A successful ascent of Te roro o Taiteariki – the peak you’ve never heard of

  • This topic has 4 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated 2 months ago by Tony G.
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  • #50793 Reply
    Tony Gazley

    There are a total of about 50 volcanic vents in the Tongariro National Park area.  Some are currently active, but most are still quietly dozing after thousands of years, but who could wake at any time. Everyone knows about the three highest peaks, Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, but there are many other lower ones, together with dozens of explosion craters such as the Tama Lakes—and even including some that are next to the main street in Ohakune.

    But well off to one side of the biggest, the scariest, most powerful, and most revered warrior god in the park, Ruapehu maunga, there is a sad and lonely little volcano who seems to spend most of his days gazing wistfully up to his much older brother. The sorrowful wee guy stands completely overshadowed by his tuākana, and is totally ignored by the thousands of travelers who speed uncaringly by in their cars.

    He does have a name—but not one recognized by the NZ Geographic Board. It’s Te roro o Taiteariki. But it’s not even really his name, it just relates to the Māori name for an important place nearby. Apparently, Te Roro o Taiteariki commemorates where Taiteariki (Tai te ariki), who was born in Tahiti in about 1275 and became an ariki in Rarotonga, got his brains (roro) knocked out (charming) in a land related skirmish in the Rangipo Desert.

    Even the little volcano’s age is uncertain, but he is younger than 20,000 years old and so is just a boy compared with others in his whānau. His only real claim to fame is that he is the lowest of the Tongariro Park volcanos. Barely topping 1,000 m he also has the ignominy of having had a couple of Transpower transmission pylons planted almost on top of his head!

    So, instead of heading for the highest and most glamorous peaks in the park it seemed like time to make a visit to the lonely little warrior, to say hi, and hopefully cheer him up a bit. And who knows, one day soon he may get an infusion of magma and develop some muscles like his big mates and then start causing a bit of bother in his own neighbourhood by throwing big boulders around and blowing ash into the sky.

    The journey to Te roro o Taiteariki

    On Pinnacle Ridge

    Below Pinnacle Ridge

    Saddle Cone

    Rangipo desert

    Advanced base camp

    Rangipo desert and Ruapehu maunga

    Rangipo desert

    Ascending the summit slopes to Te roro o Taiteariki

    Sarah on the summit of Te roro o Taiteariki

    Recovery camp

    Heading home

    The end of the day

    Home sweet home – WTMC Ruapehu Lodge

    Sarah Fisher and Tony Gazley

    April 2022

    #50795 Reply

    Congratulations! An epic achievement! This surely ranks up there with the ascent of Rumdoodle in the annals of mountaineering history! And launching the summit attempt from Iwikau village was clearly an inspired strategic masterstroke!

    But I do wonder about the recorded history of this majestic peak. The date of the first Polynesian settlement of New Zealand is controversial but I believe current scholarly opinion puts it at about 1300, and the first settlers would have been few in number and largely confined to the coast, so it seems somewhat unlikely that a Rarotongan ariki born in 1275 would have been involved in a land dispute in the Rangipo Desert.

    #50799 Reply
    Tony Gazley

    Well spotted Harry – and you are correct. The report at https://www.folksong.org.nz/waiouru_history/12_boundaries/index.html<states:

    “Mapouriki” was previously known as “Te Roro o Taiteariki” because this place commemorates where Taiteariki (Tai te ariki), who was born in Tahiti in about 1275, became an ariki in Rarotonga, and got his brains battered out on the the Rangipo Desert at Onetapu.

    But given the dates his death couldn’t have been over a land dispute with colonialists and the document at http://www.jps.auckland.ac.nz/document//Volume_82_1973/Volume_82%2C_No._4/Ngati_Rangi%3A_Whiro%26apos%3Bs_family_at_Murimotu%2C_North_Island%2C_New_Zealand%2C_by_R._A._L._Batley%2C_p_343-354/p1 confirms this:

    According to Aropeta Haeretuterangi’s evidence 1 in the Murimotu Block hearing in 1873, Taiteariki was killed by Houmea at Te Onetapu.

    So seems Taiteariki had his brains ‘battered out’ by the bros. We didn’t find any evidence one way or the other.

    And at least we climbed the correct peak without 3,000 porters contrary to Sir Hugely Havering’s expedition.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by Tony Gazley.
    • This reply was modified 2 months, 1 week ago by Tony Gazley.
    #50817 Reply
    Heather G

    Enjoyable read Tony. Thanks. How many kms did you cover?

    #50890 Reply
    Tony G


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