Hutbagging Stony Stream Biv
Frank came up with this one so we sussed out the best way in. The web page entry on tramper.co.nz suggested coming in either up or downstream of the Edwards River but we thought cutting to the river across a low rise from the road that goes over Charlies Saddle seemed more direct. We checked out the satellite view on the WAMS site and it looked as though there were enough gaps in the various forms of scrub to make this a possibility. The drop off from the final terrace looked steep but there was a group of beech trees that suggested a way down through them.
We drove over to the Tophouse Rd. There was a bit of snow around but no drifts on the road. Unfortunately this was not the case for the 4WD road going to Peters Pass so we walked alongside on pleasant mossy vegetation. Once we left the pass and dropped into the Edwards valley there was very little remaining snow. I made an effort to keep my feet dry and surprisingly was relatively successful. At Cow Stream it was possible to smell the hot pools upstream.
After 3 hours we arrived at the refurbished Scotties Hut. It was lined with batts and plywood a couple of years ago and the Combined 4WD Clubs people said a stove was no longer required. However an outdoor fire had been constructed alongside the hut. We had a comfortable night and indeed I was too warm with my medium-weight sleeping bag. We studied the hut book and a descriptive entry by Anne and Bryan Dudley advised thus: at the end of the descent from Charlies Saddle, a 4WD track began on the left by a blue cycleway marker post. 100m along this track a route marked with pink cruise tape led over the small rise and down to the Edwards River.
In the morning we crossed the cycle bridge and ascended Charlies Saddle. At the bottom of the descent we kept our eyes out and around 35m down the 4WD track I noticed a faint foot trail in the grass leading to a pink ribbon tied to a manuka shrub waving in the wind. We cut away surrounding manuka to make this cruise tape more visible as it was too brittle to shift. Frank hadn’t taken along any cruise tape but we both had loppers to clear any broom growing around Stony Stream biv. We managed to follow this cruise tape trail to the edge of the final terrace above the river and then I noticed a bit tied on a fence.
Frank managed to spot tape tied to a beech tree below so we examined the arête of the terrace alongside a deeply incised gully and found more remnants of tape on a patchy trail through low sparse scrub. We then followed tape though a grove of beech trees down to the river bank. Floods had removed any markers of where the track began. I cut some scrub where we dropped down to the river, more as a sign to us for our return.
Once we got down to the Edwards River, Frank was dubious of the slightly raised level but I crossed it solo on each of the three crossings required. We turned up Stony Stream. From the satellite map it was obviously no longer stony but infested with broom along the entire river bed and the bottom was very greasy. Progress was slow and Frank asked me how long I thought the trip to the biv would take. I replied I didn’t know but I did think it would take maybe an hour or so as the biv was only 2km up the river.
Unfortunately the final 700m to the biv was along a narrow broom-infested tributary which we had to slither along, completely in the stream. We negotiated 2 small waterfalls and when I sensed we were near the biv, I checked in with Frank and he said the biv was only 100m away. After bypassing a beech tree that had fallen across the stream, I looked up through the beech trees and could see the biv and then the billy lid suspended by a pink cruise tape ribbon from a tree trunk. It had taken us 3 hours from Scotties Hut and I was not looking forward to the return journey.
The biv was in good order with the broom having been recently trimmed away. We perused the hut book which disappointingly only went back to 2005. It seemed to be visited by hut baggers and the occasional hunter who didn’t appreciate the surrounding broom infestation. The last visitors stated they’d cut a track through the broom up to the tops but we had no time to check this out. Our feet were very cold so I removed my boots and wrung out my socks. The ground was warm enough in the weak sunlight to make them feel a lot happier.
I evicted all wasps dead and alive from the biv and then ate lunch. We returned to the stream and after a while noted it being turbid and a bit higher than when we’d come up, due to snow melt. It was even worse going downstream in those conditions. Unable to see where I was putting my foot, I slipped over twice but Frank in his treacherous trail shoes took more care. We had to consolidate our invisibly placed footing before bearing weight. I hoped the downstream section of Stony Stream would be easier going but alas, it had its own unpleasant features, being deeper, with sections of large greasy boulders we needed to avoid.
We arrived at the Edwards River and retraced our route over the low rise back to the hut where we had 2 hot drinks as we had got a bit dry travelling to the biv with having to concentrate so much. We fuelled up for the walk out. The river levels were noticeably higher with snow melt. We arrived back at the car in the dark with most of the snow having melted on the 4WD road. I have to say it was good to reach the biv but a shame that we hadn’t been able to spend the night there. The greasy river bottom and higher levels had made the trip to the biv a bit tedious but I’m sure in better conditions a visit would be more pleasant.
Part 2: We did a Show Weekend trip back in to the biv after 2 trips in to cut and mark the track and route down to the Edwards River.
We left late on Friday afternoon and started walking in around 5.30pm in the cooler weather. The little Scotties Hut was occupied by 4 friendly overseas people so we camped a bit before the hut in a sheltered spot behind a big matagouri. The warm wind kept the grass dry and dried our gear nicely too.
The Edwards River was up a bit and there was really only one ford at the end of the gravel flat that our track descends to where we could cross but luckily it was satisfactory. Then we had a hideous foray though an old overgrown river channel choked with broom to the bank of Stony Stream. I hoped this was the crux of the trip.
Saturday was warm but we were traveling in the stream which kept us cool. In fact my feet felt a bit cool after 2 hours of this and we were glad to leave the stream where there is the second and 2m high waterfall and follow a strong animal trail up onto the terrace a bit uphill of Stony Stream Biv.
Frank was puzzled when I struck out 90 degrees from our direction of travel along the terrace edge when the trial had petered out, hoping to intersect a track that we'd read about on Facebook (New Zealand Backcountry Huts Renovation). Anyway my gambit paid off and we came onto it 200m short of the hut. It had taken us the 2 hours from the stream's junction with the river, similar to last time's travel time.
A guy had gone in in 2018 and started to cut a 6ft wide track where the terrace abuts into the slope of the hill. He did 200m on his first two trips and went back recently and did another 200m. I don't know why he just didn't open up a route alongside the stream. Anyway his track needs to be linked with the animal trail that we used that climbs from the stream up onto the terrace. The whole valley is totally infested with broom right up to the edge of the stream, hence the traveling in the stream. The good news is that when you cut the broom it pretty much doesn't grow back in a hurry, unlike gorse.
Of course once we got to the biv we couldn't resist doing a bit of track work so Frank extended a little track someone had started to cut for another 75m downvalley. Hopefully the pigs will push it on a bit further to meet up with other trails on a terrace.
In former times animals were run in the valley and kept the broom down but the land was handed over to DoC and the stock withdrawn so the broom went nuts. Unfortunately it's not a nursery plant for natives like gorse and we didn't see any other plants able to grow where the broom had taken hold. The broom-cutter plans to extend that track for the whole 2km downvalley but seeing as it's taken him 2 years to come back and do his third lot of cutting, I think he's dreaming. In the meantime Frank and I have been back twice and done work on our track that goes down from Charlie's Saddle to the Edwards