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Climbing Mount Taranaki for sunrise

Climbing Mount Taranaki for sunrise was scary and exhilarating! Standing 2,518 meters above sea level, it is the hardest climb to date.

A massive 80 people have died in climbing accidents on Mount Taranaki since 1890. 
However, summiting for sunrise was a great way to end the year of 2020.

How to get to the Mount Taranaki Summit:

From New Plymouth follow State Highway 3 to Egmont Road. Turn right onto Egmont Road and continue until the end of the road where you will find the North Egmont Car park. Please be aware there is limited car parking available during the summer months. I believe you can arrange transport to the start of the track. Check the DOC website for more information.

Mount Taranaki Summit Track:

The North Summit Track starts from the Taranaki National Park Visitor Centre and is a steady incline on a gravel road to the Tahurangi Lodge and translator tower. This part of the track took 1 hour (we started at 1.10am and took our time… waking ourselves up after only 4 hours sleep).

Note – There is a toilet near the hut and this is the only toilet on the track so make use of it.

Once you reach the lodge follow the track around the right-hand side of the building and head up the stairs. The track then winds through a gully which in the early hours of the morning is quite slippery and icy. After the gully you will be meet with wooden stairs. This area of the track (gully & stairs) takes roughly 30 minutes.

There are signs during the climb asking you to check the conditions and how are you feeling to ensure you can continue. Please pay attention to them. Many people have been rescued and/or died on this mountain.

From the top of the stairs you will be meet with scoria. I won’t lie… this is probably the hardest part of the climb (up and down). Scoria is loose gravel on a slope and you basically take one step forward and three back. I would suggest gloves and walking poles for this part of the climb (we had neither…sigh). We were on the scoria for about 1 hour 30 minutes. In the pitch black (only head torch for light) it was hard to see the track markers as well – if you climb during daylight this won’t be a problem. Just be prepared physically and mentally for this part of the climb.

To tell you the truth… I had a mini panic attack on the scoria… we had kind of veered off track at 4am in the pitch black as it was hard to see the markers and there was a lot of snow and ice around. I was starting to feel fatigued from climbing the mountain on only 4 hours sleep. We were probably about an hour in on the scoria area and it was cold and hard. But I pulled myself out of it and kept going. I had too as going down in the pitch black would have been tough & disappointing, sitting on the scoria would have been too cold so the only way out was up! Remember mind over matter. It’s a mental game. 😊

After you pass the scoria (success) you will then hit the lizard. Another hard part of the climb. The lizard consists of big boulders that you must climb over to reach the summit. This area took us roughly 1 hour. There was lots of snow and ice to maneuver around along with loose rocks/boulders. Also, would suggest not to look down at this point… its extremely daunting if you don’t love heights so much!

At the top of the lizard comes the strong wind, ice and the crater. This is when you know you have made it!

We walked around the crater to the other side in time to watch an incredible sunrise on top of the clouds. Such an amazing experience and view. Well worth the lack of sleep, panic attack and tired legs! 

The summit was extremely cold, and the wind was very strong. There was thick snow and ice on every surface. We took a few photos and I video called my mum to show her the beautiful view we encountered and then we started to head back down.

Be prepared for the summit with jackets, gloves, scarves, layers etc. The wind that whips around the side of the mountain is freezing. I could barely feel my hands or lips!

Note – Mounga Taranaki is a mauri or life force. You are unable to stand directly on the summit peak. So please be respectful.

We started the descend around 6.15am reaching the carpark at 10am. We stopped to chat to a lot of people on the way down, most couldn’t believe we had summited for sunrise. Everyone wanted to know the details of what was ahead for their climb and the weather conditions at the top. It was nice to see so many people out and about in nature.

The lizard and scoria were hard on the descend. I would recommend gloves (something we mistakenly left at home in Tauranga).

It was nice to descend in the daylight and catch the beautiful views we missed on the way up. We couldn’t have asked for a better day – blue bird skies all around us. A rare sight to see I am sure.

10am on the dot and 27,000 steps later we were back in the car with shoes off and ready for a hot shower before starting our day! 😉

If you have ever considered climbing Mount Taranaki for sunrise or during the day, I would highly recommend it. It is a tough climb, but the views are worth it and the satisfaction you feel at the top will keep you on a high for days. It is definitely one to tick off the bucket list.

Note – For non-mountaineers, the best time to climb Mount Taranaki is during the January to March season when there is generally no snow and ice other than the crater. The crater has ice all year round. It is a full day hike so please allow a good 8-10 hours if not more. There is no water on the track, so ensure you take enough to suffice. Even if it is warm at the start of the climb, don’t be fooled, pack accordingly with lots of layers for the summit.

Also, side note, please wear appropriate footwear. We wore our salmons which were fine for our hike. Hiking shoes will probably be better. Please do not climb in trainers… they won’t be of any assistance in the snow and ice.

Find out more about Mount Taranaki on the DOC website.

Rough timing:

6.3km one way – return via same track

1.10am – Left carpark

2.10 am – Reached Translator tower. Had a toilet break and catch the breath stop

2.50 am – Reached start of Scoria

4.20am – Got to the bottom of the Lizard

5.30am – Reached the crater

5.50am – Sunrise over the clouds 😊

6.15am – Started the descend

10am – Back in the car and back to New Plymouth

Happy climbing if you decide to tackle Mount Taranaki.

Much love,
Sez x

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