Mount Taranaki Summit Track

Mount Taranaki Summit Track

North Egmont, Egmont National Park

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95 Rankers Reviews

91 Face-to-Face

278 Walking

4 Mt Taranaki

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Taranaki day break
Mount Taranaki from the air

Information

12.6 km return | 7h 45 minutes return

Mount Taranaki stands sentinel in majestic isolation over the region it commands.
Few volcanoes in the world can match its symmetry, which coupled with its bush clad backdrop and snow covered peak, forms the mesmerising focus of the Taranaki landscape.

Get ready to sweat! A climb to the summit of Mount Taranaki is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Rising above the clouds, the 2518m summit of this dormant volcano offers truly amazing views.

Go hard and good luck!

Timing

This is a summer climb. Only attempt the walk in winter if you have an ice axe, crampons and years of winter mountain experience. Temperature decreases with height at an average environmental lapse rate of about 6.5 degrees Celsius per 1000 meters. This means, on average, the summit is 15 degrees cooler than the coast. This temperature drop is compounded with wind chill. Snowfields exist in the crater all year round.

The weather can change in a matter of minutes. You can leave the visitor centre in clear skies and by the time you are half way up the mountain can be blanketed in cloud, while it is pouring with rain and blowing a gale. If the weather forecast is for anything except fine with light winds than you are taking a bigger risk. Seek advice from DoC before attempting in marginal conditions and heed it.

Access

The turnoff to North Egmont is signposted along Egmont Road from Egmont Village, 12 km from New Plymouth along SH3. The park boundary is a further 10 km, 6.5 km from the North Egmont Visitor Centre, The start of the track is signposted to the left of the Camphouse at North Egmont.

Track

It is possible to reach the summit of Mount Taranaki in a day, but there are a few things you need to know first.

The North Egmont Visitor Centre Carpark is at 986 metres above sea level. The summit of Mount Taranaki is 2518 metres. This equates to a vertical climb of over 1500 metres. By any standards this is an ambitious ascent for a day. If you are at all unsure whether you will be able to complete this, then don’t attempt the walk. On the slopes of Mount Taranaki is not the place to discover your fitness is lacking.

This is a summer climb. Only attempt the walk in winter if you have an ice axe, crampons and years of winter mountain experience. Temperature decreases with height at an average environmental lapse rate of about 6.5 degrees Celsius per 1000 meters. This means, on average, the summit is 15 degrees cooler than the coast. This temperature drop is compounded with wind chill. Snowfields exist in the crater all year round.

The weather can change in a matter of minutes. You can leave the visitor centre in clear skies and by the time you are half way up the mountain can be blanketed in cloud, while it is pouring with rain and blowing a gale. If the weather forecast is for anything except fine with light winds than you are taking a bigger risk. Seek advice from DoC before attempting in marginal conditions and heed it.

Make sure you and your party fill out an entry in the intentions book in the yellow box outside the North Egmont Visitor Centre. And complete it on your return.

Maori ask you not to stand on the summit as this is the head of the anthropomorphised mountain.

Leave early. This not only benefits from clearer light, more stable conditions and cooler temperatures, but ensures you will have enough time for your descent.

Take plenty of food, liquid, and warm and waterproof clothing.

And now for the walk:

The track can roughly be divided into four stages.

The first 1½ hours follows Translator Road past the junction with the Maketawa Track (1 hour) to the Translator mast. This is a rough metalled road.
The next 40 minutes ascends steps through a gully over mossfields.
The following 1 hour you are climbing over loose scree. This is the most difficult section of the walk.
The scree merges to a consolidated scoria outcrop known as ‘The Lizard’ and exits onto the summit crater. You then cross the snowfield to reach the summit.

From the Camphouse, Translator Road climbs steadily. On reaching the junction with the Maketawa Track (1 hour), the first views of the Tongariro National Park volcanoes come to sight. As pimples on the horizon, they are often blanketed in cloud around their bases.

The following section is known as ‘The Puffer’, although this description could aptly be applied to all parts of the walk. The vehicle track is roughly concreted and heads straight up the hill, with views directly up the mountain. Snow fields nestle in the hollows and rings of vegetation form parallel bands.

The last toilets are at the Translator mast, a little before the private Tahurangi Lodge and junction with the upper level Around the Mountain Circuit.

Countless steps now ascend through a lava gully. The steps have been laboriously constructed to save the extremely fragile mossfields. It’s easy to find a rhythm here and take in the delicate vegetation assemblage surrounding the track.

