The Smyth Range divides the Wanganui and Waitaha catchments. The tops are wide and spacious from Mt Durward to Mt Barry, with great campsites in fine weather. Small pocket glaciers – such as the Kea Glacier – still exist, adding a modicum of alpine ambience. Much of the range is composed of shattered schist. The peaks are all very easy to traverse as far as Mt Barry, but getting on and off the range requires more effort and skill. Smyth was a surveyor on the West Coast during the 1880s.
Access: Wanganui approaches From the lower Wanganui Valley, Tarpot Creek can be used to approach the lower Smyth Range. Tarpot Creek, near SH6, was an old hunting access to the tops on Karnback Ridge during Forest Service days. Follow up Tarpot Creek to forks at I34 189807 / BW17 089 191. A little way up the true right branch, old permolat and coloured tape leads up onto the ridge on the true right of this creek and follows it up to Pt 1069 metres. This route is not too bad, and locals keep the line followable and trimmed in places. Scrub in the dip between Pt 1069 metres and the 1100-metre contour is okay if you pick a line carefully. Travel is then open tussock along Karnback past Mt Ashmore to the Smyth Range. Waitaha approaches Normally, the Smyth Range is approached from the Waitaha Valley. From Kiwi Flat in the Waitaha Valley, a track begins up Labyrinth Creek and climbs the spur on the true right to Pt 1125 metres. The track continues south down to Scamper Torrent at I34 263814 / BW17 163 198, where markers may be hard to locate. Scamper Torrent Hut is as marked, 20 metres above the river on a tussock terrace upstream. An old marked route on Headlong Spur from the Waitaha Valley also gives reasonable access to the range. There is a small tarn at J34 306816 / BW18 206 200 at the 1400-metre contour. A marked route behind Moonbeam Hut climbs to the tops up the narrow spur between Dorothy Creek and Moonbeam Torrent, sidling into Dorothy Creek at about the 1060-metre contour and continuing up this dry creekbed to the tops and the upper part of Clearview Spur. There is also a steep route off Clearview Spur down to the County Valley. A little above Pt 1690 metres, leave Clearview where the 1700-metre contour crosses the ridge and descend the faces between Canary Creek and the next creek downstream into the County, opposite the hut. This can be a dangerous route in wet conditions.
Attribution: Yvonne Cook and Geoff Spearpoint, in association with the Canterbury Mountaineering Club