An adventure to the summit of Mount Taranaki by Sam Stuchbury – Motion Sickness Creative Director & Founder
In Te Reo Maori, Tara means “mountain peak.” Naki is thought to be derived from ngaki, meaning “shining” – referring to the mountain’s magnificent winter snow cover. The mountain is one of the world’s most symmetrical volcanoes, and stands at just over 2500m. Our plan was to walk to the Tahurangi Lodge hut, stay overnight, and then attack the summit in the morning. Why? Because we thought it would be fun, and our friend Dave wanted to drink a Double Brown at the top.
We stood at the base of the mountain and were filled with excitement, anticipation and nerves. We were granted a short glimpse of the peak as a gap in the clouds opened above us. Ahead of us, a 2-3 hour walk to Tahurangi Lodge. With packs loaded we headed up along the Tahurangi Translator track, also know us the “Summit Climb.” Within minutes the relentless steep gravel track had started to take its toll. Burgers were a bad pre-climb choice… But we pushed on. As we climbed higher, it was noticeable how quickly we were approaching the cloud level above us. The air was thin and the muffled sound of our boots slipping on gravel filled the valley.
After around 90 minutes, we reached a fork in the road. We turned right onto a track known as “The Puffer,” due to its extremely steep incline and nauseating effect on the lungs. As we slowly pushed up the track, the view became more and more spectacular. The hills fell away behind us, revealing the circular bush line of the national park. After another hour, drenched in sweat, we looked up and could see the lodge blanketed in a thick mist, perched on open ground above us. After the last dash up the Puffer, we reach the doors of the lodge.
The lodge had a smell reminiscent of school camp billets, the smell of wooden bunk beds, plastic mattresses, and drying clothes. However it felt safe and strong, an oasis on the mountain. Consisting of two bunk rooms on its first floor and a large open plan dining/lounge/kitchen area up the top. Once we dumped our gear, we found the lodge’s most spectacular feature – its outdoor deck. We were blown away by its magical views. We could see from the tiny spec of the visitor centre all the way up to the overpowering, steep peak. As the sun set the sky turned a purpley-blue, the wind dropped, and things slowed down.
We awoke in the morning before dawn. The wind had picked up in the night making us slightly anxious for the summit hike ahead. As we left the hut, the sun breached the cloud base, bathing us and the lodge in a rich, orange light. We headed up, with the view of the lodge, and our safety, getting smaller and smaller as we climbed the scree slopes above. A series of steps up the gully got the heart pumping. We were buggered already. After about an hour we were in the thick of scree slopes.. One foot forward, one step back. To add to the pain I was struck with some sort of stomach upset. I’ll tell you this for free, shitting on a near vertical scree slope isn’t a walk in the park… We pushed on.
After two and a half hours of climbing, we were left with the rocky ridge. This section was more clambering than walking, but was super fun. As we hugged the crater cliff, we could see the snow-shrouded summit. After a final half hour, we reached the summit. The view did not disappoint. We sat on top of the right-hand peak in the late morning sun and sipped on our lukewarm beers. The view was incredible. 360 degree views of the park, with fluffy clouds creeping along the hills below us. It was like we were looking out an airplane window.
The climb to the summit was possibly the hardest thing I have ever done physically – a relentless, steep climb producing a never ending deep burn in the thighs. We reached the summit after six hard hours of solid walking, however we were rewarded for our efforts. Now one last job, time to walk down, and grab a new pair of grudds.
To document the trip, I made this film. Shot entirely on Super 8mm film – Canon 310XL super 8 camera and Vison 3 Kodak 50D film. Enjoy