Mt Taranaki, Easter 2019
Banner Pix: Mt Taranaki and the approach to Syme Hut
We decided to start our Easter trip to Egmont National Park a day early to take advantage of the fine weather and, hopefully, fewer people! The Famous Five (Juliet, Sue, Robyn, Simon and Alison) travelled to Taranaki, branching off at Stratford, arriving at Dawson Falls and just managing to squeeze into the already packed car park.
A quick chat with the folks at the visitor centre and we were off, straight up to Syme Hut. For the three who had not been there before, it was an introduction to steps. There are hundreds of them at all heights and widths, leading forever upwards.Once out of the bush, the view opens up across the interior towards Tongariro and as we climbed more steps across the tussock, Mt Taranaki grew larger. The last 400m is a steep scramble up the scree slopes, ending at the saddle between Mt Taranaki and Fanthams Peak. It’s a tough little climb, but the rewards are worth it – fantastic views on our day, because there was not a cloud in the sky.
Fortunately, everyone we met were day trippers heading down – giving us hope that the hut would be empty. Syme is a 10-bunk hut, sitting on what looks like a moonscape with the peak of Taranaki rising beside it, making the summit look very close. The mountain had a coating of snow, so there would be no summiting for us!
As the evening wore on, more people arrived but fortunately there were only 11 in the 10-bunk hut for the night. The sun set in a spectacular way and the moon rose, and we were stoked to have been there to see it.
We were all out the next morning to watch the sun rise, and it promised to be another beautiful day.As we made our way back down, we passed a lot of day trippers – some making hard work of the scree scramble – and you had to wonder at the way some of them were dressed so unsuitably for alpine conditions. It was a pleasant walk, traversing through tussock, to the signpost for Lake Dive where we had lunch. Then we went down more steps to the hut, which is nestled beside a small lake and against one of two “domes” which form the Beehives. Surrounded by bush, the lake gave us beautiful reflections of the mountain in its still water, the colours changing with another lovely sunset. Lake Dive Hut has 16 bunks and a large area for cooking and dining; we had no problem getting a bed because there were only 12 guests for the night.
To complete the round trip, we tramped the lower route to Dawson Falls. This track is not maintained very well, but still gets lots of use. It was quite a contrast from the open spaces of the high-level route. It winds its way across the lower mountain, in and out of gullies, crossing streams that after heavy rain would be impassable.
The goblin forest of kamahi, totara, mountain cedar and broadleaf, along with beautiful ferns, was lush and very “green” after the tussock and scoria slopes of Fanthams Peak. It was here that Sue had a problem with her pack; a strap had broken, leaving her camera dangling! Not to worry. Simon ferreted around in his pack and produced a large safety pin, which held the offending strap back in place. Sue didn’t even take her pack off, it was so quick!We arrived at the Dawson Falls car park and it was chaos: people everywhere out enjoying the holiday break. Here we learned there had been 21 people in Syme Hut the previous night. Thank goodness we went a day earlier! We were intending to go on to Waingongoro Hut, but not before Simon insisted we have a coffee at the café. It seemed a bit strange, this luxury in the middle of a grunty tramp.
It’s only just over an hour to Waingongoro, so the place is popular with families – and it was. When we arrived, only eight people were there. But as the afternoon turned to evening, more and more arrived; by 7pm, there were 38 people, 17 of them children, in residence. There is plenty of floor space, as the last group of 10 with no sleeping mats (three dads and seven kids) discovered! It was bedlam.On Sunday morning, the predicted bad weather arrived, so we were quickly up and out of there, deciding to forego breakfast and head back to the car. The rain was really starting to come down as we piled into the car and headed to Stratford for breakfast. From there, it was an easy drive, only stopping at Woodville for an ice cream, and we arrived home mid-afternoon.
Thanks guys for an enjoyable few days. Although our initial plan was changed due to weather concerns, we had lots of laughs and achieved plenty.
Simon’s harem consisted of Juliet Gillick, Robyn Smith, Sue Martin and reporter Alison Greer