Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mt Taranaki & Sharks Tooth, New Zealand North Island


2016 January: Climb Mt Taranaki & Sharks Tooth, New Zealand North Island - day trip

Mt Taranaki

Mount Taranaki (or Mount Egmont as named by Captain Cook on 1770-01-11), 2518 meters, is an active but quiescent stratovolcano on the west coast of New Zealand North Island. It is one of the most symmetrical volcanic cones in the world, like Mt Fuji in Japan. Because of this resemblance, Taranaki became the backdrop for the movie "The Last Samurai".

Taranaki's last major eruption was around 1655. A moderate ash eruption occurred about 1755. And the most recent volcanic activity was the production of a lava dome in the crater and its collapse down the side of the mountain in the 1850s or 1860s.

Recent research has shown that over the past 9,000 years, minor eruptions have occurred on average every 90 years, with major eruptions every 500 years. Although volcanic eruptions are notoriously chaotic in their frequency, some scientists warn that a large eruption is overdue.

I'm glad I survive the climb and live to write this blog !

Joke aside, for mountaineers, this mountain is deadly. In New Zealand, it is 2nd only to Mt Cook in terms of fatality ... people die regularly climbing it in winter.

On a sunny summer's day like today, it is a still a challenging one. The difference in elevation between the trailhead and the summit is 1572 meters, making it one of my highest climbs in one day in terms of elevation gain. Further more, there is a looong section of scree slope where you walk one step up, then slide 2 steps back. By the time I reach the summit, my quad muscles are sore ... either this mountain is a tough one, or I'm getting old ... I'm sticking to the former  :-)


Sharks Tooth

An interesting feature of Mt Taranki is a nearby second highest peak on the crater rim called Sharks Tooth, 2510 meters. To climb it, you need to locate a "chimney" (Photo #53) where you chimney up through a hole in the rock cliff to the ridge line.

Hardly anyone climbs Sharks Tooth ... which doesn't make sense to me. If you spend so much effort to go all the way to the main summit, why not add an extra hour to climb the Shark's Tooth ???


Some observations

I am surprised to see so many people hiking up this mountain ... more than the number of people climbing Mt Kosciuszko, the highest mountain in my country Australia. Admittedly today is Sunday, one expects more people to be out here. But still, considering that climbing Kosciuszko is such a breeze, whereas climbing Taranaki is so much harder, are New Zealanders more active than Australians ???

But some are obviously unfit ... either walking too slowly, or panting like mad. There is no way they can reach the summit. And one guy walk with open-toe sandals ... mad ... as there are scree field and snow field to cross. I doubted he'll make it.

Some are keen to see the sunrise from the top ... they must have started walking at 2am at the latest.

A few guys may be going there to see the sunset, because they started the climb well after midday. They don't look like serious climbers, so I'm not sure they are aiming for the summit.


Trailhead

There are a few ways to climb Mt Taranaki. I take the popular route - from the north-east, starting at Taranaki/Egmont National Park Visitor Centre.

The Visitor Centre is about half an hour's drive from New Plymouth, the nearest big city.


Map

1:50,000 scaled NZ Topo50-BJ29 (Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont), edition 2.02 - 2015

Below is the relevant part of the BJ29 map:


GPS tracklog files & Route

The GPX tracklog files of my climb can be downloaded from:
- Tracklog from Visitor Centre to Mt Taranaki summit:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B877-h5SCJaSd29FUXpJeFVoRDQ/view?usp=sharing

- Return tracklog from Mt Taranaki summit to Sharks Tooth to Visitor Centre:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B877-h5SCJaSaWhUODk0MVdmUWM/view?usp=sharing

A summary of the climb is:
- Start at Taranaki/Egmont National Park Visitor Centre
- Walk on the Summit Track to Tahurangi Lodge
- Then to Mt Taranaki summit
- Lunch at the summit, then climb Sharks Tooth
- Retrace steps back to Visitor Centre.

