The three of us awoke to a morning of pouring rain on the day we were to climb Titiraupenga in the Pureora Forest Park. We were, however, travelling from Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty over the Kaimais down to the western side of Lake Taupo and into the Pureora Forest Park. After deciding that we would be leaving the rain behind we grabbed our packs and coats and headed off at about 7:00am but immediately ran into low cloud up the Kaimais. After descending the Kaimais the low cloud lifted and the day wasn't looking too bad but not absolutely fantastic. We followed our map and arrived at the start of the track for our ascent that we estimated was at around 660m.
Titiraupenga is within one of the last ancient rimu forests left in New Zealand and rises to 1042m and sitting slightly southwest is Pureora at 1165m. Titiraupenga is very distinctive and unmistakable from a distance as the very top has a near vertical rocky outcrop and its resemblance is somewhat like a nipple. There are some pine and eucalyptus plantings within the Park and because of the requirements of the logging traffic the metal roads are well cared for, although caution is always needed. Pureora Forest Park is known for the breeding area of the rare native Kokako bird and we hoped to at least hear their booming call. We also wanted to view the grand master rimus that we had heard a lot about.
There was a bonus to greet us at the signposts. We were 300m away from the geographical centre of the North Island which we then found marked by a concrete post and a description of how and who had fathomed it out. Nearby the marker was our first glimpse of a rimu giant - fantastic - it would have taken our joined outstretched arms to surround it - just! The walk started off gently being surrounded by great trees, mosses, lichens, undergrowth and forest mulch everywhere. It was apparent that it had been raining overnight but although the top of Titiraupenga was shrouded in mist we considered that there was no sign of rain. Then the big steep came and we wander slowly upwards on well-defined and marked paths unable to see out into the distance as the canopy covered us completely. The bird life was fantastic and their chorus a treat to hear. We heard a lot of wing flapping but only recognised the tuis and wood pigeons. There were flowers on the trees and forest floor plants and in a particular part of the forest all was covered in drooping green mosses and lichens making the forest look very old and ancient. The rimus, totaras and tree ferns were awesome.
After having climbed up for about an hour we now headed down across a valley with still no glimpse of the top rocky outcrop but now we had peeks of the outlying areas around Lake Taupo and out towards the Tongariro National Park. Suddenly, there it was drifting out of the mist and it made you suck your breath and caused your knees to tingle. Once across the valley it was straight up to the base of the rock. The Department of Conservation track to the top ended here although another track carried on to Arataki Road and a YMCA camp. A notice indicated that the rock top was a spiritual place for the local Poukani Maoris and the Department's responsibilities ended here. We decided to carry on to the top. The climb was now very steep and required hand and foot holds at every move. The trees were now smaller and scrubbier but offered great hand holds. We stopped on a ledge about 30m from the top and above us was a sheer rock face wiped clean by the water that would race off the top. It was skirted on both sides with scrubby bush. Feeling like we had reached the end we sat down and had lunch an hour and a half after leaving the car.
Buoyed on by the male in the team we scrambled up through the scrub to the right and while not looking down we clawed our way to a flat area at the top and there we were! The mist had cleared and the view was fantastic.
The climb back down was taken with caution and with each step and handhold carefully measured. This walk was moderate to difficult and seemed to be much longer than the 2.5kms DOC had indicated. Good footwear is advisable and it is definitely a walk where one should consider the expectation that overnight and all weather preparations maybe needed. Some say that if you arrive early enough in the Park you could climb both Titiraupenga and Pureora but I'm not so sure. Unfortunately we did not have cameras with us but we had taken binoculars that were invaluable at the top.