By Zander Groenewald

I want to thank the Maerewhenua Trust and Federated Mountain Clubs for their generous support that made this trip easier. A big thanks to my friends who joined me on this journey. I’m really grateful to the Shadow Party for taking care of us on the trail and helping us learn for our future adventures.

My adventure at Mount Taranaki was an amazing journey through different landscapes and a variety of plant life. From lush forests to rocky terrains, the track offered diverse scenery at every step. The changing vegetation painted a beautiful picture of nature’s richness, making the expedition truly memorable.

Holly Track view (left to right:  Noah Martin, Jade Fox, Sonya Steiner, Zander Groenewald, Callum Smith, Lily Spencer); Photo credit:  Robyn Bruce

Day 1:  Friday, Kapuni Lodge

Our track commenced at Kapuni Lodge, surrounded by a lush tree line brimming with abundant moss and dense bushes. As we ventured higher, nature’s canvas gradually transformed. The vegetation degraded, becoming smaller and less varied with every step towards the mountain’s peak. A striking sight awaited us near the Syme Hut peak — scattered rocks adorned with resilient moss, a testament to the mountain’s unique charm.

Wrapping up the day’s adventure, we gathered for a delightful meal that rejuvenated our spirits. Pasta, accompanied by bier sticks and the delightful treat of chocolate mousse, provided a perfect ending to our exploration. Nature favored us with a day of splendid weather — basking in ample sunshine, occasional clouds dancing above, and a gentle breeze that accompanied our climb, adding to the serene ambiance of our hike.

Climbing up to Syme Hut (left to right:  Steven Orchard, Andrea Orchard, Jill Orchard, Anna Van Harlingen, Robyn Bruce); Photo credit:  Zander Groenewald

Day 2:  Saturday, Maketake Hut

As we descended from the mountain, a dense cloud draped the surroundings, echoing New Zealand’s famed title as the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud.’ However, as morning unfolded, the veil lifted, unveiling the unique landscape encircling the mountain’s tree line. Our journey toward Dawson Falls ushered us into a distinct section of the forest, bidding farewell to the mossy Goblin forests. The day’s highlights were the moments of delight while savoring our hearty backcountry meals — a satisfying reward amidst the day’s adventures.

Helicopter pad lookout at Maketawa Hut; Photo credit:  Zander Groenewald

Day 3:  Sunday, Holly Hut

We initially planned to follow the valley track leading to Pouakai Hut and further to Holly Hut. However, due to fatigue and injuries among our team members, we decided on a shorter, albeit steeper, route. This alternative path led us through diverse terrains — a thick forest covering the mountain slopes, marshy swamps nestled in the valleys, and hauntingly beautiful skeletal trees adorning the hillsides.

I couldn’t help but notice the absence of fungi in some parts of the forest, intriguing when you notice small things like that. Throughout the challenging climbs, my reliance on nourishing backcountry meals became an indispensable source of energy, sustaining me amidst the demanding ascent.

Day 4:  Monday, Waingongoro Hut

We set off from Holly Hut at the crisp hour of 7:30 AM, greeted by the chill of the shaded northern terrain. Climbing past hills embellished with skeletal trees, our journey traversed various landscapes — lush green shrubs, trees, and expansive fields adorned with tussocks and moss-covered rocks. The descent led us back into the dense forest, where a revitalizing pause at Wilkies Pools/Falls offered a brisk and invigorating dip in the chilly waters.

By late afternoon, around 3:30 PM, we reached Waingongoro Hut, re-immersing ourselves in the embrace of enveloping bush and serene forested surroundings.

Day 5: Tuesday, Departure

Resuming our journey at 7:30 AM, we made a detour to Dawson Falls before retracing our steps to the Visitor Center parking lot. Despite the day being relatively uneventful, it remained remarkable, graced by uninterrupted sunshine and the absence of rain or wind. The consistent pleasant weather added to the overall charm of our expedition.

Mount Taranaki holds a special allure with its rich variety of unique vegetation, offering a splendid view ranging from swamps, ghostly skeleton trees, and verdant shrubbery to captivating Goblin forests draped in moss and vines. The climb unfolds a gradual shift in scenery — from dense forests to shrubs, eventually leading to vast fields adorned with tussocks and bare, moss-covered rocks at higher altitudes. 

In conclusion, Mount Taranaki’s diverse vegetation, coupled with its wildlife, volcanic formations, and awe-inspiring views, establishes it as an essential destination for every nature enthusiast seeking unparalleled beauty and natural wonders.

Morning sunrise at Kapuni Lodge (left to right:  Lily Spencer, Sonya Steiner); Photo credit:  Zander Groenewald

We’re delighted to share another trip report from recent recipients of FMC’s Youth Award Grant. These grants are awarded four times a year, so if you’re inspired to get some financial support, head over to FMC’s website to apply.