Two hobbits and a troll on the lone mountain

Active but dormant stratovolcano

The first thing when you approach the town New Plymouth on New Zealand’s north island is the volcano. A perfectly shaped pyramid,  with a snow cap, dominating the skyline. Nothing above, nothing beside, nothing even close. New Plymouth is Māori country, and the history of Taranaki living peacefully together with the three other volcanoes TongariroNgauruhoe and Ruapehu is still being told. Unfortunately Tongariro got angry with Taranaki when he advanced his girlfriend Pihanga, and the following battle resulted in Taranaki  leaving the area and settling down at the west coast in splendid isolation – much to our pleasure.

Do not underestimate

Weather is everything in New Zealand, even though the summit of Taranaki is only 2518m high, it can get serious – even in summer.  We did not hesitate a minute when the met-service showed a favorable forecast for the second day after our arrival from China. Me and dad got company from my cousin William, who had never been on any summit of significance, so we chose the standard North face route, which was described as a moderately difficult hike. Anyhow, we were prepared for a long day, ascending  almost 1600 meters.

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Equipment counts

The track from the Egmont visitor centre to the Tahurangi Lodge lead through a dense and humid rain forest, but once advancing the tree-line, things got more pleasant, with an occasional wind chill and cooler temperatures. The track was well maintained and marked with poles, first leading up a steep scree slope, then directly onto a rocky ridge straight up into the crater. From here the route to the summit was not quite obvious, there was still a lot of snow and ice which covered any clues. Incoming clouds did not make things easier. A couple of hiking fellows turned around, but thanks to our Outdoor Active App and our crampons we were soon on our way up the short but steep icy slope. Once negotiated, we easily found the regular trail again, and enjoyed the last five minutes walk to the snow covered summit.

Hope it helped!

Respecting the Māori traditions, we did not touch the actual summit block and just enjoyed the magnificent 360° view, even though the ocean to the west was covered by clouds. On the way down, we lost the track again, but solved the problem elegantly by sliding down a steep snow slope into the crater – perfectly safe and insanely fun! Let’s not talk about the rest, our knees were quite angry after the 1600m descent – thank god there are Jacuzzies around!