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September 2012 Issue
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A Perfect Day on Mt Taranaki

Mt Taranaki, Pouakai Circuit, Egmont NP, Taranaki. Photo: Shaun Barnett

Standing at just over 2500m, Mt Egmont/Taranaki is the second highest volcano in New Zealand. It’s also easily accessible and mostly climbed in summer – but winter takes the cake. Local guide Don Paterson says it’s a grumpy mountain and you have to select your day carefully and be prepared with good technical skills and equipment. “Every day the snow is different and there can regularly be four seasons in one day,” he says. “Put in the effort, though, and the reward will be the perfect day.”

0600 Leaving New Plymouth with skis on the car and coffee in the travel mug. Throw in some technical gear for the icy summit.

0645 Skis on packs and leaving the North Egmont car park. Height 950m.

0800 Arrive at the Taranaki Alpine Club Lodge at 1500m for a break. Put the kettle on for another coffee with chockie biscuits before taking on the bulk of the climb.

0845 With skins on the skis, set off up Hongi and Snow Valleys and shuffle towards the Lizard. Sometimes skins work the full distance, other times you’ll need to swap them for crampons from the Lizard to the crater.

1145 In the crater and Sharkstooth is in good condition – time to get the ice gear out. Rope, harness, screws, draws. Two quick pitches of WI2 will get you to the top of the Tooth, and a big thrill.

1330 Summit for lunch with views as far as the South Island

1400 Skis on again to begin the 1100m descent down Crater Valley, negotiate Ambury’s Bluffs and finally arrive at the track beside Humphries Castle.

1445 Begin the trek back to the car via Jacobs Ladder.

1600 Driving the weary bodies back to town. Perfect.

Two hours
For something a little less committing there are numerous short walks. My favourite from North Egmont would be a circular trip to Makatawa Hut. Half the walk is through the thick native rain forest, stunted and twisted from the harsh environment. The hut is a welcome lunch stop with a sunny view to the north over subalpine shrubs. A track with the canopy at head height ascends to Translator Road where your descent winds back to the visitor centre for coffee at the café.

Four hours
This trip is a great walk to get you high without too much commitment. Begin walking through the bush to Makatawa Hut. Keep moving to Translator Road and take your time climbing the aptly named ‘Puffer’. When at Tahurangi Lodge, follow the Round the Mountain Track through a sea of alpine flowers and tussock (summer), past colourful cliffs, to Jacobs Ladder and descend the easy track back to North Egmont for coffee at the café