Back Ridge Biv
Image: Dave Quested | ©
Back Ridge Bivouac is located at the junction of the Back Ridge and Rocks Ahead tracks in the centre of the Kaweka Forest Park. The surrounding terrain is mountain beech forest which falls steeply away to creek and river systems.
This 2-person bivouac was built in 1962 by the New Zealand Forest Service and is a useful stopover location to access the central and western areas of the park. The bivouac is situated at 1360 metres and can experience strong-to-gale north westerly winds or very cold southerly changes, with high levels of precipitation including snow in the winter months.
Back Ridge Bivouac is best suited to a weekend tramp in fine weather or as a stop-over for longer tramps. Trampers can make a circular trip from the Makahu Saddle via the bivouac down to Rocks Ahead Hut. From Rocks Ahead Hut trampers can either cross the Ngaruroro River to the “Manson Country” or head north. If heading north, a climb up to Tira Lodge (Venison Tops) will take trampers back across the Ballard Saddle to return via the main Kaweka Range to Makahu Saddle. It also provides access to Middle Hill Hut from Whetu at the northern end of the main range.
Other tramping options via Back Ridge include travelling south to Kiwi Mouth Hut and onto the southern park areas and the Napier-Taihape road accesses.
Trampers are reminded that a number of the tracks in and out of the Back Ridge area are via poled routes traversing open Kaweka sub-alpine tops between 1300 to 1700m altitude – caution may be required during adverse weather conditions. Wind speeds exceeding 180kmh are not uncommon over the main tops, along with extremely cold conditions at any time of the year.
A helipad is situated 100 metres from the bivouac. Flight availability and costs can be obtained from helicopter concessionaires in the central North Island.
From Makahu Saddle a marked, poled track climbs steeply to cross the top of the main Kaweka Range. It drops down a westerly facing spur to reach Back Ridge Hut after 3 – 4 hours. Most of this track is on bare rocky ground and is exposed to the north west winds and gales that are frequent to the main range area. To reach the bivouac, cross Sterns Saddle then descend onto Maminga (1472 metres) and along the ridge to the bivouac (1 – 2 hours).
From the south, access to Back Ridge Bivouac is available via Kiwi Mouth Hut. This is a 7.3 km walk and takes approximately 4 – 5 hours to reach the bivouac.
NZTopo50 map sheet: BJ37
Grid/NZTM2000 coordinates: E1887321, N5645831