At the top of the steps a poled route leads directly up the pumiceous slope. This can be a demoralising effort, as the loose rocks cause your feet to slip and slide. Two steps forward, one step back. Two steps forward one step back. It’s best to drop your pace and pick each step very carefully. Herringbone your feet or zigzag and try to pick areas where the rock is consolidated.

By the time you reach ‘The Lizard’, a prominent scoria ridge, you will probably be wishing you had that extra Weetbix for breakfast. All four limbs are useful on the steep slope, but it’s easy to find a solid hold. The track skirts the crater side of the Sharks Tooth, a solidified lava flow which has been exposed through the erosion of overlying sediments, and crosses the snowfield. Dig your feet in and head for the summit. There’s a final short climb to the top and the nearby outcrops known as The Sisters.

On a clear day you can see the Southern Alps, Tongariro National Park volcanoes and everything in between. On days when there’s a cloud base, a sea of cloud stretches to the horizon like billows of cotton wool.

Although you can give yourself a big pat on the back for your achievement, you still have to make it down. Take it nice and slow descending The Lizard and choose your footfalls carefully. Give way to upcoming traffic. The scree is most easily negotiated by sinking your feet into the soft stuff. The loose agglomeration of rock arrests your descent and at times you feel like you’re walking in slow motion. Expect to slip over a few times and collect a graze or two. Be especially wary of other walkers accidentally dislodging loose rocks, which can tumble down the slope with nothing to stop them.

By the time you reach the bottom of the scree slope, your legs will be like blancmange and at the base of the steps your knees will be chattering like a pair of wind up false teeth. Descending the Puffer, you will be beyond caring.

Remember to sign the visitor book at the information centre on your return and then go and find the nearest place to submerge yourself in hot water.

Geology

Mount Taranaki is the last volcano in a chain of cones that have been erupting in the region for nearly 2 million years. From beginnings around the Sugar Loaf Islands, the focus of volcanic activity migrated through the Kaitake Range and Pouakai Range to the present cone, which was born around 120,000 years ago. Over successive eruptions the layers of ash, pumice, and other volcanic debris have formed the classic cone and ring plain, characterised by Taranaki’s near semi-circular coastline.

Each eruption has built up layers of volcanic ejecta, which can be traced by geologists to determine the history of eruptions. From radiocarbon analysis, scientists have ascertained the present cone had built up to its present size by 35,000 years ago. Some eruptions occurred with such ferocity that the summit was either blown off or collapsed, releasing huge landslides and lahars down the mountainside to the coast. The existence of the lahars also suggests a crater lake may have once occupied the summit, akin to today’s Mount Ruapehu.

Eruptions around 20,000 years ago formed a new cone. The numerous lava flows slid down the slopes and formed many of the prominent lava bluffs seen today, such as Humphries Castle and Ngarara Bluffs. This was also the time when the parasitic cone of Fanthams Peak began to form.

Most of the fertile land which now nurtures the Taranaki pastoral economy was blanketed in ash around 16,000 years ago. Numerous large lahars deposited deep layers of mud over hundreds of square kilometres, the most recent around 7,000 years ago. Subsequent eruptions have included ‘nuées ardentes’, large gas clouds of scorching temperatures, which descend the hillside burning everything in their path. One of the most recent eruptions around 1650AD is termed the Burrell eruption, which ejected quantities of pumice and formed the present summit cone. A recorded eruption in 1775 left a mantle of ash on the summit area.

The potential for a fierce eruption is always there, but the geological time scale on which volcanoes operate is so far removed from scientific investigation that predicting future occurrences is nigh on impossible.

Mount Taranaki has a profound effect on the climate of the region. Moisture laden winds from the Tasman sea rise due to orographic uplift, which causes the air to cool. The inherent moisture then condenses to water droplets, which amalgamate to form rain on the seaward slopes. A glance at the rainfall statistics makes the nuances of this process abundantly clear.

On the coast annual rainfall varies between 1100 and 1300 mm, rising to about 6500 mm at 1000 metres and around 8000 mm near 2000 metres. These figures are often surpassed on the wetter northern and western slopes of the Pouakai Range. The statistics for record rainfalls are mind boggling. In August 1967 at Dawson Falls, 427 mm fell in one day and 844 mm fell in two days! This abundant rainfall gives birth to over 50 streams and rivers.

Flora

A ring of vegetation zones encircles Mount Taranaki, relating directly to the different conditions which exist at different altitudes. The distinct zonation passes through dense lowland forest, montane forest, scrub, tussocklands, alpine herbfields and alpine rock gardens. Near the summit only lichens survive.

