An iconic New Zealand landmark, Mt Taranaki is one of the most popular mountains to summit. It’s also one of the most dangerous, with a number of lives lost on the mountain over the years. It is relatively accessible but so many people underestimate the risks from climbing a 2,518m volcano with notoriously unpredictable and changeable weather.
Which was demonstrated the day I went up it.
Staying overnight at Maketawa Hut, an hour toward the summit from North Egmont Visitor Centre saved me the 6am start of others on the mountain, but the best spot would have been the private Tahaurangi Lodge, another hour again up the mountain. The only person who got a view from the summit that day was a lady who started from there at 6.30am.
As I headed up the hill the cloud lifted to reveal perfect blue skies, Taharuangi Lodge and the Transmitter Tower, with clouds below. Stunning start to the walk, I put on factor 50 sun lotion expecting a hot climb to the top.
The cloud held at bay behind as I ascended some impressive steps to the start of a very slippery scree section. For those who have done the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, this will be familiar, but this was steeper, shallower (so more difficult to get a grip on) and much longer.
Decided this was a good time to stop for food and hope for it to blow over. Which didn’t happen by the time others caught up with me and I continued on knowing there were people behind me. I was also using a hiking pole, wearing a decent waterproof and hiking boots, had spare food, water and clothes with me, and a personal locator beacon. Of the twenty other people on the mountain today I only met a couple of other people similarly equipped. One German guy by himself lacked a coat, just had a sweater, and was two hours behind me heading up into wet clouds…
But didn’t. The summit crater is filled with ice all year round, and was quite a surreal experience walking through in near whiteout. I took photos of unusual rocks as I went to be clear of the direction to return.
Didn’t stick around for long either as the cloud was getting wet, with rain forecast for the afternoon. Coming down was faster but harder on the knees and nerves, particularly when the cloud was so thick I couldn’t see the next pole. Easy to see how people can get lost up here and get into trouble.