Here is the route, in yellow colour, from Visitor Centre to Taranaki summit:


Timeline & Distance

07:49   0.0 km  At where my car is parked at Taranaki/Egmont Visitor Centre
07:55   0.2 km  At gate entrance to walking track
08:59   4.0 km  At Tahurangi Lodge

09:00   4.0 km  Leave Tahurangi Lodge
11:23   6.0 km  At crest of crater rim, about to descend into crater
11:47   6.3 km  At Taranaki summit

Lunch & explore around

12:19   6.5 km  Leave Taranaki summit
12:43   6.9 km  At where one "chimneys" up Sharks Tooth cliff face

Explore around

13:07   7.0 km  Start "chimneying" up Sharks Tooth cliff face
13:15   7.1 km  At Sharks Tooth summit

13:19   7.1 km  Leave Sharks Tooth summit
13:34   7.2 km  At where one "chimneys" up Sharks Tooth cliff face
13:44   7.3 km  At crest of crater rim - where I was at 11:23am
15:29   9.5 km  At Tahurangi Lodge
16:26  13.2 km  At gate entrance to walking track
16:28  13.4 km  At where my car is parked at Taranaki/Egmont Visitor Centre

==============================================

Total:  8 hrs 39 mins
           13.4 km  Distance is from Google Earth
           15.1 km  Distance is from Garmin GPS

From the above stats, it takes me exactly 4 hours to reach the summit (7:49am to 11:47am). Information given out by the Visitor Centre says the average time is around 5 hours. Although on the way up, probably more people overtook me than the other way round ... hhmmm ... getting old  :-)


Pictures - Port Taranaki

1)  I am up early before the sun rises and snap this photo of the moon shining on Port Taranaki. The photo is taken at Belt Road Seaside Holiday Park in New Plymouth - I slept there for the night.


Mt Taranaki

2)  Mt Taranaki from space ~~~
The dark green circle surrounding the mountain is the dense vegetation in Taranaki/Egmont National Park. The outer light green area is farmland, outside the National Park. What a difference the park boundary makes !

3)  Mt Taranaki from air ... beautiful isn't it !
The above photo is courtesy of New Zealand photographer, Jonathan Usher, from:
http://www.luminz.co.nz/p557514603/h5E8D9B9E#h5e8d9b9e


4)  Mt Taranaki from Taranaki/Egmont National Park Visitor Centre ~~~
Actually the mountain is not that close, I zoom it in  :-)


Taranaki/Egmont National Park Visitor Centre

5)  Taranaki/Egmont National Park Visitor Centre ... where the above photo was taken
If you are like me, climbing Mt Taranaki from the north-east, the Visitor Centre is where you park your car and start the climb. The elevation gain from here to the summit is 1572 meters, as the Visitor Centre is at an elevation of 946 meters.

Climb Mt Taranaki

6)  The trail to Mt Taranaki starts from the Visitor Centre. At the trailhead, there is a gate ... meant to prevent goats, bikes ... etc from entering the National Park. Hikers go through via the wooden gate at the left side of the pic.


7)  In the first half of the climb, there is a very nice track, like in this photo, for 4 km to a privately owned Tahurangi Lodge.


8)  Mt Taranaki - taken at about 1.5 km from the Visitor Centre


9)  Mt Taranaki - taken at about 1.9 km from the Visitor Centre


10)  This cute flower grows by the track side.
If you know its name, please let me know.


11)  This small white flower also grows by the track side.
If you know its name, please let me know.


12)  Almost all the time during the walk, one can see Mt Taranaki. But around this area, about 2.1 km from the Visitor Centre, the mountain peak is behind the ridge.
- The track goes towards the left ... the yellow arrows.
- Then it makes a u-turn towards the telecommunication tower in the red oval. A photograph of the tower is in photo #19.


13)  (At the same spot as the previous photo was taken) ~~~
- Looking back ... Across the middle of the pic you can make out the track I walked on.
- The white stuff on the right side of the pic is morning clouds at lower altitude below where I am standing now. They will be burned off by noon.
- The black blob at lower left hand corner is the shadow of my head and my raised arm ... holding a camera to take this photo  :-)


14)  This flower grows by the track side.
If you know its name, please let me know.


15)  I notice a few wooden boxes hidden amongst the bush by the side of the road. Here is one of them. An egg is inside. Is it a trap? To trap what?
PS: Ken in the Comment Section said the traps are meant for stoats, though rats are welcome too.


16)  These 2 young guys overtake me. They take a photo of me with Mt Taranaki in the background.


