The Peak of Summer

Words by Irena Brooks
The Peak of Summer Photo by Peter Florence

It’s the beacon that draws visitors to the region, and the omnipresent icon that reaffirms to locals that they’re home. Here’s a quick lowdown on the name, various statistics and ascent records.

The Maori translation of Taranaki is “shining peak”.

Our mounga (mountain) stands 2,518m tall (8,261ft) and is one of the most symmetrical volcanic cones in the world. It is surrounded by an almost wholly circular green belt with a radius of 9.6kms (6 miles)— Egmont National Park. The ENP extends out to incorporate the Pouakai and Kaitake ranges for a total playground of 335 sq kms.

Visitors and locals can get information on the 300kms of walking tracks in the ENP from the Department of Conservation, who manage the park. Their website lists the latest updates and track information. For example, a large landslide earlier this year closed a section of the Pouakai Circuit and the detour adds two hours to the trip. At the time of writing, the detour was still in place.

It is vitally important to check the weather forecast before visiting the mountain. As at June 2017, 84 people had died on Mt Taranaki.

During summer, trampers of moderate fitness can climb to the top. The ascent takes approximately 5-6 hours, with the descent taking around half that time. You WILL be exhausted and have very sore legs.

The website www.visit.taranaki.info has excellent information if you are considering scaling this peak. Local guides are also available.

Those wanting to do the Pouakai Crossing will be delighted to know the New Plymouth District Council and central government are building a car park and toilet at the top of Mangorei Rd, where the Pouakai Crossing starts from. Mangorei Road will also be widened. The popular track remains open throughout the work period, which is expected to last until Christmas 2018. On weekdays, a shuttle bus will be transporting people to the start of the track from the Westown Golf Club car park.

The DOC website also offers two comprehensive walking brochures — one for the North Egmont access point and one for East Egmont.

The fastest ascent of Mt Taranaki is listed as being by Greg Barbour, in a time of 68 minutes, set in 1993. Anna Frost has the quickest ascent for a woman in 1 hour and 29 mins.The most number of ascents in 24 hours is four, achieved by Ian McAlpine in 1976 and Matt Bixley in 2012. Jenny Kerrisk holds the women’s record of three. ‘Up, down and around’ was set in 2017 by Tim Pickering, with a time of 11 hours, 22mins and 57 seconds.

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