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Mid Styx Hut

Mid Styx

(Mid Styx Hut: Photo Glenn Johnston 2014)

Maintenance Status

Mid Styx Hut is a maintain-by-community project with Mark Mellsop-Melssen of Hokitika as contract signatory. The Hut was designated as minimal maintenance when Mark took it on in 2008, but nothing had been done since the NZFS tenure in the 1980's. By then the Hut's piles and floor had largely rotted out, and it was hemmed in by regenerating bush. DOC cleared an area of regrowth on the northern side the Hut in 2006 and Phil Evans of Hokitika started tidying the Hut and surrounds. In 2009 the Hut was completely repiled and re-floored by a Permolat work party. DOC backloaded our materials free of charge while they were doing other work in the valley. The Hut was repainted in March 2014. Permolat volunteers have recut and marked the access tracks to the Hut, and a tops track up behind it onto the Browning Range.

Location

Styx valley. Map BV19. Grid Ref: E1456688/ N5249300. 460m altitude. Mid Styx is located on a high bush terrace midway up the TL of the Styx valley. Mature podocarp, rata, and hardwood forest surround the Hut and give it great deep-bush ambience. The bird life is prolific with tui, kakariki, pipipi, weka and morepork providing a soundtrack. Mid Styx is only a couple of hours from the roadend, but is usually bypassed by trampers going up the main valley track on the opposite side of the River. A ford of the Styx from the TR is required for the two standard access routes, although would be possible to get all the way up the TL of the valley if this were absolutely necessary. Overnight visits to Mid Styx have increased significantly since its profiling, repairs and trackwork. There are now also a reasonable amount of drop-ins from folk passing through the valley, and Hunters have started to come back to the Hut. Currently there is a lot of sign and deer activity in Tyndall Creek.

Mid Styx Hut location

Access

The two principle access routes to Mid Styx Hut both require a ford of the Styx River, so weather is always going to be an important factor for intending visitors. The top ford on the upriver access route is relatively easy and safe at normal flows, however there is no safe ford currently opposite Tyndall Creek, where the lower access route begins. There are few other good options in close proximity to Tyndall Creek. The best option for those wanting to use the lower route currently, is a ford of the Styx at the end of the Grassy flat, around one kilometre up from the shingle bluffs at end of the roadend farm track on the TR of the valley. Travel on the TL is a mix of grass flats, boulderhopping, and a fairly well marked, roughly cut DOC stoatline. It takes a bit over an hour to get up to Tyndall Creek in this manner. Head up Tyndall Creek for around 45 minutes, crossing and re-crossing where necessary, to around the 400m contour line. Cairns and cruise tape on the TR bank here mark the start of a track up onto the bush terrace. There is steep climb of 15 minutes or so to where the track flattens, then continues along the terrace. It is around half an hour from here to the Hut. The tracked section was last recut in February 2014 and is in good condition. Allow 2.5-3 hours from the Styx road end to the Hut using this route. Tyndall Creek is usually difficult and dangerous to cross after heavy rain.

The upper valley route starts on the Grassy Flat track around an hour up from Tyndall Creek, and is marked by a permolat arrow and cairn at stoat trap 67 and This is directly opposite the large a orange triangle on the TL bank of the River. There is also a routered sign and track to the riverbed a further 200m upvalley where the best crossing used to be. The River has since changed, and while it can still be crossed here, the Ford at trap 67 is the easier of the two. The track was up to the Hut starts at the orange triangle and climbs steeply onto the terrace on the TL of a large unnamed side-creek. It follows the terrace edge towards the Browning Range for 20 minutes before veering West for 1/2 a kilometre to the Hut. The track was recut in February 2014 and is in good condition. Allow around three hours for this route.

Type

Mid Styx is a standard NZFS S81 four-bunk design with open fire, built in the 1960's. The floor, piles, joists and bearers at Mid Styx were completely replaced in the 2009 working bee, and the hearth re-concreted. The cupboard and woodbox vestibule were removed during the renovations. There is no toilet currently and water is from pools in a very small creek next to the Hut, that generally only runs after rain. The bunks are wire netting with new DOC fireproof mattresses. Mark built a small woodshed for the Hut in 2013 with materials salvaged from the renovations. Glenn Johnston and Chris Steel have been helping Mark out with the work on the Hut.

Condition

As a follow on from the 2009 maintenance Mid Styx had its exterior painted, the clearing enlarged, and firewood stockpiled in 2014. DOC Hokitika supplied 12 litres of orange paint through the Dulux scheme for the painting. The framing and cladding above floor level is original and surprisingly well-preserved despite the years of zero maintenance. The original fireplace was cemented on top of a pile of rocks and there are some gaps around the base that would be big enough for vermin to get in. The iron backing between hearth and chimney is rusting out. DOC consider that there is some fire-risk because of this, although it's pretty much been like this for decades. The sheet of clearlite in the roof is past its best-by date. Take some mosquito coils if visiting in summer as the critters come down the chimney when the fire goes out. The Hut is currently rodent free, but this needs to be monitored. There is an ample supply of poison on site.

Routes

An old NZFS track 10 minutes upriver from the Hut provides access onto the Browning Range. It was reopened by Permolat volunteers in 2010, and recut and marked by Glenn Johnston and Greg Ross in February 2014. From the turnoff the track goes in a SSW direction along the TL terrace of the big unnamed side-creek. It connects with a ridge on the creek's TL and follows it up to the tussock. The top section of the track is very steep and awkward to stay on. An alternative is to sidle West into a more open gut and head up that. Allow two hours from Mid Styx Hut to the tussock. There is a good tarn and campsite there, and another two hours to the top of Cairn Peak.

It is possible to access Browning Biv using this route and then traversing the tussock basin in the unnanmed side-creek. Climb from the basin up onto the ridge bounding its TR and sidle at roughly 1700m around and down to Lathrop Saddle. Follow the poled route from here down to Browning Biv. Allow five hours from Mid Styx Hut to Browning Biv using this route, which is longer and more arduous if you were to use the main valley tracks.

A crossing of the Browning Range from Mid Styx to Top Crawford Hut is something fitter types may like to consider. Access is via the tops track and the basin in the unnamed side-creek. Cross the Browning Range at the low point in head of the creek (E1458390/ N5246493) and drop down to the cirque with tarns on the Crawford side. The tarns are usually snow covered for a good portion of the year. There is an open gut just below the bench where the tarns are that provide easy access into the creek catchment below. Follow the creek down into the Top Crawford basin. Allow 6-7 hours for the crossing in good conditions. Ice axes may be necessary during the colder months.

A traverse of the Browning Range and down Whitehorn Ridge to Crawford Junction Hut is also possible from Mid Styx. The Range is relatively easy travel in good conditions. An old tops track down Whitehorn Spur to Crawford Junction is very overgrown and not followable on the lower faces. Whitehorn Spur Biv marked on some of the older maps was removed in 2006. Allow a long day in good conditions for this route, and take a tent just in case.

Repairs Needed

The hearth and iron backing will possibly require some maintenance. The external chimney cladding is OK still, but over the longer term may need some attention. A toilet will hopefully be built at some point and it has been suggested that a cowling be made for the top of the chimney. The clearlite in the roof still needs replacing.

Provisions on site

A stool, a shovel, three food tins, a broom, two axes, a hand saw, a hearth shovel and brush, some sheets in a sealed barrel, a gas stove, some billies, pans, cutlery, plates, a cup, a hammer, some tin snips, tools, a first aid kit. Some left over paint, paint brushes, plus ladders that Mark constructed are still on site, and can be used in the future for touch-ups.