The lowland forest at the park boundary is reminiscent of the vast tracts of forest which would have once embraced the Taranaki Plains. Supported by an abundant rainfall, the dense community of kamahi, rimu and rata is festooned with abundant epiphytes, liana, mosses, lichens and ferns. These enchanting forests give rise to Mount Taranaki’s famed ‘goblin’ forests, where you almost expect to see fairies and gnomes scurrying about the understorey.

One notable feature of the Mount Taranaki forest is the absence of beech trees. This has been explained by the forest’s isolation, exacerbating beeches poor powers of seed dispersal over long distances. As volcanic disturbances have occurred, the podocarps exploit the soil first at the expense of the late arriving beech, which cannot find suitable conditions for germination. The mountain’s isolation has also given rise to a high degree of endemism, with local species including Egmont broom, Egmont red tussock and Egmont hareball.

Near the tree line the most notable feature of the forest is the presence of wind sculpted mountain cedar (kaikawaka) and mountain totara. Kaikawaka takes on a distinctive form, differing from its lowland counterparts, which are less battered by winds. Near the tree line, the flag formed trees cowl over, following the direction of the prevailing salt-laden winds. The crowns are often devoid of foliage, whipped to bare branches by storms.

The subalpine zone is characterised by dwarf specimens and subalpine shrubs, including leatherwood. Higher up tauhinu and inaka form a mosaic with herbs and orchids. Between 1700 and 1900 metres, blue tussock thrives, especially on the scoriaceous gravels. Still higher are the alpine herbfields, including species such as mountain tutu. Theses nitrogen fixers are able to form embryonic soils for other species such as red tussock, mountain daisy, everlasting daisies and anisotome to exploit.

At the highest altitudes the only species that can survive the high winds, extremes of temperature, snow cover and short growing season are communities of mosses, herbs, ferns and grasses, which form small rock gardens in sheltered hollows. Near the summit, the only plants are hardy mosses and lichens. A walk up Fanthams Peak or to the summit reveals this fascinating textbook succession of plant communities.

When eminent botanist, Leonard Cockayne, visited in the early 1900s, he wrote of the natural museum: “Hardly any other piece of forest in New Zealand can rival the beauty of that which occupies the lower slopes of Egmont…It stands as a magnificent natural museum wherein is preserved a portion of the wonderful New Zealand rainforest in the most perfect condition, made up of a large percentage of its unique trees, shrubs, ferns, mosses, liverworts and lichens.”

Following the release of stock into the park in the early 1900s, a deliberate measure to boost winterfeeds, the degradation of the forest commenced. The release of possums and goats compounded the problems and by the late 1930s severe damage to the understorey was being reported.

The New Zealand Forest Service was entrusted with the task of culling the rampant goat population. Tracks were cut and huts constructed to aid the cullers, while forest hunters also launched offensives on possums. These pest control measures continue today and are carried out by the Department of Conservation.

The walk is an interesting study in the transition of vegetation zones. Up to 1060 metres mountain cedar (kaikawaka) becomes abundant, although the dishevelled tops are scoured by the ferocious winds. Fuschia, broadleaf and mountain five finger form the understorey below. Above 1060 metres impenetrable leatherwood scrub and koromiko gives way to tussock and herbfields below the snowline, where only lichens survive.

Polynesian History

To Taranaki Maori, the mountain was (and still is) tapu. They believe the stones are the mountain’s skull and the shrubs his hair. The mountain was the burial place of chiefs. It is recorded in tradition that Tahurangi, a descendant of Te Hatauira, climbed to the summit and lit a fire to show he had take possession of the mountain for the Taranaki tribes.

The legend of Mount Taranaki’s position is tied to the Tongariro Volcanoes and the formation of the Whanganui River, when Mount Taranaki lost his fight with Mount Tongariro over the beautiful Mount Pihanga. She was clad in a luxuriant forest of green, which made her especially beautiful in the eyes of the barren volcanoes. A battle raged between the two mountains and an age of darkness enveloped the land, as smoke poured from the fuming mountains. Tongariro lost his head in battle, which became Motutaike in Lake Taupo, but eventually defeated Taranaki. With a final venomous kick, which formed Rangitoto Flat between Fanthams Peak and the summit, Taranaki was forced to leave and fled the central North Island towards the setting sun, carving a deep scar as he travelled seaward.

