Tongariro National Park - Fit - November 2019
by Simon Rainger
Saturday morning presented itself with a cool temperature and light showers as we prepared breakfast and for the day’s adventure.
After a study of the planned route the party of 4 left the Whakapapa Visitor Centre at 8.30am along the well traversed Taranaki Falls track towards the Tama Lakes. Steadily climbing up to Lower Tama Lake the cloud came and went, giving at times great views only to then disappear.
After sighting Upper Tama a sheltered spot was found by Michel for lunch, the cloud cleared and a weak sun shone through as we enjoyed the view across the valley towards the peak of Mt Tama and down to the old Waihohonu hut.
Refreshed, the climb continued, now on exposed ridges. We felt the gusts moving us around and cloud thicken making for an unpleasant and short stop on Mt Tama summit.
A compass bearing was worked out to get us off the ridge and down into the wide Waihohonu Valley.
We made our way towards a beech forest in the lee of Mt Tama, where we found fresh water and plenty of good camping sites. The tents were up by 3 pm.
Sunday 8 am was set as the departure time, it was still windy but the forecast rain was holding off.
With fresh legs we set off along beside the beech trees across some great country to find the Waihohonu track, which Andrew greeted like a familiar friend.
Heading west for an hour, we then we left the track to find Saddle Cone, climbing up the lava flow through low vegetation which thinned out to present open country with great rock formations.
Saddle Cone was surrounded by larger peaks. Once identified, we climbed to view into its crater and across the expansive valley it sat on the side of.
Our path was now off Saddle Cone to cross the flat valley and a couple of exposed ridges, so an early lunch was called. Selina found a sheltered spot beside a rock outcrop.
As we climbed onto the ridges we were again in broken cloud with Andrew’s trusty compass and map giving us the right spur towards Whakapapa.
As we worked our way down we had great views of a cloud-covered Mt Ngauruhoe and surrounding country, arriving back from this off-track wilderness trip at about 2 pm.
We were: Andrew Murdoch (leader), Selina Cai, Michel Lamacz, and Simon Rainger.