Jess is a Wanderer climbed New Zealand’s Mount Taranaki – here’s everything you need to know to prepare for your own ascent.
Climbing Mount Taranaki was a difficult and challenging climb. I won’t pretend that it was easy because it really wasn’t. Right from the beginning the ascent was steep and the terrain some of the most difficult I’ve ever experienced. But… the views were out of this world!
It begins with a rather unpleasant hike up a concrete path. Despite the steepness, it is actually the easiest part of the entire trail so appreciate the sturdy ground upon which you walk. It doesn’t last long!
OK, so, it’s pitch black when the climb starts, because you want to be able to see the sunrise – which is most impressive. You’ll definitely want to stop for the view (or at least as an excuse to catch your breath). I took way too many photos and I shouldn’t have done as it only delayed the pain of what lay ahead whilst my pals made haste and got ahead.
After the concrete path, the road turns to gravel and then around 200 steps. These steps are narrow, winding and will make even the toughest tramper’s calves turn to lead. No joke. I wasn’t filled with confidence when I hadn’t even reached the steps when a fellow hiker was heading back down the mountain claiming ‘it gets worse and I’m too unfit to continue’. I can’t deny that it definitely scared the shizzle out of me but with my companions further ahead, I could hardly turn back so soon.
I continued up and met Sarah whose pals had actually turned back so we teamed up to conquer what remained of Taranaki together. Nothing could have prepared us for the scoria that lay ahead – sliding rocks, gravel, sand and muddy bits that we’d scramble up three steps and slide back down one step. It was near impossible trying to get to the top but eventually we somehow made it through the hellish conditions and onto the next phase: rock climbing.
Fortunately, we were high enough at this point to actually be above many of the clouds and the views were phenomenal so the treacherous conditions of clinging onto rocks weren’t actually that difficult due to the distraction provided by the clouds. Seriously, the sea out to one side, other mountains in the distance and the most perfectly fluffy clouds floating by. It was incredible.
After the rock climbing came a little more scoria to the peak of Mount Taranaki itself. It was one last push and again the views were super rewarding. I wasn’t there long enough to get any decent photos before the rain clouds moved in and all hopes of some lovely pictures went out of the window as the visibility dropped to near zero but that was OK. I’d made it to the summit, eaten my cheese and hummus sandwich and was more than happy to head back down again.
The descent was sadly no easier than the ascent. Climbing down the rocks was a slow and laborious process due to there not being a clearly defined path. The scoria was a nightmare – even with speed, it couldn’t prevent you from falling over or taking a tumble on your bum a few times. My legs are still covered in scratches and bruises a week on from the experience!
Taranaki is a treacherous ascent with many climbers falling into trouble each year. You definitely need to have some mountain climbing experience, different layers of clothing (including waterproofs), food, water and a moderate level of fitness in order to be able to make the return trip successfully.
I’m so glad to have climbed Taranaki but I shan’t be rushing back to reach the summit any time soon.