Mount Tongariro healed the wound left by Mount Taranaki and formed the Whanganui River, the rocks falling from Mount Taranaki’s sides forming the rapids. Taranaki was guided by Te Toka A Rauhotu, a rock which travelled well ahead. When Taranaki rested, the Pouakai Range cast out a spur, which captured Taranaki in his present position. It is said only Te Toka A Rauhotu can release him, after which Taranaki will voyage to Pihanga. Te Toka A Rauhotu stopped near the west coast, but since 1948 has been moved to Puniho Pa.

When enshrouded in mist, it is said Mount Taranaki is weeping for his lost love. During the vibrant displays of the setting sun, when a warm glow reflects the evening colours, Mount Taranaki said to be wearing his chiefly karowai cloak of kaka feathers to proudly display his rank to Pihanga. When Tongariro and Ngaruhoe vent smoke, they are showing their continuing anger towards their foe.

Some dispute exists as to the translation of Taranaki, but various candidates include ‘the cloud piercer’, ‘shining spear point’, or ‘gliding peak’.

Maori settlement in the region was a mix of Ngati Ruanui in the south, the Taranaki tribes in the north and west and Atiawa in the north and north-east. Many of the mountain’s lower slopes were colonised, evidenced by ovens, food pits, whare sites, tracks and burned holes. On the Kaitake Range over 30 occupied sites have been unearthed by archaeologists, three with clearings. All the prominent features of the mountain have Maori names.

Tahurangi was said to be the first man to ascend the mountain. On gaining the summit, he lit a fire, having hauled up the firewood for this purpose, and by this act is said to have taken possession of the mountain on behalf of his people.

European History

The first Europeans to sight Mount Egmont/Taranaki were the crew aboard Endeavour, who passed the Taranaki coast on 10th January 1770. The ship’s botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, later recorded in his diary, “this morning soon after daybreak, we had a momentary view of our great hill, the top of which was thickly covered with snow, though this month answers to July in England. How high it may be I do not take upon me to judge, but it is certainly the noblest hill I have ever seen…” The European name Egmont was conferred in recognition of the Earl of Egmont, first Lord of the Admiralty at the time of Cook’s visit. In 1985, the National Geographic Board approved the name change from Mount Egmont to Mount Taranaki.

The first ascent by Europeans was undertaken in 1839 by German naturalist Dr Ernst Dieffenbach, employee of the New Zealand Company. He was ordered to survey the Egmont region and accomplished the feat under the supervision of Maori guides. Near the snowline, Dieffenbach and his European companion Heberley, were left to ascend the summit alone, as to Maori the summit area was deemed tapu. Their experiments with boiling a vessel of water, calculated the height to be 2694 meters.

The fastest time to the summit up to 1955 was posted on February 25th 1894 by George Henry Herbert, aged 23. Three Auckland bookmakers and a well known sports writer, Joe Chadwick, placed a wager of £20 that the return trip from North Egmont to the summit could not be accomplished in less than 2 ¾ hours. They left a cap with Chadwick’s business card on the summit, weighted down by a stone. Herbert was also to collect a metal badge, wedged into a rock cleft, to verify his feat. His time was adjudicated by three judges with watches and all confirmed a time of 1 hour 50 minutes and 4 seconds for the return trip.

The slowest climb on 27th February 1890 was attributed to former Prime Minister Sir William Fox, aged 78. Fox was a noteworthy teetotaller, who aimed to demonstrate to the sinful masses that with a life of abstinence and self sacrifice, it was possible to accomplish such enduring feats at a ripe old age. He felt the virtuosity in abstention would work in his favour. Accompanied by a pole and the famed guide Harry Peters, they gained the summit in 12 hours, completing the trip in 18 hours. On their return Peters quipped, “the experience gained did not confirm the contention.”

Harry Peters made over 89 ascents of the mountain between 1891 and 1898 and was the first caretaker of the “Old House” (today’s Camphouse). He guided many walkers to the summit, including George Walker, who made the top on crutches. Over his years of dedication to the mountain he fondly recalled many stories of people staying at the “Old House” and was the first man to really put climbing to the summit on the recreational map. He died in 1941 aged 90.

Other miscellany records include three ascents in one day from Dawson Falls hotel, by G Bourke and R Griffiths. Their 17 hour ordeal took in a vertical ascent of 16,355 feet. The first lady to the summit is recorded as Miss Jane Maria Richmond, who climbed the peak with seven others on March 1855. It was usual practice at that time for women to stay at camp and cook a hearty meal for the men on their return, but Miss Richmond obviously had other ideas. She sealed her accomplishment by depositing her name in a bottle on the summit.

