Mount Taranaki

Given that the ocean is just a short drive away, Mt. Taranaki’s presence is quite awe-inspiring. At slightly more than 2,500 meters, it rears up quickly and sharply to one of the most conical peaks in the world. All of it makes for a great scene, if the weather allows you to see it. Thankfully for me, I got one day in New Plymouth that I could see everything clearly.

I’m not sure if was done on purpose, but whoever decided to put the majority of the day hike tracks on Mt. Taranaki on the northern slopes of the mountain are very smart, photo wise at least. The sun always is to the North, so getting shots of the volcano is easy – the sun is behind you at all times. Wonderful!

I planned out a hike up to and along the current snow line (around 1600, still 900m from the summit). The DOC person mentioned the possibility of ice along the Around The Mountain Circuit (AMC), which I’d be doing a short section of to cross from one track up to get to a different track to come back down. I took that under advisement, and planned to turn around if I hit anything other than soft snow.

Up I went. Taranaki has a pretty brutal reputation – it is considered one of the most dangerous mountains in the country, as during the summer many will attempt to make it to the summit…only to be caught unprepared for adverse weather. I wasn’t going anywhere near the summit though (being snow covered).

I really love volcanic scenery. It’s filled with sudden, abrupt changes and formations. Across a valley (which I can just picture being filled with debris/ash during an eruption), huge amounts of rock jut upwards.

A good view down the valley. I was climbing straight up a ridgeline, on a no-so-common track. Well, it was barely a track in parts. But I could see the AMC track, which I wanted to meet up with, so I just took the shortest path. One of the big advantages of volcanic terrain – you can see for distances!

That is of course, unless clouds decide to ruin your views. I had just made it to the high point of the high (meeting up with the AMC) when the clouds rolled in.

Soon, there wasn’t much left to see. AAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH.

But there was hope. To the West, clear skies still reigned. I could even see where my track back down would be – a huge transmission tower sits on the side of the volcano. Off I went, in hopes of clear views.

Partial success!

At this point, the snow became quite thick. Nothing treacherous, but fun to play in actually. I haven’t seen snow in quite some time, at least in this quantity and freshness (likely having fallen over the last few days of rain).

The lodge near the transmission tower popped into view, along with more stunning volcanic views.

And the clouds from this side had cleared! Huzzah!

At this point, I had to cross a massive volcanic valley. I simply love volcanic scenery. It is hard to get a sense of scale from these pictures, but his area is pretty massive.

As I reached the transmission tower track back to my car, the clouds caught up with me.

After about 20 minutes though, I walked out below the cloud line. I was now on the far side of the valley/rock outcrop that I had seen on my way up.

The peak of Taranaki came out to play once more.

And while I was enjoying a snack break, the rest of the mountain decided to clear nicely of clouds for a short time. You can see the transmission tower on the left hand side.

A wider panoramic shot of the area.

Finally, the clouds came back in and I finished my descent. Along the way I got good views back towards New Plymouth in the distance.

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