The other side
From the ridge, you will have sweeping views of Grande Terre's interior, all the way to the west coast. Having climbed through the dense forest of this magnificent nature reserve, it is somewhat depressing to see all the deforestation on the other side of the range.
There is actually an alternative trail up the peak from that side, but having seen what that area looks like, you will probably be glad you didn't come through that way!
Finally, you will emerge to a flatish plateu covered with low bush.
Here you have fine views of the spine of the ridge and its neighbouring peaks, but ironically, the peak of Mount Panié itself is not very obvious.
Again, the trail here splits into smaller ones, but following the biggest one upwards should eventually bring you to the "peak", which is simply the highest point of the ridge and could in fact easily be missed if it weren't marked with this standing stone and iron hump!
The views will compensate for the underwhelming peak itself. ;-)
Towards the peak
Close to the peak, the trail becomes very steep in places, with some trickier scrambling necessary at least at one point.
A small plank commemorating a 1943 French geological expedition here will reassure you that you are still on the right track and in fact close to your goal.
The high-altitude zone
Past here, the vegetation changes, with the trees becoming stunted and worn by wind.
You will eventually reach the refuge (see my accomodation tips), and around there was the only opportunity to find drinking water along the trail - don't miss it!
Past the refuge, there was one area where the trail was bearing left and split up into smaller trails. All went into the same general direction towards the peak, but it could be a bit confusing so watch out!
Much of the first half of the climb will only offer occasional view of the mountains AHEAD of you.
Once you reach the higher altitudes though, you will pass a few viewpoint offering splendid views back towards the coast, with Grande Terre's great barrier reef very impressive from this high up.
Along with the Riviére Bleau Provincial Park, this reserve has the richest collection of New Caledonia's unique fauna. Don't expect large mammals though - the specialities here are mostly birds and reptiles, like this little skink that crossed the trail in front of me - and was held up for a photo only!
If you expected a well-developed, wide and clear trail, you would be in for a shock!
While the trail is certainly clear enough to follow (except towards the very top), it is narrow and somewhat overgrown. Certainly not your average walk in the park, but easy enough if you've hiked through "jungles" before.
The reserve entrance
Having got past all the grass and entered the woods, you will reach this more modest sign announcing that you are entering the nature reseve proper.
From here onwards, you will be walking through dense forest much of the way up, with only occassional clearings allowing views back towards the coast.
There will be very occasional signs to mark your progress, but way too few to be of much use.
Climbing Mount Panié: The trail-head
The start of the trail up the mountain is marked by a large sign about 1 km north-west of the Tao Falls bridge, where the road climbs to a higher elevation.
Do watch out for it as it could be missed, standing somewhat high over the road on the hillside.
Once you pass this sign, the first few hundred metres of climb will take you through deforested slopes covered with nasty grass, until you actually reach the reserve's entrance at 400 meteres above sea level.
Much of the trail will take you through dense moss-forest.
If you don't know what that means, this photo might give you an idea.