An early surveyor of note was Harry May Skeet, who in 1889 produced the first topographical map of Egmont National Park. This was refined during the summers of the following years by parties of surveyors would cut tracks, set up flying camps and record the bluffs, ravines and gorges. They erected a 4.5 metres high trig beside the summit rocks, the materials being hauled up by the team of six, carrying 27 kilogram bags of angle iron, lead and wood. However, with the extreme changes in temperature the structure soon became twisted and the task of ruination was later completed by gales.

Early development of tracks was initiated by guide of note, Harry Peters, who drew on the initial cutting of the Mangorei Track to improve access to North Egmont. In 1885 he rerouted the bridle track from Kaimiro, about the same time as access to Dawson Falls and The Plateau was being improved. When surveying started in the late 1800s, HM Skeet supervised a cutting of survey routes including the first round the mountain circuit.

Recreation commenced in the park from the late 1880s, when an attempt on the summit would take two or three days. From the 1920s three accommodation houses were constructed with local walks for the less adventurous to explore. When tramping and climbing clubs formed from the 1930s huts and tracks became more numerous and recreation on the mountain became popular. Over 320 kilometres of track now lattice the mountainside.

Because the mountain is so accessible, it is the most often climbed peak in New Zealand. It also holds the sorry statistic of being the most dangerous, having claimed the greatest number of lives. Between 1891 and 1989 there have been 51 deaths.

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Reviews

Showing 13 reviews of 90.

Takeru Yonahr's avatar

Takeru Yonahr

Japan

Ranking: 9/10

Many walks in the forest, near the river, long, short, with a spectacular view. Always check the weather first.

Reviewed over 1 year ago

Tom Koppe's avatar

Tom Koppe

Netherlands

Ranking: 7/10

Nice walk. Was a rainy day what made it hard. We did not reach the summit due to wind and rain.

Reviewed about 2 years ago and experienced in January 2017

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Henna

Finland

Ranking: 9/10

One of the best hikes in the North Island. When we were there it was rainy and windy so we could not reach the top of the mountain. Highly recommended in good weather!!

Reviewed about 2 years ago and experienced in January 2017

Mark Nickson's avatar

Mark Nickson

United Kingdom

Ranking: 10/10

Really good informative visitor centre at North Egmont carpark. All signage on the track is second to none, the same as every walk we have done in New Zealand.

Reviewed about 2 years ago and experienced in February 2017

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Dan Schmidt's avatar

Dan Schmidt

Denmark

Ranking: 10/10

Absolutely fantastic!! Views inland and over the sea, above clouds, very difficult hike though, be prepared to get on all 4s at some point. Snow permanently at the summit crater - prepare!!

Reviewed about 2 years ago and experienced in January 2017

Heyuuiutha Lokithas's avatar

Heyuuiutha Lokithas

Switzerland

Ranking: 10/10

Very nice mountain. A good area around the mountain. They have a lot of good walks around the mountain and to the summit. Highly recommend.

Reviewed about 2 years ago and experienced in December 2016

David's avatar

David

France

Ranking: 8/10

Lots of walks for several hours or a few days. Very impressive.

Reviewed about 2 years ago and experienced in December 2016

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Alexie Lion's avatar

Alexie Lion

France

Ranking: 9/10

We were a little bit disappointed because it was very cloudy! We stayed a few days and then we left, we then finally saw the top of the mountain!

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Adrien Richard's avatar

Adrien Richard

France

Ranking: 9/10

My favourite hiking trip in New Zealand!!

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in April 2016

Benjamin Leboucq's avatar

Benjamin Leboucq

France

Ranking: 9/10

Lots of landscapes, top of the world, not too many people, one of the best.

Reviewed over 2 years ago and experienced in April 2016

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Birthe's avatar

Birthe

Netherlands

Ranking: 7/10

Unfortunately after the steep climb the only thing we could see were clouds. We could imagine that the view would be amazing.

Reviewed almost 3 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Edwine's avatar

Edwine

Belgium

Ranking: 8/10

Nice walk! All the huts were nice with wood to make the place warm!

Reviewed almost 3 years ago and experienced in January 2016

Vincent's avatar

Vincent

France

Ranking: 8/10

One part is very slippery and not that easy. Do not under estimate the weather. Really cold at the top. Worth the 9 to 10 hour walk.

Reviewed almost 3 years ago and experienced in January 2016

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Nick Morrison's avatar

Nick Morrison

Rankers owner

Love Christchurch