Mt Taranaki/ Mt Egmont Summit via Standard North Route

  • 1 day return via same track
  • Medium

North Island's second highest mountain, everyone knows Mt Taranaki. Known as a relatively easy climb given the elevation gained.

Mt Taranaki Summit • By CraigNZ.
Key information
Walking time
1 day
8 hr – 10 hr
Distance
18.0km
Type
Return via same track
Return via same track
Grade
Medium
Bookings
No bookings — open access
No — open access
Find it
Starts
North Egmont Visitors Centre
()
Ends
North Egmont Visitors Centre
Maps
NZTopo50-BJ29
Altitude
936m – 2,518m
Altitude change 1,582m

My wife and I decided at the last minute to do Mt Taranaki as a challenge. We are novices and the only other peaks of note we have bagged are Mt Te Aroha and Mt Pirongia.  Although I have been pretty fit in the past (I have done a 250km bike ride in a day), you could call my fitness these days as average at the best.  The weather for the trip looked excellent so we headed down and stayed at the Camphouse. The ranger suggested the following an excellent day to make the attempt on the summit. January 5 2007.

Mt Ruapehu at sunrise while ascending Mt Taranaki • By CraigNZ.

 

We entered our intentions in the book at the visitors centre. The following morning we left at 530am in the morning expecting a 9-10 hour trip, which actually turned out to be a very slow 12.5 hours.  The track begins to the left of the Camphouse which is just above the visitors centre at North Egmont. It was no stress in terms of time as we had left at day break which was one of the pillars of our success.

 

It is always hard for someone who isn’t experienced at tramping to judge just how much gear to take.  What is the balance between safety and being too heavy.  We didn’t really eat as much as we expected or drink as much.  I would suggest 3-4 litres fluid per person – we had bottled water and Powerade, and some easily eaten high energy foods.  I would suggest Powerade as it replaces the salts etc that you lose on a hike.  To be honest we went through no more than 2 or 3 single serve chocolate bars and a few crackers and some sweets, though a good idea to carry a good bit more than this anyway as it is relatively light.

 

Clothing and gear we again carried a bit too much, but it is an insurance policy.  The almost ski weight jacket never came out of the pack.  I also had waterproof pants which are light, light first aid kit, floro snap lights, hiking boots, compass, and walking poles.  My advice is that the poles are great and light, and some light mittens or gloves would pay big time on the lava and scree.  If  I travelled again I would perhaps travel slightly lighter but insurance policies on these lopes are hard to value. We also wore bright clothing for visibility.

Mt Taranaki - Summit crater, mid Summer • By hutchk. Licence: C.

 

The first part of the climb is up a steep and long 4 wheel drive track. In the early morning mist this was for us quite tough and in sections very steep, and without a gauge on how long it was not a good start mentally. This continues to the transmission tower.

 

Then a section that is probably the easiest as you wind up a gully on a mixture of track and stairs.  Although it is tough going in stages and warrants a couple of rests, it is actually an uneventful and reasonably straight forward section

 

Next was the scree. The trail was marked by a series of wooden stakes which were at times reasonable distances apart.  This was a heart breaking section, mentally intense and a seemingly an endless climb up loose scree on a steep slope through cloud and mist (which after a while we broke above).  This simply took us 2 – 2.5 hours which was a lot longer than some climbers.  Although I made reasonable progress, I found it physically tough and I had to wait long periods of time for Mel to catch up.  This meant I got some great photos and chatted to a few parties that were now passing us.  It is however very tough for the inexperienced and we really pushed our limits to continue. A couple of times I talked about turning back and there were plenty of “how the f*** am I ever going to make it to there” thoughts.  Finally though we made the desperate push to the relative stability of the lava flow which was the final stage to the crater

Mt Taranaki Pre-dawn Climb • By bluepolaris. Licence: C.

 

The lava flow again was extremely tough and steep now heading into late morning it was heating up.  For God sake wear heaps of sunscreen and keep long sleeve top on as long as possible.  The sun is lethal and although we used quite a bit of lotion I did get quite burnt by days end. Also glasses protect from the basalt dust on the scree. I forgot my glasses and the eyes were pretty sore by the end of the day. The lava flow is a tough scramble up at times very steep slopes for what must have been close to 2 hours as I constantly waited for the wife and started at this point to doubt as I calculated the possible time it was going to take us.  It had an endless and impossible feel to it at times. Following the poles up the crater was finally reached at a shade after 11am skirting a huge hunk of rock onto the icy crater floor.  The sight was surreal but also the most depressing of the climb.

