We’ve regrouped at the top of a 300m long stretch of steep scoria on the way down the north ridge of Mount Taranaki. The sun blazes from a cloudless sky, there’s no wind and it’s hot – a heat haze shimmers off the dusty slope. Having climbed over 1500m today our legs are tired and even our day-packs are starting to feel heavy. In some areas of the slope, the scree is deep enough to overtop boots; in others, there’s a thin slippery layer of scoria over rock that makes the descent treacherous.
Bum-slide, side-shoe shuffle or scree-run?
Using these techniques and more, we all make it down the scoria without injury. And then it’s just another 1000m of descent back to North Egmont Camphouse (where we started). A few hundred steps and a boulder track take us to Tahurangi Lodge where anyone hoping to top up their water is disappointed – it’s locked tight. Then the concrete Puffer section has a final laugh at sore feet and shaky thighs before we’re back!
The North Egmont Camphouse is a bargain. For $25 a night we get reserved bunks, hot showers, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a sunrise over the Central Plateau. We took 6 hours to get to the summit and 3 hours to get back down: bang on DOC’s 8-10 hours return-trip guidebook time. We took our time climbing, with plenty of rests in the heat, and taking it carefully over the loose scoria and rocky scrambling sections near the top. We also lingered over the stupendous 360° views from the top and took a late lunch in the snow gully.
We celebrated all 11 of us making the summit of the second highest peak in North Island (2518 m) with dinner at the Deluxe Diner in New Plymouth, 30 minutes drive away – recommended! But in fact, the climb and dinner were really just precursors to the real pleasure of the weekend: sight-seeing the water towers and windmills of Waverley, Whanganui and Foxton on the way back to Wellington.