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Lower Olderog Biv

Lower Olderog Biv

(Lower Olderog Biv: Andrew Buglass 2014)

Maintenance Status

Lower Olderog Biv was designated for removal in DOC's 2004 High-Country Review, despite being in surprisingly sound condition after 30 years of zero maintenance. It was being visited once every 3-5 years at the time, hardly surprising given the overgrown state of the access track and lack of publicly available route information. I submitted a maintain-by-community proposal in 2005 and DOC were OK with this, however the Biv's location in the Waitaiki Historical Reserve apparently required consent from Mawhera Incorporation as well. I had to wait until 2013 for Mawhera to release its draft management plan, whereupon I tendered a submission for the Biv's retention. There has been no response so far, not even an acknowledgement of the submission. DOC said way back that they'd minimally maintain the Biv while all this was happening, although aside from flying in a couple of fireproof mattresses, none was done. In March 2014 I decided to go ahead anyway and paint and seal the Biv and do some minor repairs to the floor, the framing, and the window. The track up from the Arahura was recut and marked. The work crew was myself, Joke De Rijke and Geoff Spearpoint. DOC provided the paint and the helicopter backload of materials. The Biv was getting around three visits a year, and it is hoped that this will increase with the repairs and increased profiling.

Lower Olderog Biv location

Location

Arahura catchment. Grid Ref: E1461562/ N5255773. Map BV19. Altitude 865m. Lower Olderog Biv is located at the edge of a tussock clearing in the sub-alpine zone above the TL of Jade Creek. Jade Creek is a key pounamu extraction area and there are a few private huts visible down in the Creek below the Biv None of these seem to get a great deal of use, nor do they detract from the remote ambience of the setting. The Biv site is close to the bottom end of an isolated ultramafic rock band and this provides relatively easy, open access up onto the Olderog tops and the McArthur Crags. There is a good sized rock biv in the sub-alpine scrub about 100m from the Biv that would sleep four quite comfortably. The remains of an old camp bed point to it being used by cullers before the Biv was built. Lower Olderog Biv can be accessed in 6-7 hours from the Arahura roadend by a reasonably fit party, or by way of a more demanding, but enjoyable tops traverse of Mt. Kerr, and the McArthur Crags from the Big Wainihinihi valley.

Access

Access from the Arahura valley starts at the swingbridge 15 minutes upriver from Lower Arahura Hut. Cross the bridge and boulderhop up the TR of the Arahura for around one hour to Olderog Creek. There are two short, tracked detours around bluffs on this section, both of which were retrimmed in 2014. Continue up the TR of Olderog Creek, a mix of track and boulder travel, to the the Jade Creek confluence. Follow Jade Creek for 100m or so and exit on the TL at the site of a derelict hut, the chimney of which is visible from the creekbed.

The track to the Biv starts at the door of the old hut and goes up the ridge separating the Olderog and Jade catchments. It was recut and marked in 2014 and is reasonably straightforward to follow. At around 675m a on old NZFS track branches off the ridge and drops down into the mid section of Olderog Creek. This was probably part of a track system that went along The Trench on the TR of the Arahura, but hasn't been maintained for over 40 years. No one has had a look along there in recent times, and it's unlikely that it's followable. The track to the Biv continues up the ridge to an open rocky ultramafic area in the montane zone. Cairns lead off the ridge in a NW direction at around the 900m contour and sidle across a scree to link with a short section of track. This drops down through a band of pink pine, manuka and scrub to the bench where the Biv is located. The Biv clearing is visible from above, but the Biv is hidden from view by the scrub on the clearing's fringes.

Type

Lower Olderog is one of three remaining, first batch, B49 bivs built by the NZFS in 1957. That it remained in good condition for over 30 years with no maintenance is a tribute to the simple wrap-around iron cladding design. It has a perspex window at the far end and two sleeping benches that were probably retrofitted in the early 1970's. Water is from a small creek about 5 minutes away and is accessed down a track at the top end of the clearing. A small roof-fed water barrel was placed next to the Biv in 2014. There is no toilet.

Condition

Lower Olderog is currently in good condition. The 2014 working bee saw it painted rescue orange. A hole in the floor next to the door was repaired, the bottom plate replaced, and the door stud re-secured. A partially rotting bearer under the door was braced along its length with a 4x2. A purlin in the roof was replaced and two of the rafters braced for extra support. A flashing was constructed for the window, and a new latch put on. Any nails in the roof cladding that were lifting were replaced with screws. The door hinges have been replaced. A couple of the piles are on a bit of a lean, however the Biv remains level and the floor sound. The tussock and toi toi growing around the Biv has also been cleared.

