The People’s Glorious Ascent of Taranaki
by Kent Hutchins
Hot on the heels of The People’s Glorious Second (Successful) Go at Ngauruhoe a trip to Taranaki entered the planning stages. After the usual postponement due to weather (if there’s one common theme from all advice offered re. Taranaki, it’s ‘mess with her at your peril’) a brief window opened up on the morning of Friday October 9th – not good timing on such short notice, but those of us who could wangle a day off (myself and Simon) were there with bells on.
The walk up to Tahurangi Lodge (thanks must go to the TAC who were very flexible with moving our booking to suit the forecast) didn’t bode well – showers turned to sleet, strong winds and very limited visibility. The lodge is very palatial however, and even has an excellent stock of old Reader’s Digests – the ones with the super gory medical stories that make such excellent bedtime reading. Alarms set for 4AM, we retired for the night and hoped for the best.
What a difference a night makes – at 4am, I took a bleary look out the window to see Taranaki looming above with not a cloud in the sky and no wind whatsoever. Breakfast down, gear on, out the door at 5AM.
No sooner had we started up Hongi’s Valley than we encountered icy drifts across the track and out came the crampons. We gained the first staircase, ditched the crampons, then put ‘em on again half an hour later. At this stage the sun was beginning to rise over the Central Plateau and we took a short break to enjoy the incredible view as the dawn skies were painted orange, red and a thousand shades of deep blue. Magic!
The ascent continued up the classic Northern route with straightforward zigzagging over nice firm snow and ice. We picked our way up The Lizard until around 2300m, then dropped over in to Crater Valley. As this stage the climbing got a little more technical, with rock hard sastrugi requiring a decent amount of front pointing, particularly as we neared the crater valley entrance. A little ‘two axe action just because we can’ may have also been deployed. This was mainly Simon’s idea.
Calves burning (well, mine were..) we gained the crater valley and topped out at 8.30AM. Out came the stove and we enjoyed a nice cup of Jed’s in a sheltered spot just below the true summit. At this stage, a bitterly cold Southerly was getting up and bringing low cloud – after the obligatory summit hero shots, we thought it prudent to start heading down.
Softening snow on descent meant caution was required, and by the time we reached the bottom of The Lizard whiteout conditions had set in. We were both thankful for our early start, as we were two of only a small number of climbers to summit that day, later starters were now being turned back by the conditions. We were back at the Lodge in time for lunch, and a leisurely stroll down to the car park (except for Simon, who semi jogged down, some of it backwards).
All in all, a challenging and rewarding climb, and an excellent day out. Pencil yourself in for next year!
Posted By: Sefton Priestley