Author Topic: Mt Taranaki Summit ex North Egmont Visitors Centre Carpark  (Read 2258 times)

My wife and I decided at the last minute to do Mt Taranaki as a challenge. The weather for the trip looked excellent so we headed down and stayed at the Camphouse North Egmont.  The ranger suggested the following an excellent day to make the attempt on the summit. Early January 2008. Our second summit was in late March 2008.  The ice and snow had basically all gone by then except on the crater floor

We entered our intentions in the book at the visitors centre. The following morning we left at 5:30am from 936m asl in the morning expecting a 9-10 hour trip, which actually turned out to be a very slow 12.5 hours. Our second trip took 11 hours but included 2 hours at the summit.  The track begins to the left of the Camphouse which is just above the visitors centre at North Egmont. It was no stress in terms of time as we had left at day break which was one of the pillars of our success.

It is always hard for someone who isnít experienced at tramping to judge just how much gear to take.  What is the balance between safety and being too heavy.  We didnít really eat as much as we expected or drink as much.  I would suggest 3-4 litres fluid per person Ė we had bottled water and Powerade, and some easily eaten high energy foods.  I would suggest Powerade as it replaces the salts etc that you lose on a hike.  To be honest we went through no more than 2 or 3 single serve chocolate bars and a few crackers and some sweets, though a good idea to carry a good bit more than this anyway as it is relatively light.

Clothing and gear we again carried a bit too much, but it is an insurance policy.  The almost ski weight jacket never came out of the pack.  I also had waterproof pants which are light, light first aid kit, flouro snap lights, hiking boots, compass, and walking poles.  My advice is that the poles are great and light, and some $4 woollen gloves from the Warehouse pay big time on the rough lava and scree.  We also wore bright clothing for visibility.

The first part of the climb is up a steep and long 4 wheel drive track. In the early morning mist this was for us quite tough and in sections very steep, and without a gauge on how long it was not a good start mentally. This continues to the transmission tower.

Then a section that is probably the easiest as you wind up a gully on a mixture of track and stairs.  Although it is tough going in stages and warrants a couple of rests, it is actually an uneventful and reasonably straight forward section

Next was the scree. The trail was marked by a series of wooden stakes which were at times reasonable distances apart.  This was a heart breaking section, mentally intense and a seemingly an endless climb up loose scree on a steep slope through cloud and mist (which after a while we broke above).  This simply took us 2 Ė 2.5 hours which was a lot longer than some climbers. (the second time I did the climb 2 months later it was easier as it had rained and the dust below the scree had bound up into almost a soil providing stability so in many ways rain in the days beforehand in summer could make life easier).  Although I made reasonable progress, I found it physically tough and I had to wait long periods of time for Mel to catch up.  This meant I got some great photos and chatted to a few parties that were now passing us.  It is however very tough for the inexperienced and we really pushed our limits to continue. A couple of times I talked about turning back and there were plenty of ďhow the f*** am I ever going to make it to thereĒ thoughts.  Finally though we made the desperate push to the relative stability of the lava flow (called the lizard) which was the final stage to the crater

The lava flow again was extremely tough and steep now heading into late morning it was heating up.  For God sake wear heaps of sunscreen and keep long sleeve top on as long as possible.  The sun is lethal and although we used quite a bit of lotion I did get very burnt by days end. Melís hands were so burnt the back of them turned into two huge blisters.

Also glasses protect from the basalt dust on the scree. I forgot my glasses and the eyes were pretty sore by the end of the day. Watch the sunscreen on the forehead too as combined with sweat the eyes get very bad.  The lava flow is a tough scramble up at times very steep slopes for what must have been close to 2 hours as I constantly waited for the wife and started at this point to doubt as I calculated the possible time it was going to take us.  It had an endless and impossible feel to it at times. Following the poles up the crater was finally reached at a shade after 11am skirting a huge hunk of rock onto the icy crater floor.  The sight was surreal but also the most depressing of the climb.

In order to cross the crater and scale the summit we were faced with slopes of ice that we were not prepared for.  A few attempts saw me sliding down the face exhausted.  I was devastated but determined to make it.  We picked out the closest rock outcrop on the face and started cutting out steps with our boots. Step by step we cut our way up the 20 metre slope of ice until we made the steep rock outcrop which we scrambled and climbed up to the saddle just below the summit.  It was then a warming walk with a sense of achievement up the final rise to the summit.  Many photos, a miniature bottle of fizz and a short time sitting upon the very top rock followed. We however had made it, where a few people had given up before the summit. We chatted to some climbers at the top, one of which was 70 years old and had left base 3 hours after us!! It was the third week in a row he had made the climb. He has my respect. We summated at 11:45 (2518m asl).  The first time I climbed it took 6 hours 45 to reach the top, second time 6 hours though both times we had struggling members of the party.  5 hours would be par for a reasonably fit person

We only stayed 15-20 minutes, talking to experienced trampers and climbers at the top, it was clear we were inexperienced, slow but very determined.  One guy said my wife was very brave, which she is. Now we just had to make it down. We had at this stage burnt over 6.5 hours daylight so I was keen to put some more distance behind us.

