standard NZFS B55 two-person design built in 1962. It has a corrugated iron roof, a single louvre window at the back end, two narrow wooden sleeping benches (one small thin mattress), and a low cooking bench. Use the tarn closest to the Biv for water and the more distant ones for washing or swimming. There is no toilet, but please don't crap around the Biv.

Condition

The Biv was repiled and had its bearers, and some of the joists, framing, and floor replaced by DOC in 2004. The exterior was painted and resealed at the same time, but rain set in before it could dry properly and the paint didn't stick in a lot of places. It was re-roofed by Bruce and Chris in March 2016 with the addition an inner layer of chicken wire and roofing wrap to improve weatherproofing. The existing ridging was reused as a temporary measure. The paint has flaked off of the window frame and sill, and the brackets holding the glass louvres in place have some external rust.

Routes

The Newton Range is traversable in both directions, but dips into the alpine scrub zone at a couple of points. Travel is rough in places. East of point 1190m there are several ups and downs through the alpine scrub before the Range rises back above the tussock line. A rough trail leads through the scrubby parts to where the Range rises again. There is a small cirque with two large tarns and some good campsites here, and it is relatively easy travel along the remainder of the Range to Mt. Newton.

Access down into the Arahura is possible using an old NZFS track opened up by Permolat volunteers in April 2013. There is a stake with permolat on the crest of the Range just above the big tarns. Just below this on the Arahura side is a cairn at GPS E1461437/ N5251992, and more stakes leading down a steep face with patchy scrub to the top entrance of the track. The track drops down a scrub face onto a narrow rib, then across and down some bluffy bush faces in the montane zone onto a more defined ridge. The track follows this down to the Arahaura valley intersecting the main valley track 200m downriver from Lower Arahura Hut. . It is very steep in places and its top section is incorrectly marked on the topo map. The actual trackline veers SW at the 720m contour instead of continuing straight up as marked. It connects with the Newton Range where it intersects with the ridge on the TR of Jack Creek. Allow four hours from Newton Biv to Lower Arahura Hut, or 5-6 if coming from the opposite direction.

It is possible to access Mudflats Hut from Newton Biv over the top of Mt. Newton and down Visitors Creek. There are some nice tarns and camping spots in the top basin of Visitors Creek, but below this the Creek drops over a waterfall and down through a slotted gorge. The fall can be skirted on the TL lip of the basin down the TL of a steep gut with a small waterfall near its top. The gut enters the main Creek at the bottom of the gorge. Below this the going is steep, rough and slippery, and you need to wade down the middle of the Creek in places. There may be easier routes off Mt. Newton using one of the side creeks upstream from Mudflats, but these still need checking out. Allow 6-8 hours for the journey from Newton Biv to Mudflats Hut.

The Newton Range is traversable West of the Biv and this route has been used more regularly since Mt. Brown Hut was built. It is by no means an easy stroll, but is well worth it in terms of the views it provides. A significant portion of the Range drops down into the alpine scrub zone and this section is rough going with lots of ups and downs. From the Biv along to point 1240m is relatively easy. After this the Range dips steeply down through a band of scrub, then climbs up onto point 1330m, passing some interesting ultramafic rock outcrops on the way. There are some nice tarns just West of point 1330m. After 1240m the Range drops steeply down into the alpine scrub proper, and while there is a trail of sorts along or near the crest, the going is rough. The open tussock is not reached again until the 1140m mark on Mt. Brown's eastern ridge. It would pay to allow five hours or more in good conditions for the traverse. There is a lot of deer sign and some very well-used trails between the Biv and point 1330m currently.

Repairs needed

Bruce still plans to go back and tidy a few things up, including sorting out some new flashings for the roof. Some painting and sealing will also need to be done. The new roof is coloursteel and needs to be left to weather before painting.

Provisions on site

The ubiquitous DOC hand shovel and brush, one small frypan, a shovel, and a small saw.