Mount Taranaki – Labour Weekend 2006
Location: Tahurangi Lodge, Mt Taranaki
Organised and lead by Brandon Danille
Participants: Brandon Danille, Caroline Lonsdale, Zora Janson, Brad White, Ian Wallace, Grant Sutton, Magnus Hammarsal, Amanda Holmes, Justin Kim, Mathew Robertson and Kelly.
The tension was palpable as the climber inched his way, bat-like, underneath the huge roof. "Rope!" The belayer fed rapidly and the watchers relaxed slightly as the rope clicked cleanly into the hanging quickdraw. A few more moves and then "Take!" The climber dropped off the I-beam and lowered swiftly to the floor of the hut. Welcome to Tahurangi Lodge, Labour Day weekend, day 2, rainfall 150mm plus and counting!
The weather was no surprise really. We knew that Saturday was our only real chance of doing anything with Sunday and Monday predicted to be rather grim.
Walking up to the hut at about 2am on Saturday morning there was some debate as to whether we should take advantage of the perfect conditions and continue up to the summit with head torches. Unfortunately after a full day’s work, the five-hour drive and the slog up the "Puffer", the lure of the hut and a warm bed was too strong. Some hardy souls set an alarm for 6am but soon returned to their bags after a brief check on the weather. The front appeared to have arrived earlier than anticipated and it was already raining, misty and windy.
Thanks to Gore-Tex and blind optimism, 10am saw the group heading up into the mist, GPS set to "bread crumb trail" mode. Initially the conditions were not too bad but they worsened steadily the higher we climbed. About two hours later the saner members of the group decided to head downwards while the rest persevered on up. Not long afterwards though, in scenes reminiscent of Scott in the Antarctic, the decision was taken to turn around. Conditions had taken a marked turn for the worse and the issue was no longer really debatable. This is supposed to be fun after all!
Glissading in whiteout conditions is probably not recommended in the best textbooks but Grant seemed to know where he was going so we all zoomed down after him.
The rest of the afternoon was spent playing Monopoly (the mountaineering version of course), Scrabble, cards, Twister, Chess, "Pigs?", reading and drinking countless brews. The next morning part of the group decided to head for dryer pastures. Those remaining in the hut started to eye out the ringbolts in the I-beam roof girder and were soon providing some free entertainment for the non-climbers in the hut. I-beam traverses were interspersed with the standard party trick: table traverses. Some of us took advantage of the enforced confinement to catch up on back issues of various climbing magazines in the hut library.
The 120mm of rain on Sunday was followed by a further 150mm on Monday and it was a rather bedraggled bunch that reached the day shelter at the car park on Monday afternoon. Grant's "hot tip" of backing the car underneath the veranda of the day shelter was well received and greatly facilitated the process of changing into dry clothes and packing the car while the rain continued! For many of us in the group it was our first trip to "the Naki" and it was probably appropriate that we experienced some of what the mountain is famous for!!
By Ian Wallace