A quick trip to Mount Taranaki

Mt. Taranaki, ‘a difficult hike’

My Alarm goes off at 4am and I’ve had only 2.5 hours sleep because it’s been yet another spitefully hot night. We readied our mustaches (why not!?), packed 3 litres of water each, a cap, walking pole, gloves and lots of snacks, as per DOC guidance. My hiking buddy, Richard and I arrive at the Egmont Visitors Centre at 5am, roadkill possums litter the roads through the forest and the car park is full already! We then meet Simon, a local from Stratford who has done this ‘difficult hike’ 19 times already… The first thing I notice is the incredible view of the night sky, almost totally unhindered by unnatural light. Stars dot the sky and the band of the Milky Way paints a spectacular show above past the lonely mountain. The next minute, after getting a sore neck due to staring straight up, the silhouette of the mountain was just visible enough as a darker shade against the night sky. Tiny moving and flashing lights were seen striating the mountain to the top. These were hikers that started at 1am to get to the summit (2,518m, a climb of over 1,500m from the centre) to see dawn break (Note to self: I’ll do this next time if the hike goes well…) 

The Ascent - Egmont Visitors Centre - Tahuranghi Lodge - Crater - Summit of Taranaki 

Starting almost straight away after meeting we hike an hour of steady incline through forest until we reach Tahurangi Lodge past the large antenna station and (only) drop toilet. Dares are then doled out, one takes the risk. At the lodge, people are just getting up to start the ascent (cheating) and we break. It’s at this point when the hike turns into more effort, with some clambering up and over boulders and a big set of stairs. I don’t like stairs but Simon a.k.a ‘Mr. Sky Tower’ powers on (Simon has a habit of running up the Auckland Skytower competitively). It was at this point dawn broke giving everything a beautiful orange wash. A beautiful moment part way into the trek. The next hour or so after the steps was a whole new difficulty level, scoria - small loose pumice-like rock and dust. I had read online this can be one step up and two steps back, this wasn’t a lie, you do occasionally fall forwards and slide downslope. This was hard on the legs and a Nordic walking stick really helped out here. When we reached the lava field after following the bent (people obviously hold onto these to pull themselves up) route poles (note that these have numbers on, which decrease as you ascend, a handy indicator of the distance left to the crater), we felt a tentative sense of relief and took a well deserved rest for the lava field part, also referred to as the Lizard. Gloves are good here, ones with grips. The next hour or so is climbing and scrambling up sometimes sharp igneous rocks. This is where it is not quite a ‘hike’, but the climb isn’t difficult, it just takes a long time and is a killer on the legs and knees. After the climb, you are laughing as you’re minutes from the crater and the views towards New Plymouth are amazing. 

Antannae close to Tahuranghi Lodge

Dawn breaks at the foot of the stairs

The dreaded stairs

Breaking bad

The crater is expansive and has ice/snow due to its altitude and cover from the sun. On the left hand side is the ‘Shark Tooth’ and to the right up yet another scoria slope, is the summit. By this point, the legs say ‘why the hell not’ and thankfully it’s a quick scramble to the summit. It took us 4 hours at a good pace, with a few breaks. Luckily we had some perfect weather and there was no wind at all when we sumitted, as a result of this we seemed to be swamped with flying insects, some bite and everyone there were uselessly screaming and shouting at them to, as put politely, bug off. This swarm of insects though is probably also due to people frequenting this area for some time, bringing food with them and leaving food and waste behind. We took an obligatory picture, but the photographer had some issues remembering that he came up with any friends at all or does selfies just too well (see image…)

Best summit shot ever

The Sharks Tooth

The Descent 

This was the best bit, legs aching, bug bitten, wind beaten, starting to chill and seize up a bit - ready to go back down. The initial climb down over the lava fields really wasn’t bad at all, but there was a fair bit of stopping to allow climbers past (good practice I’m told, and rightly so to avoid kicking down rocks into peoples faces). There are so many potential routes here, you needn’t actually follow the marker poles and you can avoid the crowd by going off-piste. At this point, due to our early start, the mountainside was filling up with people that started at more business hours kinda time. This took about 40 minutes, we laughed and joked and then hit the scoria. It is probably best to do this as soon as you can to miss out needless slow climbing down the Lizard, plus its heaps of FUN as you fly down and make up loads of ground and pass lots of people coming the other way. This requires a technique for maximum speed, but if you’re nimble, it should be too difficult to pick up). Also, bring a GoPro for this run, I wish I had. As we were descending at pace the clouds decided to roll in too, which didn’t obscure our vision much. After the toll this was having on our legs and knees we stopped, breaked and then went down the stairs, which was just as bloody painful as going up (but not for the fireman). Though, when you get a bit of a stride going, including some unusual hopping and biting your lip, you get to the bottom of the steps pretty fast. With Tahurangi Lodge approaching we felt like we were over the worst. But alas! no! Down from the lodge is a horrible sealed road and after spending a day on your feet your legs feeling pretty terrible, each step on concrete felt like being stabbed in the knees and this road goes on for a while! I walked backward for this section as much as I could. 

The total time taken was approximately 7 hours in total, not bad for two not-so-fit-but-up-for-it guys and a fit volunteer fireman, stair chaser unit undertaking his 20th mission to the Taranaki summit!… I couldn’t wait for a Tip Top, a beer and a shower. I have also never looked forward to bed so much after such an intense day with so little sleep.

I wouldn’t call Mt. Taranaki, just a ‘difficult hike’, I’d call it ‘difficult uphill slog with some climbing’, the hiking really is only the first half of it all :) The early start was inspiring and the gloves and walking poles were invaluable. The mustaches only optional, however. Thanks to Simon for volunteering to walk us up there and for Richard for saying yes because Simon did too. What a memorable climb I hope to do again but even earlier for sunrise. Next time, I’ll take the drone!

If you have any questions about the hike (we spent ages looking for information to make sure we could do it properly) feel free to email or leave a comment below :)

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