Terrible Taranaki

INTRODUCTION

The weather reports leading up to this trip were very inconsistent, and as such we thought we would proceed rather than cancel. However, the leader made it clear to all that reaching the summit (which was the trip’s goal) was going to be a bonus at best! The back-up plan was to tramp around in the lower hills, either from the North Egmont Visitors’ Centre, or from the Dawson Falls road-end.

DAY ONE : Friday 14th August

17:30 : Depart Wellington Railway Station

23:45 : Arrive The Camphouse, North Egmont area, Egmont National Park

We booked to stay in the Camphouse at the road-end as the leader wanted everyone to get a decent night’s sleep after the long drive. This worked out well, as the weather on arrival was poor and several people’s alpine skills were still at a beginner level (ie. going for the lodge that evening would have been ambitious to say the least).

DAY TWO : Saturday 15th August

08:30 : Depart The Camphouse

10:30 : Arrive Tahurangi Lodge (Taranaki Alpine Club)

11:30 : Depart Tahurangi Lodge

14:00 : Lunch break at 2100m

15:00 : Pre-planned turn-around time : 2400m achieved

17:30 : Arrive Tahurangi Lodge

Taranaki5We awoke to excellent weather, and began the walk up to Tahurangi Lodge where we would spend the second night. DOC time to Tahurangi Lodge is 1.5hrs, but the conditions were hard-going with snow to a low level (patches from around 920m) and very humid air. We arrived at the lodge and needed a break, and to make a decision about the day’s plan. This first leg also allowed us to gauge how fit and how sure-footed we all were in the conditions.

Taranaki4The weather was set to be good all day, with light winds rising in the evening. However, the avalanche risk was moderate-to-considerable. We decided to proceed some way towards the top along ridges wherever we could, and make a good set of steps to follow the next morning to hopefully reach the summit for sunrise. The winds were to remain light, and ‘local-types’ told us that conditions would be excellent for an alpine start.

Going up went very well, and we found a good route that was safely out of the main avalanche runs. Several people got to practice kicking steps and other basic alpine skills. The weather cleared to beautiful blue and we found the best picnic spot in all of New Zealand. After lunch we got close to the summit, but managed to avoid ‘summit fever’ (I perhaps found this the hardest!) Taranaki3as we reached our turn-around time and headed down. Again, more practice of steep descents in the Alpine environment was good for us all, and included a fair bit of glissading too – YEEHAA! A great day finished with a fine feast and charades, and we were buoyed by the fact that we would be achieving the summit with a 3am start …

… BUT! A weather check showed all had changed, with winds forecast for up to 60km on the summit and visibility changeable. Our summit was stolen from us (once again, I might add!).

Taranaki2DAY TWO : Sunday 16th August

09:00 Depart Tahurangi Lodge heading south for Manganui Gorge, then Enchanted Track.

13:30 Arrive at The Mountain House

14:45 Depart for Wellington

20:00 Arrive Wellington

As Sunday’s weather did not allow for a further attempt at the summit, the main group headed south on a lower-level tramp (starting out in deep snow) to the Manganui Gorge and then down into the lower forests. Tis is a particularly beautiful walk, in my opinion, with a good variety of views of the mountain, down huge ravines and across the surrounding plains, as well as some delightful old forest-scapes. It culminates at the Mountain House – a fancy eatery that offers fine hot chocolates and fancy flannels in the women’s loos (but not in the Gents’ – outrageous!). The leader brought the van round from the north road-end on this occasion, but this can be made into a loop by following the Curtis Falls Track north (DOC time another 4 hours … can be done in 3 at MF pace) – another worthy trail.

Thanks to all on the trip, for their patience in not reaching the summit and for their understanding of the risks that Taranaki can present even when all looks benign.

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