17)  Now approaching Tahurangi Lodge, privately owned by Taranaki Alpine Club


18)  Looking back at Tahurangi Lodge ~~~
The white band across the pic is morning clouds at lower altitude below where I am standing. The clouds will be burned off by noon.


19)  At Tahurangi Lodge looking back and down at the telecommunication tower that is about 100 meters east of the lodge


20)  Straight after Tahurangi Lodge, it is climbing up the narrow rock-covered Hongi Valley. Here, I'm looking down at the telecommunication tower and the Lodge.
(The above pic is taken in the afternoon when I'm on my way down to the Visitor Centre.)


21)  Climbing further up Hongi Valley ~~~
- The red circle is Tahurangi Lodge.
- At the bottom of the pic you can see the stairs that takes one out of the valley and onto a steep gravel (scoria) slope.
- The white band across the middle of the pic is morning clouds at a lower altitude below where I am standing. The clouds will be burned off by noon.


22)  The stairs that leads one out of Hongi Valley.
The circle on the ridge is where I'll be standing to take Photo #23.


23)  Now out of Hongi Valley, still a short section of the stairs to climb ~~~
(I'm standing at the circle of the previous photo.)


24)  After the stairs, comes the rock scramble ... this is the easier part.
The rock scramble doesn't last long. It is soon followed by a steep slope of scree and gravel. It is not easy to walk on the scree ... it is like climbing one step up, then sliding 2 steps back. It lasts for almost 1.5 hours ... almost all the way to the crater rim. By the time I come to a rest at the summit, my quad muscles are sore.


25)  Now on the steep scree slope looking back down towards east at Tahurangi Lodge and the telecommunication tower


26)  Same scene as the previous pic ... but further up the slope and looking back down (towards east) ~~~
- The yellow circle is the Visitor Centre ... towards north-east.
- The yellow arrows outline the track to climb up to here.  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)


27)  A panoramic view of the previous photo


28)  Walking up the gravel slope ... it is hard work ! ... I keep on sliding backwards !


29)  Climbing up towards the ridge which is the crater rim ~~~
- The summit of Mt Taranaki can't be seen from here. But Once over the crater rim, you'll see the summit, plus the permanently snow-filled crater and Sharks Tooth.
- In the lower pic, the guy in the red circle is the guy in photo #45.


30)  Looking down the slope ~~~
- The bottom pic is the continuation to the right of the upper pic.
- Left red arrow points to Port Taranaki at Moturoa, a suburb of New Plymouth (towards north).
- Right red arrow points to New Plymouth town centre.
- The yellow circle (lower pic) is the Visitor Centre (towards north-east).


31)  From the previous photo, zooming in on the route to climb up to here (Click on the image to enlarge it.) ~~~
- This view is towards north-east
- The yellow circle is the Visitor Centre.


32)  From the upper pic of photo #30, zooming onto its left side ~~~
- This view is towards north-west ... The folded mountains are a sight to behold !
- The red arrow points to the town of Oakura by the sea.


33)  A cute little white flower growing on a rock ... amazing how hardly any soil is required by the flower !


34)  Meeting a bunch of climbers coming down ~~~
The crater rim is just over these rocks - not far to go.


On the crater rim

35)  Now on the crater rim of the volcano, looking down at the crater ... so, not far to the top now ~~~
- The crater is permanently filled with snow.
- The main summit, 2518 meters, is beyond the top right corner ... you can see it in the next photo.
- The peak on the left is Sharks Tooth ... very appropriately named as it does look like a shark's tooth from this angle. At 2510 meters, it is just 8 meters short of the main summit.
- To climb to the main summit, first walk across the snow to where the yellow arrow is. Then follow the arrow and walk on the ridge. In fact, you can just make out a climber as a tiny dot just under the yellow arrow.


36)  Continuation to the right of the previous pic ~~
The summit of Mt Taranaki, 2518 meters, is pointed to by the red arrow. To reach the summit, follow the yellow arrows.


Climb to Mt Taranaki summit

37)  I've crossed the crater and now climbing up the loose scree. The summit can't be seen here ... but it is directly ahead over the ridge.


38)  Approaching Mt Taranaki summit - where the guy is standing.


