Head in the clouds - A walk around Mt. Taranaki/Egmont

To me it seems Mt. Taranaki is covered in clouds more often than not. Either it wears some clouds on its top like a hat or it has a nice ring of clouds around its middle.

Let’s say I knew before I started my tramp around the mountain that I wasn’t going to have a week of perfect weather.

The ring of forest and bush around the base of the mountain is lush and green and the drive through to get to North Egmont, the starting point of my track, made it quite clear that this area gets a lot of rain.

The day I started walking was a changeable one. The mountain showed his face quite a lot and the track to Holly hut is in great condition traversing the north-east slopes. There are fantastic views over the surrounding farmland, coastline and to New Plymouth on one side and glimpses of the summit with all the volcanic ridges leading up to it on the other. A great way to start!

Holly Hut Track

Holly Hut Track

Holly Hut

It always stuns me how few people I meet while out walking in New Zealand. The only place one finds a group of people is at the huts and Holly Hut had a particularly entertaining mix. We were an international bunch, Kiwi, Australian, Dutch, French and German. Most were experienced trampers but some were new to tramping and back country experience. That the French man brought a whole bottle of red wine just seemed to fit the stereotype and made me smile. But the real laughter came with two Germans. One had bought so much food that he started to on-sell it to other travelers and kindly treated us all to some cinnamon doughnuts. And the other had so far only traveled by car and not seen the need for a sleeping bag. So he brought his double duvet along. The fun began the next morning when everyone in the hut made suggestions on how he would get his duvet back to the car without getting it soaking wet as it had started to rain. I am not sure how he solved it in the end as I left for Kahui Hut before the duvet drama was sorted.

The landscape seems to come to life even more in the rain and it is amazing how many shades of glossy green there are. The numerous river crossings didn’t matter as the rivers weren’t too high and it was already wet anyway.

Pyramid stream - one of many streams that I had to cross

Fellow trampers making their way over very pretty but  slippery rocks

By the end of the day the sky had cleared  and I was treated to a sunny afternoon, a stunning sunset, and the most amazing still and clear night far away from any artificial light. As it turned out that night would be the only clear one of the week and the only time I made good use of the tripod.

For the first time ever I tried my hand  at photographing the Milky Way and for a first try I am rather pleased with the results!

Sunset at Kahui Hut

Night sky at Kahui Hut

Night sky over Mt. Taranaki at Kahui Hut

The next two days were spent in fine weather walking to Waiaua Gorge Hut and then Lake Dive Hut, on occasion battling along overgrown parts of the track and in some parts tiptoeing quite close to the edge of various cliffs. The track certainly requires ones full attention and a lot of stamina as it is a long way uphill from Waiaua Gorge Hut.

As pretty as all the shades of green look in the bush, I personally prefer to be out in the open. Hillsides covered only in tussock or more barren still - just slopes of rock - get me the most excited. So the 1000m climb up to Syme Hut at Fanthams Peak, over mostly scoria slopes, is a solid piece of hard work but still made me smile. The salami and cheese sandwich tasted particularly good afterwards and it didn’t need much recovery time for me to eye up the route to the summit of Mount Egmont.

The clouds were coming and going turning the place into quite a surreal dreamlike landscape that could be on the moon or, with the red volcanic rock of Fanthams Peak more likely on Mars. I love places like that!

Syme Hut with Fanthams Peak on the  left

Syme Hut with Mt. Taranaki seen from Fanthams Peak

Amazing spot for a Hut! (Syme Hut)

Ruapehu looking through the clouds

Track close to Syme Hut

Unfortunately the weather was not on my side for the climb to the summit. And patience wasn’t the solution. I stayed for two nights at the hut hoping for the mountain to clear. I learned a day later from the DOC office that the weather was expected to set in and for the mountain not to clear up for at least a week.  I love climbing mountains for the challenge of it but even more so for the view from the top. So it made no sense to go to the summit in dense cloud with the added danger of not finding the right way back to the hut. I will come back and try again!

The rest of the track was walked in one long day. It was quite an up and down and up again and finally down and was the physically most strenuous out of the week with all of the weather in one day from wind and horizontal rain to warm sunshine.

So it all came full circle. The walk as much as the weather. Start and finish in the sun!

Track close to Tahurangi Lodge

The last 15 min through magical forest

Bottom line - another great walk! I love being in the mountains. I love the sense of achievement I get from a week of walking combined with a bit of pride of having been able to to manage all the little obstacles and difficulties along the way. It gives me a sense of strength knowing that I can be self sufficient and self reliant.

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