To the Top of Taranaki!

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17/01/08
Hello hello hello. What have we here? Some curious readers? Well, I guess the post and picture really don’t leave all that much to the imagination, do they? You already knew that I was planning on summiting Taranaki today, and, well, I did. And rather quickly at that. I had all sorts of concerns vis a vis weather, time to climb, clouds rolling in, finding a way there, and so on and so forth, but yet again, things worked out splendidly for the little cyclist that could. I’m super-glad that I tacked on this side trip on my North Island touring schedule. As it turns out, the weather was brilliant for my climb, and everything was great. I’ve put a map up on the ole blogosphere for you to check out. Yep, there’s a lot of pictures to go through, but hey, they’re worth it. The stats are for just the climb and descent part, not including the drive up to the mountain, in case you are wondering. For more details, read on.

Last night, I had made some inquiries if anyone was heading up to the mountain, as I didn’t feel like forking over 38NZD for an inconvenient shuttle. As it turns out, a German couple were going, and planning to go very early, so I begged them to make room. They did. Yippee. I only needed the drive up anyway, as I was pretty sure I could hitch back easily. The next morning, it was only the guy, but we’d also convinced a Swiss guy to come up before we headed to bed the night before, so we were still three, and we hit the road just after 7am. By the time we were on the trail, it was about 8am, and my plan was to push hard to get to the summit as quick as possible in case clouds started coming in. The time estimates for this tramp are 7-8 hours return, so I knew it wouldn’t be a complete cakewalk.

For the first little bit, I was assessing the other two guys to see if we could climb together. I could tell pretty quick it would be a solo bid. This was okay with them, as everyone has to go their own pace. In the end, neither of the other two made it to the top, so I’m glad I broke off when I did and headed off alone. Well, alone wasn’t quite true, I passed about 15 other climbers on my way up, and when I arrived there, there were two coming down, and another 3 already up there, so I didn’t have the place all to myself, but it was still pretty peaceful. My time from parking lot to summit was just over 2 hours, a far cry from the 5 or so they predict. I wonder if I’ll pay for that in the quads tomorrow? My round trip was a little more reasonable, at 4:40, as I did goof off at the top for quite some time.

While up there, I actually summited the two main peaks, the main one, which is the Sisters, is a relatively easily climb to the top. It is the true peak at 2519m, and the Maoris ask that you don’t actually climb on the very peak point. I respected their wishes. For kicks, I decided to tackle the Sharks’ Tooth as well, which was the second peak up there, which presented a bigger challenge. I actually had to do some real-ish rock climbing, where there was some risk of plummeting to some pain if I wasn’t careful. I got a good jolt out of that, and the view from there across the other way was worth it. Not to mention that no one else had done that peak, so I had that one all to myself. I think it was only 10m lower than the other one. Pretty sweet, eh?

To get down, there were some more scree slopes to slide down, which was fun as usual, but meant getting shoes full of trail mix yet again. I made it to the bottom of the scree area and stopped to empty my shoes. Ahhh, much better. From there, I made it back to a lodge less than halfway up the vertical climb. At that point, I could take the standard road down, or take a longer tramping track back. Which did I choose? Why, the tramping track of course. I’m always up for a little extra challenge. The heat and my speed started taking its toll on me as I made my way down, and I definitely felt tired already. I guess I’ll sleep well tonight.

When I got back to the visitor’s center, the Swiss fellow, Thomas was already there. He had turned back after the snowline, and came back down for food and water. He hadn’t carried enough stuff with him I think, as he looked quite beat. We waited for almost 2 hours for Albert to come back down, but we never saw him. I decided that hitchhiking was a better option, especially when I saw a guy I had talked to on the summit get in his car. We stuck our thumbs out, and were picked up right away for a ride. He took us all the way back into town, where we changed into swim trunks and headed to the local pool for some aquatic fun. Mountains in the morning, swimming in the afternoon. What could be better? I got to high-dive, low-dive, tarzan swing, play on floatie things, and soak in a hot tub. It was a great end to the activities.

However, the fun doesn’t stop there tonight. Shortly, I’ll be heading out for some free music, and the Festival of Lights in a local park. Hopefully, I’ll be able to locate some kind of beer while I’m on my journey, and maybe food, as I just realized I’m starving! I’ve earned it, considering I’ve only spent 6 bucks so far today for all this fun! Crazy, isn’t it? I’ll call it a post for now, and try to get this one up quick for you all. Tomorrow is a pretty slack day. I’m spending most of the day here, as the bus doesn’t leave until 5pm. I’ll hit the parks, and maybe the beach for a bit. Then, back to Wanganui to pack up for the bike ride to Palmerston North the next day. Till then, you stay cool!

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