by Teresa Janssen
Our Pinnacles weekender was a real treat. Normally we do this trip as a long day trip and this time we got the chance to sleep over in the Pinnacles Hut which gave us the opportunity to bag both a sunset and a sunrise from high up in the Coromandel Ranges.
Despite leaving Auckland at 8 am we arrived to a nearly full carpark. Voted as one of the ‘101 Must Do's for Kiwis’ it is a popular track and the 5 star, 80 bed hut needs booking well in advance.
After crossing the swing bridge we took the Webb Creek track, climbing steps that were cut into rock to make the journey easier for the packhorses during the kauri logging era. Lunch at the Hydro Camp clearing was a welcome break after the big uphill section. Next it was on to the track to the hut, still steep but coming onto more open country with views of the rugged volcanic landforms of Tauranikau and the Pinnacles. We arrived at 1.30 ready to bag a bunk and settle in, but the bunk rooms weren’t open until 2.30 so we relaxed on the outdoor decks until we were directed into one of the two bunk rooms, each split into two halves.
Discussions then took place - The Pinnacles, afternoon, sunset, sunrise or not at all? Explore the partly restored remains of the Dancing Camp Dam, or investigate the plants and birdlife on the plateau? The 40 minute (1km) climb to the top starts with a nice flat walk which gives great views to The Pinnacles and surrounding hills, and down to the coast of Tairua. From here it is quite clear that the trip to the top is going to be mostly vertical and without a head for heights, an additional challenge. It starts with a set of well-constructed steps, then continues with more, and some more for luck. The final stage of the ascent includes climbing two sets of aluminium ladders set into rock faces, then some staple bar ladders in the rock in several spots near the top.
At The Pinnacles summit (759 m) there is a viewing platform with spectacular views of the bush, mountains and coastline of the eastern Coromandel. It was evident that having got this far, many hikers had the confidence to duck the barriers and get to the very top peaks for the ultimate views.
The sunset was spectacular and a great photo opportunity.
It was so good many of us took the 5 am call for the sunrise trip as well. Sunrise was windy and cooler but even better, with clouds rolling over the tops of the inland hills while the sun rose over the ocean.
We returned via the Billygoat track to the river crossing, getting there early enough to hop on the bus to the Hoffman pool down the road for a swim and lunch.
We were 7 from ATC and 5 students and 2 adults from Western Springs, bounding with youthful energy and great company. 20 people booked but sadly some missed a great weekend.
Photos: Teresa Janssen.
PLUS, don't miss the amazing timelapse video from Jon Tunnicliffe of clouds pouring over the Pinnacles ridge on the ATC Facebook page - it's mind blowing ! Ed