Click here for Part 1.
(Sorry for splitting up this tip - but this is from the time when 2000 characters were the maximum for a tip on VT...)
I had given up my attempt to reach the summit, as I was soaking wet from my walk through the clouds and could not see further than my next two or three steps. When you are in the middle of clouds and you have no idea how far they will reach, it makes no sense to take a risk.
Perhaps I had given up too early - because when we were back down at the foot of Mt. Egmont on a splendid sunny summer day we saw that this ring of clouds was below the summit, and on the summit we would have had perfect conditions and perfect views. But I think better safe than sorry.
It is said the climb and back takes between 7 and 11 hours. I tend more to the 7 hours - 4 hours up and 3 down. That is also what they had told us at the Visitor Centre before the start, and we had advanced to a quite high altitude when we made our U-turn. The track was very well marked BTW. If there had been any risk of getting lost in the clouds I would not have walked any further.
As we have relatives in Taranaki with direct view to Mt. Egmont we know that you can see the volcano quite often. You must just be there at the right time ;-) I even saw it from the Tongariro Crossing Track the whole day. It seemed to greet me ;-)
Like in so many other things the Maori legends have the explanation why Taranaki/Mt. Egmont is so often covered in mist. And like so many times the root lies in a love story. To cut the long story short: When Taranaki was still part of the central plateau he fancied Tongariro's wife Pihanga, and Tongariro caught them in the act. After a struggle Tongariro chased him away. But he still loves Pihanga, and when he is covered in mist he is weeping for his lost love. Tongariro is still furious, and Pihanga sighs when she thinks of Taranaki.
Some hard facts: Mt. Egmont last erupted in 1636. The volcano is dormant, not extinct. It once was not higher than 1500 m. When it had grown to 1525 m due to volcanic eruptions it was dormant for a very long time until a series of eruptions raised it up to its now impressive 2518 m.
If the world needed to be recreated, 2518 m high Taranaki/Mt. Egmont would be the model for a perfect volcanic cone. Ok, perhaps not perfectly perfect ;-) Fantham's Peak, a subsidiary cone namend after the first woman who climed this peak in 1885, marres the perfect symmetry a little bit.
If you ever have the chance to see this magnificent mountain from the airplane on a domestic flight from Christchurch to Auckland or vice-versa you will be fascinated by the sheer beauty of this dormant volcano in the western corner of the North Island. It covers an incredibly big circular area, with innumerous rivers running down the cone on all sides, and due to its isolated location it has a distinctive flora. You find a lot of rimu and rata in the lowland forest, and further up kamahi, totara and kaikawaka, then subalpine scrub and tussock lands.
The volcano is not only beautiful to look at, it is also rather easy to climb. IF... If it shows up. Already Abel Tasman did not see it on his discovery tour in 1642, so Captain Cook was the first European to see the peak in 1770, and name it after Earl of Egmont, then First Lord of the Admiralty. Today it is more referred to as Taranaki, the Maori name of the volcano and the region.
Close to the sea, it is clear that the weather conditions can change veeeeeeery quickly. So even on a beautiful day you might not reach the summit. This is what happened to me. "Always watch the clouds", they told us at the hotel, and we wondered why, as there was no cloud in the sky.
The track access is at the North Egmont Visitor Centre off SH 4 at Egmont Village. Everything was fine there. So we walked and walked, and somehow a ring cloud formed below the summit. My friend went on strike, said I could keep on walking if I wanted, and I said, ok, I will walk one more hour uphill and see if I could get through the cloud. So she sat down on a rock and had some cigarettes to warm up. She still sat there when I came back after one and half hours ;-)
- cont. part 2
We stopped over at Mount Taranaki on the way from Auckland to Wellington. This moutain is snow capped and majestically rise up. There is a nice drive up to see a great view from the top. The beaches are amazing too and some have black volcanic sand.
There also ostrich farms and lots of cows and sheep to look at the mountain foothills.