It was late on a Friday night in the middle of February 2014. It was a long drive from Wellington and Palmerston North so we were all set for an early one.
We had arrived at the base of Mt Egmont, also known as Mt Taranaki, the second highest mountain in the North Island of NZ after Mt. Ruhapehu. We booked into The Camphouse which is a great place to stay if you are looking to climb the mountain which is what we were doing or explore the nearby trails. You need to make the booking before arrival and costs $25 per adult per night.
Everyone in the place was already asleep so we quietly organised ourselves for the day ahead. Packing lunches, filling water bottles, making sure the essentials were where they needed to be so we could wake up and be ready to go. We each made our way to sleep hoping to be well rested for the climb ahead. Soon after, we heard some rumbling and scratching in the dark close to one of the beds. One of the lads went to inspect and was greeted by a hungry possum rustling through his bag looking for some late night treats. A little fright in the night.
We all woke a little bleary eyed the following morning, the thoughts of the possum putting us on edge during the night but it was a beautiful day so we quickly put any feeling of tiredness behind us. The summit was in sight so off we went.
Mount Taranaki is an active Volcano on the west coast of the North Island in the Taranaki region. It rises 2,518 m high above sea level and in the summer months it can be summited with relative ease without any mountaineering experience. The best months to attempt it being February to mid April. The hike is 6.3km one way.
The morning was quite chilly so we were all wearing fleeces, jumpers and coats to keep us warm but with each step up the mountain and with the sun rising higher in the sky we started to peel off the layers.
The first part of the walk is on a nice gravel track with some parts being fairly steep. As we made our way higher and higher up the mountain, the views of the land below started to impress. It is almost completely vertical for the entire 6.3 km of the hike with only a few points of steady gradient so it is important to take breaks as needed and lots of water.
A good place to stop is Tahurangi Lodge which is about 1.5 – 2 hrs from the base and has public toilets nearby. A lot of people congregate around here before making the push for the summit.
We passed by the hut and looked up at the summit ahead. The terrain becomes much more uneven with loose rocks and scree. Here is where the real challenge starts.
The clouds started to form ahead of us. The blue skies from the early morning had turned grey. The beautiful views of the land below were gone but we trudged on step by step keeping our fingers crossed the clouds wouldn’t obscure the views at the top.
As we got closer to the summit it turned into a hands and knees job clambering over the volcanic rocks. With any hike, its important not to look to the end too much as you sometimes get disheartened if its tough. With each step you eventually get closer and closer.
And finally you make it to the top!!
Unfortunately the clouds didn’t clear for us as we had hoped but we were delighted to stand above them and see the blue skies again. We stood on top of the mountain and looked out over the clouds that stretched below.
We sat down for a well earned lunch, resting our weary bones and soaking up the sunshine.
After a well earned rest we were re-energised and ready to head back down the mountain. All downhill from here. We took our time with the initial part of the descent with large rocks that require careful footwork for safe passage.
But soon after that we arrived at the scree and loose rock material. We slid down the mountain almost like snowboarding. My balance is not the best and I was close to taking a tumble on multiple occasions but made for a quick and exhilarating descent.
We came back out of the layer of clouds and the end was in sight. We were passing by Turhurangi hut as a weary traveller went over on his ankle. He was an elderly man in his late 50’s that had done all the hard work and was so close to the finish line. We helped him back to the hut but he had to wait for further assistance to make his way down.
We watched our steps a little more after that hoping we would get to the bottom without any bother.
The steep downward slope on the gravel track took its toll on our knees.
Step by step we made our way down the mountain back to the starting point by the Camphouse.
Hungry, tired, achey but completely worth it.
For the brief moments we stood among the clouds, we all felt like giants.