Last week, Ryan and I took a little trip up to Egmont National Park, home of the towering Mount Taranaki. In my first two visits to this area, I saw only clouds hovering around what I knew to be the moody mountain. Well third time is a charm and on my third time (Ryan’s fourth), the weather was finally on our side.
Leaving Wellington Monday night, we pulled into Dawson Falls visitor centre just before midnight and climbed into bed. Alarms went off before 7am and I woke up as giddy as a schoolgirl. I threw open our sliding door and there he was, Mount Taranaki standing so close and so clear I couldn’t stop staring. No coffee needed when you wake up to this magnificent view. We immediately climbed out of the car and went exploring for sunrise shots.
The colors from the morning light lasted only seconds, but we happily explored the area visiting Dawson Falls, Wilkies Pools and a little lookout spot next to the visitor’s centre.
View from Wilkies Pools
Morning light on Mount Taranaki
Mount Taranaki [2518 m] to the left Fantham’s Peak [1966m]
Our trip to Egmont National Park was not only to see this magical, perfectly coned volcano, but to climb it’s secondary cone to the left of it. Fantham’s Peak [Māori name: Panitahi] would be our first chance for alpine climbing. With crampons recently purchased and ice axes rented, we started the estimated 3.5 hour climb up to the peak around midday. The trail began through the moss-covered goblin forest.
After an hour of winding through the woods, we reached the tree line for another glorious shot of Mt Taranaki. Not long after the path switched to stairs, so many stairs. Staircase after staircase, we climbed and climbed taking in the scenic views around us. Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe, 150 kms/100 mi away, stood tall in the background. To the East the Tasman Sea stretched as far as the eye could see.
Soon the path turned into to a steep incline via loose volcanic rocks. Trail markers were our guides as this constantly winding path has no direct route up. The climb was painful. Every few steps up, I’d slip down and as the ascent grew steeper, Ryan and I wondered if we’d actually make it to the top. We passed a few people who had chosen to turn back, but they lacked the proper equipment to go on. Thankfully our ice axes made for great walking poles during this part.
We carried on, but the ridge line didn’t look any closer. At one point, we questioned whether we should continue but with determination to reach the top, we carried on and moments later we hit the snow line. Finally we could put our crampons to good use and once those were on, we flew up that mountain faster than I ever imagined.
When we realized we were at the top, we stopped to let it all sink in; truly an indescribable moment. I could feel the power of Mount Taranaki standing so close to it. Wishing I could climb to the top, but also enjoying the perfect stillness as it towered in front of me. Our climb up to Fantham’s Peak only took 2.5 hours and we spent the next few running around that peak taking in our accomplishment.
Syme Hut – basic hut with 10 beds and an exceptional window overlooking Mt Taranaki
Our plan was to stay for sunset, but we decided descending down the mountain would be risky in the dark so we said our goodbyes and began the climb back.
This was the scariest part. Heart racing and facing the slope, we slowly edged our way down. We dug our crampons in as hard as we could and use our ice axe to hold our position. Step by step, we made it to the point where only rocks ruled and removed our spikes. Then we slid or rather attempted scree sliding. On our feet, on our asses we moved with the loose rocks down the steep slope. After many slips and almost tumbles (and so many bruises) we returned to the tree line just as night was setting in.
I knew I’d wake up in pain from the challenging climb, but every heart-clenching second was worth it. From the incredible weather with zero wind to the 360 views that felt like we were on top of the world, it was our perfect day.
The next morning we headed back to Welly, but not without finding the iconic road leading to the mountain shot.
Cheers for reading about our Taranaki adventure. If you have any questions about the area, hiking tips or the photos, feel free to reach out!
All my love,