Climbing Mt Improbable

Mt Taranaki,sceen from Egmont Road, early morningThe peak summer three-day-weekend made for an ideal opportunity to climb Mt Taranaki/Egmont.  (Previous attempts have failed due to too much snow and ice).

Mt Taranaki is a volcanic cone, and at 2518m is the North Island’s second highest mountain.

Its near perfect cylindrical shape and exponential gradient, make it an iconic beacon of the greater Taranaki region.

The track to the summit begins at the Egmont Visitor’s Centre, and should only be attempted with a clear weather forecast, good boots, and plenty of water.

At 9 hours return, with the second half of track marked only by poles, it is a grueling walk, and not for the acrophobic inclined.  Access to the summit is via the (open) crater, which is covered in ice all year round. With the variable weather conditions, Mt Taranaki is not only the North Island’s most difficult mountain to climb, but also most dangerous, having claimed some 60 lives on its steep, barren slopes.

Not surprisingly many people shy away from tackling this iconic NZ mountain.

So, early Saturday morning, as we prepared for our second attempt, we were surprised to find the Egmont Visitor’s Centre car-park overflowing.

Coincidentally, the Egmont Alpine Club was holding an open day, taking up walkers, mostly first timers, who had always wanted to climb the mountain, but were never quite brave enough to tackle it on their own.  The club had a group of over 200.  Walkers were of all age groups, and fitness levels, including Allan Mitchell, who featured in the local paper, as attempting the mountain for the first time since breaking his neck, and learning to walk again.

In anticipation of the mountain’s demanding and intrepid slopes, the alpine club was very well organised with radios, ropes, first-aid, and some 45 guides reassuring walkers and leading them to the top.

As we made it into the icy crater, we could have been forgiven for thinking we had walked  into a Whakapapa ski field with large groups of albeit exhausted but smiling walkers mingling about in the snow.

The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed a lengthy lunch break on the crater rim looking down at the fertile dairy-region far below us, bordered with views of a snowy Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe in the sky line.

Egmont Crater.  In the top right, a walker is visible making the ascent into the crater. Intrepid Man. On the summit of Mt Taranaki. Cautious downward journey.  Some walkers were intimidated by acrophobia, but the many alpine club guides took good care of them.

We safely made it back down the mountain, once again exhausted.

And so, Mt Taranaki remains the most technically and physically demanding day-walk I’ve done.

View all photos here.

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One Response to Climbing Mt Improbable

  1. David says:

    Congrats on the climb!

    Definitely agree about the climb would be my most demanding day-walk too. However I think the mountain with the most deaths tag is probably due to it also being the most climbed mountain.

    Now you need to do the Round-Taranaki tramp. That’s a fantastic walk, and doesn’t have that many people doing it. Lots of beautiful mud.

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