Down was for us as challenging as the up section, and although we did take our time it took us basically as long as the ascent. It began with a slide down on our bums into the crater from the bottom of the rock section we had targeted for our final climb. Then across the crater we strolled picking up the bottle of Powerade we had dropped on our ascent from the crater which at least now was cold from half an hour in the snow.

Then on to the lava section again after a careful skirt out of the crater.  Slipping down the ice field didnít bear thinking about. The lava field is steep and treacherous and unless you have a lot of natural balance it takes some time to negotiate safely and securely especially with tired legs.  The lava section again took a very long time under severe sun.

As suggested by an experienced climber at the top we exited to the right on to the scree a little before the bottom of the lava to take advantage of deeper loams. On the scree the clouds closed in and at one point I could not see any of the marker poles or any other party to guide me. Be careful here because it is the level at which clouds commonly roll in especially in the afternoon. Keep your wits about you.

For a while I veered off left way too far and I was starting to panic a bit as I realised I didnít have a clue where I was with only about 20 metres visibility.  Luckily Mel who was behind again spotted the poles and I was able to crab across the face of the scree onto the trail again. It was not a good feeling.  The scree downward was not as physically exhausting but it was technically as demanding.  I learnt to dig my heals in toes pointing up and searching out deep lines of scree to make the decent. Still expect to land on your bum a few times.

People that know how to ski, and those more fearless will make good progress.  Those with a bit more balance retardation like us will take a bit longer.  Be careful to keep eye on the trail markers. Again this section seemed to go forever and the stairs were a very welcome sight through the mist.  The second time was a lot easier again and we took no time to get down the scree following trails left by others. Again the scree was more stable after rain and the mist wasnít quite as thick.

From the stairs down is relatively easy, though legs by this stage are a little jelly like and care must still be taken and there is still some good distance to cover. A toilet is available just above the transmission tower.

The four wheel track down is a long walk which seems relatively easy in the context of the preceding adventure. Now you are reflecting on an achievement with realisation you are home safe.

At 6pm we finally made it to the Vistors Centre.  Physically we were in pretty good shape with the exception of some pretty obvious sunburn.

So my advice for those with average fitness is

1. Pick your weather. Never attempt this mountain outside summer
2. Leave before sunrise to keep time pressure off yourself.
3. Sun Protection must be front of your mind. Hat, glasses, piles of lotion and even light long sleeves
4. I would advise both twin hiking poles and cheap woollen gloves
5. Carry approx 3 litres fluid per person on a hot day, you will drink over 2 of this on the way up. You may also wish to carry a little emergency fluid.
6. Although some more experienced and faster people seem to travel light and get away with good sports shoes, hiking boots are really advised.  I had no problems with blisters at all with 2 layers of socks and boots. Gaitors will help on the scree.
7. Unless you are very experienced donít do this hike solo.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2009, 03:32:37 PM by vinodrinker »

Re: Mt Taranaki Summit ex North Egmont Visitors Centre Carpark
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2009, 05:36:55 PM »
Just back from a great weekend in the Taranaki area, did the organised road bike ride round the mountain on saturday, and then yesterday the summit from North Egmont visitors centre descending and contininung on the round the trip to Dawson Falls where I stayed before returning today for the long drive back.

Great weather for all, some super views from the summit, took about 3 1/2 hrs but certainly found the scree a long slog that's for sure.  I was hoping to continue down to Fantham's Peak and to Dawson Falls, but the snow was alittle too icy on the other side so decided not to chance it.

Some great views across to Ruapeha today too.

I'd echo much of the equipment list but would say boots aren't essential, it depends what you usually walk in, I found lightweight trainers more comfortable and feet certainly notice the difference after a long day.  I'm a trekking pole advocate though, I find they help to maintain a good rythem going up and lessen the weight on the knees on descents.
Waterwise, the more you carry the more you need! Though I ran out of water for the first time I recall towards the end of the day, think the camelback might have been leaking.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2009, 05:40:54 PM by lloydy »