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January 2016 Issue
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10 trips on the Browning Range

Browning Range seen here across Styx Valley Photo: Pat Barrett

Lying strategically in the hinterland of the central West Coast, just south of Lake Kaniere, the Browning Range, and its off-shoot Whitehorn Spur, are a mecca for trampers, ridge-rovers, hut-baggers, and adventurers. Not only is access to the range and tops made relatively easy by the presence of excellent tracks, but there are also numerous huts around the range flanks and some fascinating country to explore – be that in a weekend or a longer time frame when limitless opportunities await.

Although fully west of the Main Divide, the range’s compact nature makes it an excellent location for trips in this part of Westland. There are no major summits here, with the highest just exceeding 1900m. Nor are there many named peaks, but there are great ridge trips and fine alpine tarns to camp at. The Browning Range could be either the destination or an exciting waypoint for a trip further west and south.

1 Styx River Track

The major access gateway for the range is the Styx River Track off the Upper Kokatahi Road. A good track runs through the valley but is subject to washouts and flooding – a point to consider, for reaching the foot of the range requires a ford of the Styx and there are no footbridges. The Styx is an attractive valley and a popular tramping route.

2 Mid Styx Hut

A standard ex-Forest Service hut on the south side of the Styx River at the foot of the range. The river has to be forded to reach the track to the hut. An old track exists behind the hut up onto the range below Cairn Peak.

3 Browning Range Biv

This bush edge bivvy sits on the northern face just below Lathrop Saddle above Grassy Flat in the upper Styx. It is maintained and makes a great location for a night out.

4 Lathrop Saddle

The only recognised crossing on the range between the Styx and upper Crawford-Kokatahi is Lathrop Saddle, 1572m. A steep, high pass between the catchments, the saddle has some attractive tarns, but the route over to the Crawford requires care.

5 Mt Lathrop

Just above Lathrop Saddle is the range’s highest summit, Mt Lathrop, 1910m. It’s an easy scramble from the saddle and a long descent could be made from here over Mt Browning to Styx Saddle.

6 Tyndalls Knob

West of Lathrop Saddle lies Cairn Peak, 1855m, and Tyndalls Knob, 1794m. Both can be reached along the range with careful scrambling. A descent can be made from Tyndalls Knob to Crawford Junction by bashing down the line of the old track.

7 Top Crawford Hut

Top Crawford has a great location above the river on the sunny southern side of the valley and is an excellent stopover point for those travelling over Lathrop Saddle.

8 Grassy Flat Hut

A comfortable hut located in the head of the Styx River along the route of the well known Three-Pass tramp. A normally easy ford of the river is required to reach it. The hut has good views over the valley.

9 Styx Saddle

Below the bush edge, Styx Saddle, 770m, between the upper Styx and mid-Arahura, is on the route of the Three-Pass tramp and on the line of the old goldminer’s pack-track that was cut through these valleys in the 1880s.

10 Harman Hut

Not far up the Arahura from Styx Saddle is Harman Hut, also along the line of the pack-track. It is sited beside a spectacular canyon and high swingbridge over Harman River, a feeder of the Arahura.

11 Kokatahi River

This large catchment to the south of the Browning Range has a rough track system running through it to Upper Kokatahi Road, making possible a 3-4 day round trip up the Styx, over the range, and out via the Kokatahi. These are rough catchments and trampers need to be fit.

12 Range traverse

A complete 1-2 day range traverse is possible all the way from Styx Saddle to Crawford Junction in the Kokatahi.