 

In order to cross the crater and scale the summit we were faced with slopes of ice that we were not prepared for.  A few attempts saw me sliding down the face exhausted.  I was devastated but determined to make it.  We picked out the closest rock outcrop on the face and started cutting out steps with our boots. Step by step we cut our way up the 20 metre slope of ice until we made the steep rock outcrop which we scrambled and climbed up to the saddle just below the summit.  It was then a warming walk with a sense of achievement up the final rise to the summit.  Many photos, a miniature bottle of fizz and a short time sitting upon the very top rock followed. We however had made it, where a few people had given up before the summit. We chatted to some climbers at the top, one of which was 70 years old and had left base 3 hours after us!! It was the third week in a row he had made the climb. He has my respect. We summated at 11:45

Mt Taranaki • By CraigNZ.

 

We only stayed 15-20 minutes, talking to experienced trampers and climbers at the top, it was clear we were inexperienced, slow but very determined.  One guy said my wife was very brave, which she is. Now we just had to make it down. We had at this stage burnt over 6.5 hours daylight so I was keen to put some more distance behind us.

 

Down was for us as challenging as the up section, and although we did take our time it took us basically as long as the ascent. It began with a slide down on our bums into the crater from the bottom of the rock section we had targeted for our final climb. Then across the crater we strolled picking up the bottle of Powerade we had dropped on our ascent from the crater which at least now was cold from half an hour in the snow.

 

Then on to the lava section again after a careful skirt out of the crater.  Slipping down the ice field didn’t bear thinking about. The lava field is steep and treacherous and unless you have a lot of natural balance it takes some time to negotiate safely and securely especially with tired legs.  The lava section again took a very long time under severe sun.

Sharks tooth • By mikeb.

 

As suggested by an experienced climber at the top we exited to the right on to the scree a little before the bottom of the lava to take advantage of deeper loams. On the scree the clouds closed in and at one point I could not see any of the marker poles or any other party to guide me.  For a while I veered off left way too far and I was starting to panic a bit as I realised I didn’t have a clue where I was with only about 20 metres visibility.  Luckily Mel who was behind again spotted the poles and I was able to crab across the face of the scree onto the trail again. It was not a good feeling.  The scree downward was not as physically exhausting but it was technically as demanding.  I learnt to dig the heals in toes pointing up and searching out deep lines of scree to make the decent. Still expect to land on your bum a few times.  People that know how to ski, and those more fearless will make good progress.  Those with a bit more balance retardation like us will take a bit longer.  Be careful to keep eye on the trail markers. Again this section seemed to go forever and the stairs were a very welcome sight through the mist.

 

From the stairs down is relatively easy, though legs by this stage are a little jelly like and care must still be taken and there is still some good distance to cover.

 

The four wheel track down is a long walk which seems relatively easy in the context of the preceeding adventure. Now you are reflecting on an achievement with realisation you are home safe.

 

At 6pm we finally made it to the vistors centre.  Physically we were in pretty good shape with the exception of some pretty obvious sunburn.

 

So my advice for those with average fitness is that this can be done if you are determined and prepared:

 

  1. Pick your weather. Never attempt this mountain outside summer and get advice from the ranger
  2. Leave before sunrise to keep time pressure off yourself.
  3. Sun Protection must be front of your mind. Hat, glasses, piles of lotion and even light long sleaves
  4. I would advise both a hiking pole and gloves as an ideal
  5. Carry approx 3 litres fluid per person, you will drink over 2 of this on the way up. You may also wish to carry a little emergency fluid.
  6. Although some more experienced and faster people seem to travel light and get away with good sports shoes, hiking boots are really advised.  I had no problems with blisters at all with 2 layers of socks and boots.
  7. Unless you are very experienced don’t do this hike solo.
  8. There is a toilet at the transmission tower but it seems most fluid exits via sweat glands!
Map
ID 2578

About this track

Added 9 January 2008 by CraigNZCraigNZ. No revisions.
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