Routes

A tops traverse of Mt. Kerr and the McArthur Crags provides access to Lower Olderog from the Hydro Road in the Big Wainihinihi River. This is accessed via the Milltown Road in the Arahura Valley. There is a locked gate about 3km along the Hydro Road, however Mike the landowner is usually amenable to supplying a key to trampers. Contact him on the “cowboyparadise” website, or just drive up to the lodge and ask. To cycle the locked portion (7.5km) takes around 35 minutes. Another option for those coming from Christchurch is to turn off before Kumara onto the old West Coast Road and drive to Dillmanstown. From here it 9.5km (around 45 minutes) cycling along the new West Coast Cycleway to the start of the track.

The track up onto Mt. Kerr starts at the unnamed creek on the big bend on the Hydro Road (E1461160/ N5260130). Its entrance is on the TL of the creek, just up a bit from the iron grill that feeds the water race that runs beside the road. The track has had a bit of work done on it from time to time by volunteers and is still in reasonably good oder. It climbs steeply up onto the ridge on the TL of the creek and follows it all the way to the tussock. It crosses a patch of bare gravel at the top of a slip around 1000m, then re-enters the scrub. From here to the tussock there is a bit of flax and scrub that needs a trim, but it is still easy enough to follow. At the tussock line it veers South up through a band of patchy scrub to the trig at point 1278m, from where it is a relatively straightforward climb up a steep tussock ridge onto Mt. Kerr.

Follow the crest of the Range from Mt. Kerr to the McArthur Crags and drop down the SE spur from here towards the Olderog catchment. The spur has several sharp points which can be skirted on their southern sides. Climb up onto the last point and drop from it onto a flat area with three tarns. A stake with permolat at the northern edge of the bench indicates the drop-off point down a scrubby gully to a second bench with cairns. Drop from the eastern end of this and follow a cut and marked trail across a scrubby gully to the main ultramafic area above the Biv. Follow the cairns in a SW direction down towards the Biv clearing. The Biv itself is visible in fine conditions from near the top of the ultramafic band. A fit party should be able to reach Lower Olderog Biv in 6-8 hours from the start of the Mt. Kerr track in good conditions. Add an extra hour if the gates are locked and you are walking the Hydro Road.

The McArthur Range has numerous good campsites and is relatively easy travel all the way around to Top Olderog Biv. The section from Mt. Kerr to Top Olderog is reasonably straightforward, with numerous little ups and downs. There are only couple of very small tarns on the route which are easily missed, so it would pay to carry some water. Top Olderog Biv is sited around a 100 vertical metres below the crest of the Range, and visible from here in fine weather. Access is down a tussock gully marked with a cairn at the top, just West of the Biv, or directly down the faces above the Biv. Be sure to sidle East out of the gully at 1250m - it's a long way down into the Olderog. Allow 4-6 hours from Biv to Biv.

It is reportedly possible to access Top Olderog Biv from Lower Olderog via Olderog Creek, but this takes longer than the tops route, and is probably not of interest to most. It is a steep drop from the ultramafic bench into the Creek, a couple of small gorges to negotiate in the Creek, then the climb from the creekbed up to Top Olderog Biv. I attempted this route in 2006, but couldn't find a good route down from the bench into the Creek. It's probably easier coming the other way.

In the NZFS days there were tracks up both sides of the Arahura. The one on the TR followed a side-creek of the Olderog called The Trench, which runs above, and parallel to, the main valley. It turns off the track to the Biv at around 680m and drops down a side ridge to a flat in the mid-Olderog, from here it would probably have continued up The Trench. I haven't had an opportunity to check it out, although I would be surprised if much of the track remaining. Glenn Johnston had a look from the Newton Creek end and said the old trackline was overgrown with dense mountain holly. Interest has been expressed by a few Permolatters about reopening The Trench and creating a link between Lower Olderog Biv and Newton Creek Hut. We'll see.

Repairs

No major repairs are needed at the moment. Some of the remaining flathead nails holding the iron roof and wall cladding may lift over time and can be replaced with the small screw-in bolts on site. There is an 8mm ring spanner for screwing them in.

Provisions on site

Two plastic buckets, an aluminum bucket, an aluminum wash basin, a camp oven, two billies, a pot, two small frypans, a small sledgehammer, a shovel, a hammer, a tenon saw, a small phillips screwdriver, a small hacksaw, a hand broom, two paint brushes, 3 litres of grey enamel metal primer, 2 litres of white acrylic, 1 litre of rescue orange acrylic, a small bottle of turps, assorted nails and screws, some large plastic bags and some black polythene. Underneath the Biv are some old lengths of tongue and groove, an old perspex window and frame, a few 6x1's, a 4x2, and a small sheet of iron cladding.