Exposed ridge route to Pouakai
The Dover Route climbs 1000m through bush and tussock along a narrow, rocky ridge to reach the highest point on the Pouakai Range – 1400m Pouakai.
The Pouakai Range, an extinct volcano, is Mt Taranaki’s older brother. Some 250,000 years ago, Pouakai was an active volcano but it has since eroded to its present height. The range has some of the most spectacular views in the entire region, including the full cone of Mt Taranaki across the tussock-covered slopes.
This route is not as well maintained as the more popular Mangorei Track, which walkers use to gain Pouakai Hut and tarn on the Taranaki Crossing. We didn’t see another person for the entire day when climbing the trail in March.
The track begins from a pull-out just past Katikara Stream, nearly across from Dover Road, and is easily missed unless you are looking for it. The first 200m is overgrown, muddy, and rough going, but then the track improves as it enters lowland forest and begins its steady climb.
And so it goes for the next 90-minutes: a relentless uphill slog through the bush with few views. Eventually, the trees start getting shorter, a good sign that the track is nearing the bushline.
The final hour, above the bush, is a glorious and fun wander along a narrow, exposed rocky ridge with the kind of stunning views every mountain lover yearns for. The route along the ridge alternates between scrambling up rocks and stepping over and around tussock.
The route ascends the final rise and arrives at the trig marking the summit. Mt Taranaki slowly reveals itself as the final pitch is ascended until there’s the Mounga in all its glory.
The trig offers stunning 360-degree views encompassing tussock-covered slopes towards the mountain, narrow ridges that drop down to the bush, the bush-clad Kaitake Range to the west and further out to the sparkling Tasman Sea. On a clear day, you can even see Mt Ruapehu.
The return is either back the way you came or, if you have arranged a car shuttle, you can continue on to Pouakai Hut and down to Mangorei Road.
– Mark Danenhauer