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August 2015 Issue
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Light Fantastic

Dawn at rime ice-encrusted Syme Hut. Photo: Peter Laurenson
Dawson Falls Visitor Centre to Syme Hut, 2-4hr; Syme Hut to summit, 1-2hr.
Take the Fanthams Peak Track from Dawson Falls Visitor Centre at the end of Manaia Road

Syme Hut, Egmont National Park

Only Aoraki/Mt Cook has claimed more fatalities than Mt Taranaki. You might see the mountain as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but that is unfair. Standing in isolated magnificence near the coast means weather conditions can change dramatically and rapidly. More often than not, it’s this that kills those who, if unprepared, venture on to its exposed slopes. For those who pick their weather and bring the necessary equipment to cope, Mt Taranaki is a highly accessible, spectacular and rewarding place to visit.

Perhaps the most accessible route to the summit is via Fanthams Peak (1966m), with an overnight stay at the 10-bunk Syme Hut. It’s feasible to do the return climb in a day, but staying at the hut is very special – particularly in winter, when the entire building can be encased in fantastical rime ice. I crampon-ed on to the roof during one winter visit.

A night at the hut provides an opportunity to enjoy both sunset and sunrise from nearly 2000m. The view is expansive and the changing light reflected on the summit pyramid and Fanthams Peak is a highlight, regardless of whether you go on to the summit or not.

A summer visit is perhaps less visually spectacular, but still very memorable. I took my three boys, the youngest just seven at the time, one January. We all shared toasted marshmallows at the hut, a view from the summit and then a thunderstorm on the descent. It’s a trip we all still talk about.

– Peter Laurenson