At Mt Taranaki summit

39)  The summit of Mt Taranaki is this rock. It is the same rock as the previous pic, but viewed from the opposite side.
In the lower photo, there is a memorial plaque in the red circle ... also see photo #40.


40)  The words on the plaque are:
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1st ascent of Egmont by E Dieffenbach & J. Heberley on Dec. 23rd 1839.
  Mt Egmont Alpine Club
  Eltham Alpine Club
  Stratford Mt Club
  Taranaki Alpine Club


41)  I climb to the top of the rock - Hurray !  2518 meters, the very tip of Mt Taranaki !
It takes me exactly 4 hours to reach here from where I parked the car. Information given out by the Visitor Centre says the average time is around 5 hours. Although on the way, probably more people overtook me than the other way round ... hhmmm ... getting old  :-)


42)  Scene around the summit ~~~
Quite a lot of people are up here ... more than the number of people climbing Mt Kosciuszko, the highest mountain in my country Australia. Admittedly today is Sunday; and being a holiday, one expects more people to be out here. But still, considering that climbing Kosciuszko is such a breeze, whereas climbing Taranaki is so much harder, are New Zealanders more active than Australians ???


43)  It is also quite flat at the top - a mini plateau.
Someone had erected a cairn - red circle in the upper pic.


44)  Someone had erected a cross too ~~~
The background peak is Sharks Tooth. I'll climb it after lunch.


45)  I met this friendly Kiwi after climbing out of Hongi Valley (the guy in red circle in the lower pic of photo #29). We have lunch together at the summit, and he points out the route to climb up Sharks Tooth (see photo #49, #50), but he won't be climbing it today as he has climbed it a few times already.


46)  Fantastic panoramic view from the summit - This view is towards south and north-west.
- At the top is the deep blue sky.
- Next is a layer of white wispy clouds.
- The sea is next.
- Then light green farm area.
- Then the dark green dense vegetation of the Taranaki/Egmont National Park.
- The white snow on the left side of the photo is part of the volcano's crater.
Just outside the left edge of the above pic is Fanthams Peak, 1996 meters, secondary cone on the southern flank of Mt Taranaki. Unfortunately that part of the sky in shrouded in white clouds and hence I don't have a picture of the peak.


47)  Continuation to the right of the previous photo - another fantastic panorama ~~~
This view is towards north.
The red arrow points to New Plymouth.


48)  Still at the summit of Mt Taranaki ~~~
Across the crater, to the east is Sharks Tooth, 2510 meters, 2nd highest peak on the crater rim, 8 meters lower than the main summit. I'll climb it after lunch.
The red oval is where climbers climb in and out of the crater. Photo #35 was taken around there.


Then it is sitting down to have a well-earned lunch !


Climb Sharks Tooth

The weather is perfect, the temperature is just right for a snooze. Unfortunately a snooze is out of question as there is some unfinished work to do ... climb Sharks Tooth !

Sharks Tooth, 2510 meters, is a far more interesting climb than the 2518-meter main summit which is just a walk. This one is a real climb.

Hardly anyone climbs Sharks Tooth ... doesn’t make sense to me. If you come all the way to the main summit, why not make an effort to climb this secondary peak as well !?! Or is everyone, like the friendly kiwi of photo #45, has climbed it a few times already !?!?!?

49)  This pic is taken after lunch ... I've come down the main summit a little bit. ~~~
On the arrows ... The way to the top is to follow the yellow arrows.
- Where the yellow arrow points upwards is where I'll climb up the cliff face. A short section of this climb is like inside a chimney ... a near vertical hole inside the rock cliff where you "chimney" up to the ridge.
- Once you've "chimneyed" up, just follow the ridge line to the top.
- Blue arrow is where I'll slide down the snow to the crater, toboggan-style, after returning from the top of Sharks Tooth ... it was fast and fun! ... haven't done this type of thing for a looong time  :-)

50)  Further down the slope and snapping a few more photos of Sharks Tooth ~~~
- The short blue arrow on the left side of the pic is where climbers climb in and out of the crater. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)  Photo #35 was taken from there.
- Refer to the previous pic for commentaries on the other arrows.


