Steep scamper for any tramper
Nestled in a beautiful basin on the lower slopes of the Smyth Range on the West Coast, Scamper Torrent is a four bunk Forest Service hut. Although infrequently visited, it can be reached in a (hard) day from the road end and has a wonderfully isolated feel.
Access up the Waitaha Valley is now along the north bank and there’s no public easement over the private land, so you must keep between the fenced farmland and the river. This means you’ll often be walking along the fenceline, or in the riverbed, but for a decent distance there is an excellent farm track. The Permolat group has marked a track over a low bush knoll, thick with kiekie and supplejack, which avoids bluffs where the river cuts in tight. At Macgregor Creek, the marked DOC route starts and travel is mainly in the riverbed before climbing through the forest on a rough track around Morgan Gorge.
The Waitaha, typical of Westland rivers, is characterised by steep hillsides clad with lush green bush, contrasting with the turquoise milky blue of the glacier-fed river. It is deep and fast flowing with serious rapids, large boulders, and demands respect, even in low flow. A swingbridge at the upper entrance to Morgan Gorge provides a good viewpoint of the deeply incised gorge and the blue water flowing far below.
Kiwi Flat Hut is 20 minutes upriver, but the trip to Scamper Torrent requires a steep ridge climb. The route starts a short way up Labyrinth Creek and is marked with a mixture of white permolat and cruise tape. There are some unrelenting steep sections, where it feels like you’re climbing a ladder, but rata roots provide good foot and handholds. The travel eases at the bushline, and the roughly marked route down to the basin and hut heads to the left of the tarn on the ridge. It’s a steep but short drop though the scrub; this time the trunks of the subalpine dracophyllum provide good handholds. On reaching the stream, the Scamper Torrent disappears into a gorge and the hut is a 10-minute walk upstream, perched on a terrace above the river.
It’s an attractive basin with outstanding views and worth every effort to get there. Varied subalpine scrub, tussock grasslands, impressive bluffs at the valley head, and the Smyth Range rising high above provide an impressive setting.
Mt Durward is a perfect day trip from the hut if you have the time, experience and energy to climb another 1000m. It takes some route finding to weave your way in, out and around the many fissures and gorges that characterise this area. From its summit, there are expansive views of the Southern Alps and across the lowlands to the Tasman Sea. Ice axes and crampons may be needed well into the summer months for this 1929m peak.
- 11.1km to hut
- Total Ascent
- Road end to Morgan Gorge Swing Bridge 4hr; Swingbridge to Scamper Torrent Hut 4hr
- Scamper Torrent Hut (free, four bunks)
- Waitaha Road end