Sunday November 2 2008
Spring nor’westers torpedoed our Taranaki trip a few weeks prior. This one looked doomed too. All week, Metservice’s rain forecast map showed fierce weather. But there was a glimmer of hope that my first attempt on Taranaki would be Sunday…
With the party at an anorexic two members, the plan was easily agreed: a leisurely drive to the Taranaki Camphouse on Saturday, set out for the summit climb Sunday, back home. The journey to the ‘naki was uneventful, except Wanganui, where we spotted a guy heading home after what we assumed was a successful day at the saloon. On horseback! In a spaghetti western moment, drunk dude lay flat off the saddle, not a care in the world, horse on autopilot on some footpath by SH1…
Sunday 7am. Clear skies and the snowy summit spied through the Camphouse kitchen window. It was going to be an awesome day.
Not exactly an alpine start but we soon reached Tahurangi Lodge where we met a friendly Taranaki Alpine Rescue guy. On hearing we were from TTC he proceeded to show us around the Lodge facilities, suggesting our club should have a key. A bit smaller than our Tararua Lodge but of similar vintage and facilities, it’s accessible from North Egmont or Stratford road ends and well-located.
Soon after the Lodge, we donned crampons for the classic north ridge route to the top. With clear blue skies, the top didn’t look far. But an hour climbing the unremitting slope and we were still crunching through snow with the same faint rocky spur at one side.
The feeling of exposure built and built as we climbed nearly 1000m vertical of unbroken gradient. Some two and a half hours after the Lodge, we were first that day to reach the summit crater. Clear blue skies and we had fantastic lunch views of Taranaki’s ring-plain and beyond.
Having experimented a little with ice screws in the summit ice, we thought it was time to come down. The nightmare of doing this in bad weather could only be imagined. We were well and truly beaten back, though, by the Taranaki Alpine Rescue guy. He had followed us up and skied back down…we crossed his tracks nearly the whole way down to Tahurangi Lodge.
A pleasant stomp down The Puffer and back into reality. The amazing memory of being above it all and seeing it all. The Taranaki feeling lasted for the whole journey back to Wellington and a couple of days beyond…