51)  I am down at the crater ... from this angle, Sharks Tooth looks very different from the previous pic which was taken up on the slope.
- The yellow arrows indicate the route I'll soon take to climb to the peak, the red arrow.
- The blue arrow is where I'll slide down to the crater after returning from the peak.


52)  Coming to the gap which is the initial approach to Sharks Tooth ~~~
Besides me, there are a few people climbing up this gap too. But once up the gap, most of them turn left to climb a minor peak there (see photo #61). I turn right instead to climb Sharks Tooth.
In the above pic, at where the yellow arrow is horizontal, I meet 2 guys having a rest on a rock. They were at the Mt Taranaki summit earlier on. In fact, one of them took the picture of me on top of the rock in photo #41. They were going to climb Sharks Tooth too, but now decided not to ... they say they are too tired  :-)


53)  (I am now at the start of the vertical yellow arrow at the centre of photo #51.)
Near the bottom of the below pic, you should be able to notice a thin piece of brown wire. Grab on to it and climb up to the yellow arrow which points to a vertical hole in the rock cliff. You then chimney up the hole.


54)  A little bit into the hole and looking down at the crater.


55)  I've climbed pass the hole, still a bit more to climb up ... just grab on to the thin brown wire.


56)  Ok, out in the open, the top of Sharks Tooth is in front.


At Sharks Tooth summit

57)  Now at the summit of Sharks Tooth ~~~
This view is towards north-east. The Visitor Centre is in the red circle. Again, there is the beautiful band of different colours:
- At the top is the deep blue sky.
- Next is a layer of white wispy clouds.
- The sea is next.
- Then light green farm area.
- Then the dark green dense vegetation of the Taranaki/Egmont National Park.


58)  Still at the top of Sharks Tooth ... towards the west is Mt Taranaki main summit ~~~
- Red arrow points to the rock at the top of Mt Taranaki ... the same rock as in photos #38 and #39. I stood on top of it in photo #41.
- The yellow arrow is the direction to climb to the main summit ... straight up !


59)  Continuation to the right of the previous photo (This pic is also the continuation to the right of photo #60.) ~~~
- This view is towards the north-west ... looking into the snow-filled crater.
- The blue arrows are where climbers climb in and out of the crater (click on the image to enlarge it). photo #35 was taken from there.
- The yellow arrow points the way to climb towards Mt Taranaki main summit.


60)  Continuation to the left of the previous pic ... looking down at the snow-filled crater ~~~
- For a continuation to the top of this pic, see photo #58.
- The yellow arrows are how people climb towards Mt Taranaki main summit.


Climb down Sharks Tooth

61)  I have climbed back down from Sharks Tooth and is now near the point where I'll leave the rocks.
- The blue arrow at bottom right hand corner is how I'll toboggan down the snow.
- The blue arrow near the centre of the pic is where climbers climb in and out of the crater. Photo #35 was taken around there.
- The 3 yellow arrows were the route I took for the initial approach to Sharks Tooth.
- The red arrow points to a minor peak on the crater rim. Some people climb it. I'm now kicking myself for not climbing it too. It isn't high and won't take long to reach its top.


62)  I've tobogganed down. It was fast and furious and I almost lost control of myself ... just didn't realise how fast the snow can be even though the slope seemed quite gentle.
- The blue arrow was how I slid down the slope.
- The red arrow points to Sharks Tooth.
- The yellow arrows were the route I took to climb Sharks Tooth. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)


63)  Zooming in on the previous pic
So I did it ... climbed both Mt Taranaki and Sharks Tooth !!!


More flowers

64)  Does anyone know the name of this small flower?
Photograph is taken near Tahurangi Lodge.


65)  This flower is also taken near Tahurangi Lodge. If you know its name, please let me know.

2 comments:

  1. I was told by some New Zeal;anders about the high death rate on Taranaki. A lot of that is winter climbing where it is a lot more challenging than it looks.

    The traps are almost certainly for stoats, but they don't care if they also catch some rats. NZ wilderness is just covered with these traps with lines running across quite often rugged landscape. In some places you will see the warnings to follow the orange markers which are the walking tracks and not the pink and blue, which the pink is a trap line. Having followed one (we wanted to walk along the Dart River) you realise that they guys are very tough.

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    1. Thanks Ken for your comments. I've updated the blog accordingly.

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