Tapuae O Uenuku (Autumn-Winter)

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    • #90301 Reply
      Liam Hendry

      Hi, pretty new to mountaineering here, my largest summits thus far have been Ben Lomond (summer) and Taranaki (summer).

      Some climbers on Taranaki recommended Tappy to me and I thought It’d be a good starting block for winter climbing. I generally solo climb

      What can I expect on the summit and would you recommend it for winter climbing?

    • #90504 Reply

      Kia ora Liam,

      Tappy is a great first winter peak! It’s easy but sustained climbing. On a good day, the view at the peak is pretty special – it’s the highest point in NZ outside of the Southern Alps.

      The usual route is up the Hodder river – often slated for the considerable number of river crossings, but quite lovely. The land owners at the bottom of the route do ask that you contact them before crossing their land, but they are very accommodating – just follow the instructions on climbnz.

      RE: climbing solo:
      Tappy is reasonably easy to climb solo – there are no technical components on the regular route. However, Alpine climbing is best as a team sport – it’s a harsh environment and great to be there for one another if things go awry.

      Before getting into winter mountaineering, I would recommend completing an Alpine Instruction Course. Such a course will teach you the basics of effective movement on snow with and without crampons; route selection to mitigate avalanche risk; and how to self arrest if you do slip. I’m not sure whether WTMC is running a course at the moment, but NZAC and TTC both run courses in Winter and both are excellent.

      Once you have completed one of these courses, you will also be able to start joining WTMC-organised alpine trips, and this can open up more varied routes with skilled climbers.

      ‘Hope that helps

    • #90506 Reply

      I tried to post the comment below yesterday but the forum wouldn’t allow me to post it with links included, so I have had to modify it to remove the links. My advice to Liam is a bit more negative and cautionary than James’s. – Harry

      Hi Liam, since nobody else has replied, I’ll make a few comments. I’ve climbed Tappy half a dozen times, all of them in late winter, at Labour Weekend or around that time.

      You don’t mention whether you are a New Zealander and what background experience you have in the New Zealand outdoors (in tramping for example), or in river crossings or understanding New Zealand weather patterns and snow conditions. Tappy is a straightforward mountain for experienced mountaineers if you know what you are doing and you are used to the New Zealand outdoors and you have the right tramping gear and the right alpine gear and you know the right route and you get the right snow, weather, and river conditions. It’s certainly one of the easiest of New Zealand’s really big mountains. But it’s still a serious mountain and definitely not one for beginners. If your previous mountaineering experience is limited to climbing Ben Lomond and Mt Taranaki in summer then I would very strongly advise you against it. I’ve never climbed Ben Lomond but I understand there’s a track all the way to the top and in summer it’s really just a tourist walk. Taranaki is more serious but it’s still a fairly straight-forward tourist climb in summer as long as it’s not icy and the weather is good. Tappy, on the other hand, is a fairly serious undertaking even in summer, and a potentially a serious alpine climb in winter conditions. Frankly I think you would be crazy to try and do it solo in winter with only your limited experience. (Sir Edmund Hillary did actually climb it solo in winter back during the Second World War with very little previous alpine experience, cycling from Blenheim and back during a weekend’s leave from the airforce, if I remember correctly, but Sir Ed was Sir Ed and one of a kind.)

      A climb of Tappy is a very different undertaking from Ben Lomond or Taranaki in many ways:
      – It’s a multi-day trip with a long walk-in and walk-out, rather than just a day trip. Really fit people sometimes do it in two very long days, but most people spend three days over it, and even then it depends upon getting the right weather conditions on the middle day.
      – There’s no marked track for much of the way.
      – On the walk-in and walk-out you are in the gorge of the Hodder River for most of the day, with dozens of river crossings (most people count about 80 each way) so you have to know how to cross a river. Under normal conditions the crossings are completely straight-forward, but if the river is up it can be completely uncrossable. If it is up a bit it may be ok if you know how to link up with somebody else for the crossing, but you obviously can’t do that if you are by yourself.
      – There is no marked route beyond the Hodder huts (or at least beyond the start of Staircase Stream), and the route isn’t necessarily obvious. There are a couple of standard routes that people use and you may possibly find some cairns along the way, but there is no permanently marked ground trail and it would be easy to go wrong and get into potentially serious difficulties.
      – There are steep slopes and bluffs on the upper part of the mountain, and steep drops off the back of the final summit ridge.
      – In summer conditions when there is no snow there are long steep scree slopes and loose rock on the upper part of the mountain, with a possible danger of rockfall.
      – In winter there will be snow, and conditions on the upper part of the mountain could be very icy and dangerous.
      – If there is snow and ice you will need to have an iceaxe and crampons and know how to use them. If you don’t have them, or you don’t know how to use them, it would be very easy to take a slip on the steep icy upper parts of the mountain, and the results could potentially be fatal.

      If you don’t have any experience in snow and ice, and with using an iceaxe and crampons, I would once again very strongly advise you not to attempt this. And even for someone with the relevant experience and gear, I would advise them not to go solo.

      Where do you live? If you are in Wellington maybe you should think about joining our club and going out on a few mountaineering trips to gain some more alpine experience. We also run a snowcraft course where you can learn some snow and ice skills (or at least we have run one in the past – I don’t know whether there is going to be one this year.)

      You can find quite a number of trip reports about Tappy here on the club website which will give you an idea of what it is like. Here are some links to some of them:

      ****Note: I’ve had to cut the next bit where I gave a lot of links to some trip reports because this bloody forum for some reason won’t let me post a comment with links included. But if you do a google search for WTMC Tappy you will find a number of trip reports which make good reading and will give you an idea of what it is like. I particularly recommend one called Happy on Tappy which will give you a very good idea of what it is like on the upper part of the mountain in icy winter conditions. (I’ll also modestly note that there is also one from 2010 with me in the photos – that’s the last time I climbed it.)

      If you do a google search I’m sure you will also be able to find lots of other trip reports from non-WTMC sources. For example, there is one called A Stray Life by an American hiker who climbed it in April last year (so really just late summer, not winter) and describes it as the scariest hike he’s ever done. (If you do decide to attempt it despite my advice, this report contains some useful links on getting permission from the landowners and on staying in Hodder Hut.)

      I hope this is useful


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