Syme Hut

The North Island’s second-highest hut is perched on Fanthams Peak.

Written by , and      

Shaun Barnett

One of the most superbly located huts in the country, Syme Hut rests on a secondary cone of Mt Taranaki at an elevation of 1950 metres.

Syme’s lofty roost gives an other-worldly sense of being high above both sea and plain. And immediately north, just across the small dip known as Rangitoto Flat, rise the southern slopes of Mt Taranaki. On a clear morning, you can watch the vast pyramid-shaped shadow of Taranaki extend westwards over the Tasman Sea, while outstanding views stretch eastwards over the rumpled terrain of the Whanganui River as far as the mountains of Tongariro National Park.

The hut owes its name to Rod Syme, a giant of a man whose deeds were as big as his stature. A mountaineer, tramper and skier of note, Syme became well known for his ascents of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Syme Ridge on the latter mountain is also named after him.

The track to the 10-bunk Syme Hut begins at the Dawson Falls car park, and at first climbs through ‘goblin’ forest. Beyond the open-sided Hooker Shelter, where the first substantial views of the mountain unfold, subalpine shrublands dominate until altitudinal influences reduce the vegetation to the occasional tussock and alpine plant. Wooden steps provide footing, until they give out and the trail claws up the scoria slopes of Fanthams Peak, marked by poles. In total, it’s a solid 1040-metre grunt to the hut, taking some three-and-a-half to five hours each way, and not to be underestimated in poor weather. During winter conditions, reaching Syme Hut requires mountaineering skills and equipment.