The Climb

Posted by Spalding Hurst

March 28, 2004


Yesterday will go down as a very memorable day for me.  I climbed a mountain.  A real mountain.  It is Mount Taranaki which is the Maori name for volcano.  It was 2518 meters to the top and the weather can change eraticly, and it did just that as I made the decent from the summit.  Climbing it was one of the hardest things I had ever done.  Also one of the dirtiest.  It wasn’t much fun actually doing it, but it felt great when it was all over with.  I was smiling the whole time though.

You begin at a car park with restrooms and information on all the walks around the mountain.  But Justin and I where set on reaching the summit.  From here you can see the top with no problems, as there was nothing but clear skies all around.  It was a warm and beautiful day.  I had begun to think that all the warnings about temperature changes and wind were a little much.

The trail begins very easily with clearly marked by gravel pathways and wooden steps, slowly moving up and around the mountain.  This is a just a trail leading to the starting point.  The Hut.

At the hut you look up in awe and at the stairs before you that lead to the summit.  Here you sign the log book, detailing your plans of travel on the mountain.  I sign in and Justin and I head up.  The weather is still wonderful and warm and sunny, there is a little bit of a cloud coming in around the corner.  Now the experience begins to get hard.  We are not even off of the wooden steps that have been placed for climbers.  Slowly we climb the steps and soon enough we are off of them.  Now we are walking on slippery volcanic rock that gives way with every step.  One step forward is half a step backwards.  And it is very steep and extremely windy.  Dust is blown all over the place.  They should recommend goggles for this climb.  We have to rest at what seems like every two minutes.  I keep looking at my GPS to see the meters slowly climbing towards our goal of 2518.

A cloud has crept around the mountain now, but the amazing thing is that it is below us.  I am standing above the clouds.  It was incredible.  And the view to the east is breath taking.  There would have been an awesome sight of the ocean, but it was covered in clouds.

Okay so we are dirty, grimy, tired, hungry and we still have 400 meters to go straight up.  Justin and I have met up with another climber, Henrick, a Swiss backpacker.  We have a team meeting and Justin decides to leave us at this point and head back down.  He was a little suspicious of the clouds coming in.  I am crazed with the idea of making it to the top, have plenty of food, water and extra layers of clothes with me, so I decide to continue on with Henrick.  So we climb.  Slower and slower as I become more tired, but I am now off of the slippery ashy rocks and am now rock climbing up the steep mountain side.

Snowy patches begin to cover the ground.  We climb on.  We run into some other climbers who are coming down.  They give us encouragement that the summit is only a ten minute climb away.  We climb on and soon we are there.  We have made it.  I have climbed a mountain.  All the way to the summit.  The view has only gotten better.  The whole way the weather has been beautiful.  I shoot some video and eat my lunch.  It has taken me 4 ½ hours to go from car to the summit.  I felt I had really accomplished something.  It was awesome.

Spalding Hurst standing on top of Mt Taranaki

But, wait.  This story is only half done.  We still have to come down.  No problem, you just go down.  Simple enough right?  I thought it would be.  But the weather is changing.  Clouds are rolling in.  No, they have rolled in.  We are in them.  In the clouds.  I have never been in one before.  They look very pretty in the sky.  They can’t be that bad inside of them.  No dice.

It is so windy that I can’t keep my sunglasses on.  I layer up and hurry to put away my food and camera.  We decide we should get out of here right away.  The wind is knocking us around and misty rain is being blown all over the place.  Our dry sunny day has turned into a wet windy whiteout.  You can only see about 10 meters in front of you.  What was a wonderful view of the landscapes below is now endless white.

Basically what follows are miserable cold conditions with slow descending amongst ducking behind rocks to keep dirt from flying into our eyes for a second.  It truly was miserable coming down.  But I knew that all I had to do was keep moving and get there.  So we kept going.  And the wind kept blowing, hard.  Harder than I ever experienced.  Sometime during all the wind and water I had wished that I turned back with Justin.  That I never even began to climb this thing.  All I wanted was to be at the bottom.  Warm and dry.

Eventually we did make it.  Justin met us at the hut, he was with two other guys he had met.  It took 4 ½ hours to go up and 3 hours to come down.  It was the best experience ever.  Can’t wait to climb another, just as soon as my legs aren’t sore.


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