I tētahi wā, he maunga; he maunga tūturu, he maunga tipua, arā ko ‘Taranaki’ tōna ingoa . . .
Once upon a time, there was a mountain; a true-blue, legitaf, “superheroesque” (*my kupu/coin), sink-to-your-knees-in-awe kind o’ mountain, and his name was: ‘Taranaki’.
Various Māori legends comprising our nation’s deep and mystical cultural history have him suffering second-best status in the fucking mother of all battles with a love rival (among other things), named ‘Tongariro’ (see my Panitahi-Fantham’s Peak post for more kōrero (storyline)), but perhaps lesser-known is that when Taranaki was eventually trounced, shamed, and forced to flee, he fled to another of our “female” maunga (mountains), in ‘Pouākai’.
Mid-July 2017, and after a week or-so of hugging our heaters here in Welly, we’ve just emerged from the arse-end of yet another miserable winter polar precip – something of a regular/annual occurrence, these days (who’s the orange-tinged ninny that keeps insisting climate change isn’t real(?) – *ugh*, gummon yo).
What that means for tops of ranges like the iconic “Rimutakas” (*actually remutaka, orthographically-speaking, but that’s another story) here in our nation’s capital, is: snow.
Without a doubt, ‘Mounga’ (“Mount”) Taranaki is the significant feature along the west coast of Aotearoa NZ’s North Island. At 2,518 metres high (8,261 feet, for those of you who conceptualise accordingly), “Taranaki” dominates the skyline on all levels, and from all sides – as he should, really.
Last weekend I had the bloody time of my life ‘bush-craft training’ at the foot of the Ruahine Range/s with OTNZ.
And, the whole experience got me thinking about the kinds of things we do (or in some cases, clearly don’t (but probably should have)) to proactively keep ourselves safe outdoors.
Doing a fairly extensive “crash course” in ‘how to survive’ can certainly spark thoughts and memories regarding previous encounters with our Earth Māmā ‘Papatūānuku’ that were, in all certainty, dice-rolls and ‘lucky escapes’.
I’m sure I more than ‘hold my own’ in these terms, particularly as a relative beginner to tramping (3 years is sweet fuck-all, y’all), but I’m not so certain that this is the best, most learn-worthy approach to have, because what I’ve noticed more than these ‘moments’ are all the times I’ve totes smoked the ‘should be proud’ standard, too.
There’s a lesser peak that sits alongside Mount Taranaki, called ‘Panitahi’ (or “Fantham’s Peak”, after Fanny Fantham), and over Easter my mountaineering mate Mave and I opted to try climbing all the way up to the top.
The weather forecast for our particular day described an initially rainy morning that would clear early-afternoon, potentially allowing us to ascend in the sun, the usual Mount Taranaki cloud-cover flowing in and out, as usual.
So, whānau: where’s the one place you hike to, to measure your own fitness, and potential success?
‘Cos clearly, for ‘challenge’ and ‘aspiration’ to cohesively co-exist, you need yardsticks – otherwise, how do you even see that ever-lurking ledge-cum-tipping-point distinguishing “fine” from “fucking disaster”, and ultimately separate the two, when you’re in full-swing out there in the wilderness and absolutely need to?
Experience has shown me the value in having a particular route that provides personal, pertinent answers, so I can therefore assess rather than guess (thus avoiding the many levels and layers of “situational shit” that tend to accompany ignorance, arrogance, sheer carelessness, and (*or) selective stupidity.
*Feb ’18 (update): Spend the time and effort skirting through Tauhara’s ‘pāhau’ (“beard”) along the tops, as you’ll eventually arrive at his ‘ihu’ (“nose”) and some pretty impressive views of Taupō and the Central Plateau beyond – not-to-mention a massively ‘mīharo’ (“marvellous”) place to stop for snacks and sups:
Afterwards, enjoy a narrow and oftentimes “hairy” descending crawl through ‘The Squeeze’ (off to your ‘taha mauī’ (“left hand-side”) from this rocky outcrop (^)) – walls of volcanic pumice 2+ metres high/deep, so expect to get stuck more than once. Feels like a tunnel without a roof.
There’s a well-known, spectacularly revered story telling of an historically significant, downright messy (lava – *hello*), disturbingly violent, suitably terrifying “war” between mountains here in our North Island’s ‘Central Plateau’.
This ‘pūrākau’ (“ancient Māori myth”) describes an early mountain landscape characterised by a cluster of peaks, crests, and apexes…
Not simply or exclusively the three ‘stayers’ that are there now.
Currently spending some focused time getting “pack fit” — you know, the kind of fitness that allows one to haul extra weight for days on end through the wilderness, or in my more immediate case: up a mountain summit (this mountain summit actually, although I do have the “wilderness” aspect more than covered over New Year’s, too).