Ascent of Mount Taranaki on 1993-11-28

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Sunday, November 28, 1993
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Taranaki
    Location:New Zealand
    Elevation:8261 ft / 2517 m

Ascent Trip Report

I was awake at 4:40 AM, and quietly ate a breakfast in the cold common room of the North Egmont Camphouse before setting off up the trail towards Mt. Egmont. The first part of my hike was on a wide road through forest, but soon it emerged in a grassy, scrubby above timberline area, passed a large antenna complex, and came to the Tahurangi Hut. Here I rested in a little anteroom, since it was cold and windy outside, hearing noises inside but seeing no one.

From the hut I followed a trail that led steeply up a snowy ravine, many sections of nice wooden staircase built to ease erosion now covered with snow. The path was easy to follow, though, since there were many footsteps in the snow. After passing several steep rock outcrops the trail started ascending the largely snow-free headwall of the ravine, a volcanic scree slope with an excellent wooden staircase serving as the trail and making the ascent far easier than it would have been without it. The weather was largely clear, if a little windy, but I could see lots of clouds in some directions.

The staircase petered out above the ravine, and I started following the well-worn path leading up on a mix of loose volcanic rock and snow, with Mt. Egmont's icy summit cone beckoning ahead. The uphill was unrelenting, but I was in excellent shape, and just kept cranking out the vertical feet. Eventually the trail petered out at Mt. Egmont's permanent snowcap, and here I had problems: the snow was basically a hard sheet of ice, and I had no crampons, so my footing was very slippery and insecure. I had my ice axe, though, so kept on plugging uphill, using the very indistinct and faint footprints that remained in the ice from yesterday's climbers as a very unsatisfactory staircase.

I never slipped, though, as I carefully but steadily climbed the steep final cone of Egmont, glad to have my ice axe as an anchor to help my upward footsteps and self-arrest device should I fall. Nice views opened up behind me, and at last I reached a wide, snowy notch that lead me to a flat area between several icy pinnacles on my right and left. It was clear that the easy, rounded ice blobs to my right was the summit crest, and, following icy footprints once again, I climbed to the summit of Mt. Egmont, at 2518 meters (8261 feet) second highest mountain on New Zealand's North Island, after Mt. Ruapehu.

It was very windy, but sunny, with lots of clouds below me, mostly to the east, so my views of Ruapehu were very poor. However, it was quite clear to to the north, and I admired the view while I ate some M & Ms and took a bunch of pictures. I had reached the top at 8:15 AM, ascending 5121 vertical feet in 3.17 hours--a rate of ascent of 1617 feet per hour, or 0.3 vertical mph. Over five months of hiking, mountain climbing, and travel had me in the best shape of my life.

I had realized while going up that the descent of the icy summit cone of Mt. Egmont was going to be rather harrowing, and I sure was right. The steep and frozen snow was utterly impervious to my crampon-less hiking boots, so I had to carefully use very shallow footprints, made by climbers yesterday when the snow had softened up in the afternoon. I tried various snow paths, none satisfactory, as I carefully made my way down, wishing to hell that I had some crampons, which would have made the hike trivial. At one point a footprint staircase I had been following petered out, and I had to descend by sliding down the steep mountain and controlling my fall with my ice-axe in self-arrest position, but this was dangerous, since I could start going so fast that it would become impossible to stop, and it was very tiring on my right arm, which soon began to ache. I finally stopped myself a rock sticking out through the snow, and carefully hiked/slid/fell to another, and another, until I was on flatter snow.

While in this embarrassing situation of hanging on for dear life to my axe while sliding down the mountain, I saw my first other people of the whole day, heading uphill very slowly. I joked, as I passed them, that I'd pay then $1000 for a pair of crampons. However, my need was shortly over, as the snow was soon very soft, and there was much less of it. I headed for the top of the ravine I had ascended earlier, and found that the low-angle snow parallel to the trail was excellent for boot-skiing--I must have "skied" down several hundred feet of snow a couple times, just sliding down on my feet, the skills and balance I had developed as a skier helping to keep me upright. I saw a couple guys headed uphill with skis on their packs, and, as I cruised past them I said "Who needs skis?". They asked me what time I had left, envious of my early start since it was starting to cloud up already--the summit was now covered.

I even boot-skied down into the ravine a bit, avoiding some of the staircase, before cutting over to it when the good snow ended. I then easily hiked down to a trail junction, and, for variety, returned to the cabin by other trails contouring around the cone in brushy, snowless terrain before getting a trail on the Razorback Ridge back down through humid forest. It was now very overcast out, and even looked like rain.

Back at the Camphouse at 11 AM, Roman was still there--he had decided to take me up on my offer of a ride north today. I changed, went to the little visitor center at Egmont North, bought some food to eat (although their selection was terrible), and looked around the museum again, then got my stuff into the car, Roman threw in his pack, and off we went. I thought I'd do a hike tomorrow up Te Aroha Peak, so was headed to the town of Te Aroha at its base, while Roman thought he'd go to Hamilton.

Looking back at the broad snowfields on the classic cone of Mount Taranaki (1993-11-28).
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5121 ft / 1560 m
    Total Elevation Loss:5121 ft / 1560 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6 mi / 9.7 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2 Snow
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:5121 ft / 1560 m
    Distance:3.1 mi / 5 km
    Start Trailhead:3140 ft / 957 m
    Time:3 Hours 10 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:5121 ft / 1560 m
    Distance:2.9 mi / 4.7 km
    End Trailhead:3140 ft / 957 m
    Time:2 Hours 30 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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