Browning Pass - Southern Alps CrossingIntermediate - Experienced
Submitted by Giles Fairbrother
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Back country - remote
Point to Point (one way)
Undulating, some big hills
Native bushOpen tussock/grasslandsOpen ridges/tops
Intermediate - Experienced
The Styx Valley track is currently closed due to multiple slips.
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THIS IS A SERIOUS BACK COUNTRY MISSION, DO NOT ATTEMPT IF INEXPERIENCED!
Start with an easy 7k of 4wd track before starting to rock hop/river cross your way right up to the climb to Browning Pass.
As you turn out of the main valley into the upper Wilberforce it noticbly narrows and becomes more terrace negotion and shingle fan crossings which really puts a knife in your average speed. Keep looking around - there are amazing steep valleys and the odd animal around.
There is a good grunt up to Browning Pass and it is worth every bit of effort. Amazing surroundings of a big basin with a lake meet you and massive peaks either side of you. Follow the DOC markers carefully down to Arahura riverbed. Fantastic Coast to Coast training begins, boulder hopping down here for several kms untill traversing up onto the pack track starting about 2k from Harmen Hut.
Rest up here (I had lunch.) You then go more up but undulate round to Styx Saddle before descending to Grassy Flat hut.
Give your quads a well deserved rest here before the 14k slog out to the Styx road end - not to be underestimated!
Features of interest
The whole way is sheer mountainous beauty. The huts are notable points of interest. There are 5 huts to inspect and fill in hut books at. Make sure you do this as they help SAR find you if you get lost.
Make Up of Run
Untracked / Route only: 40%
Technical Single Track: 30%
Moderate Single Track: 10%
Farm Road / 4WD Track: 20%
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Turn of SH77 at Windwhistle.
Study this area map before departing.
Follow the road toward Glenthorne Station but turn off before it heads down to the canals.
Follow the Wilberforce Canal till you hit the river bed.
You are now in DOC land.
It is 4WD truck territory from here to the start at Fanghill Hut.
Follow the reasonably obvious 4WD wheel marks.
You can start anywhere from end of the canals but it will add a few kms.
Park wherever turns you on.
Up to Browning Pass you follow the river bed. There are some broken walk trails but they are hard to follow. The river is the best bet and your own intuition.
After the pass the track is easy to follow till round the lake and descending the first spur. Further down however the poles are harder to keep track of so keep looking up as if you get off trail you will get very bluffed.
Once down to the Arahura riverbed you follow this until it turns up to the pack track, which is easy to follow untill the end.
Thermal leggings, Lightweight fleece top, Short-sleeved thermal top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Windproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival bag, Cellphone, Compass, Map, Headtorch and spare batteries, Crampons / microspikes (for winter conditions), Gaiters.
The streams provide good water the whole way.
The only part to watch is the last 4-5k of the Styx as stock are grazed up there.
There are however side streams pretty much to the road end which are beautiful and clean.
Seasonally I would only attempt this in Summer-Early Autumn as other times of year it could easily turn into an overnighter. There are many river crossings, some over knee deep (my knees that is and I am 195cm tall) at the lowest flows. I know someone ran over all the way from grassy flats nearly to the end and couldn't cross the Styx so had to go all the way back to the hut. Not ideal.
Generally mountainous so the weather is the main hazard. Take care around the tops not to get bluffed and stay on trail. Use common sense on river crossings - remember common sense is not that common!!
A good forecast will make or break your trip.
Also decending off Styx Saddle the pack track has some very slippery rocks - not obvious, when descending rapidly become a lot more dangerous. This descent is also a great place to roll your ankle as you are getting knackered and the track is very uneven. Button off the pace or walk if necessary - it might save you a chopper trip out.
Post run indulgence
Kokatahi Hotel - Grenville Berry - 03 7758490
I reccomend staying here the night after - Allow 3 days for entire adventure and you wil want at least one support driver to drop you off and pick you up. The hotel is 15k from the end. It is a classic West Coast pub with good back packer type accomodation but also double rooms - one with an ensuite for $90 double! Book in advance and keep in touch with Grenville regarding weather forecast and possible changes. Hes a good bugger!
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