01 February 2016

Climbing Mt Hikurangi - New Zealand

At last and not without some regret Mike White and I, old mountain men of over 60 years together climbing mountains, kayaking and traversing valleys in NZ headed for Mount Hikurangi. The regret being the absence of Jim Wilson (of similar vintage) who was in the middle of getting the last of his leg joints (ankles) repaired. Mike and I, with an average age of 80, decided we couldn't wait another year - who knows what 12 months might do to us! And we did promise Jim that we'd do it with him next year - if we were all able and willing.

Hikurangi (1752m) is the highest non-volcanic peak in the North Island of New Zealand and the first to see the sunrise each day of our global time system. It is located north of Gisborne and about 25km inland from Ruatoria on the Ruakumara Range. The mountain is of special significance to NZers, especially the Ngati Porou Iwi.

Early on the 17th January 2016 we headed east from Hamilton in my faithful Boris around the top of East Cape and up to Pakahiroa Station, the start of our exertions. For the rest of the day we climbed the gentle farm tracks to the local tramping club hut. That evening we spied two deer about 100m above the hut on our track to the summit.
Whanokao (a nearby peak) from Hut

Next morning we were away by 0630, climbing steadily through tussock and bush, then more scrub and tussock around the back of the mountain. It was misty/drizzly and we were soon drenched by the soaking tussocks. The weather held (but never cleared) and eventually we emerged from a steep gully onto the final ridge and then the viewless summit. The best part of the climb was in the upper reaches where the alpine flowers were spectacular - among the best I'd seen in over 65 years of climbing throughout NZ. The Ranunculus were past their best but the white flowers were in full bloom - even edelweiss on top.
Edelweiss (Leucogenes leontopodium) on Summit
Spaniards and Celmisia at top of our Gully

We descended without incident, packed up at the hut (where Mike realised it was his birthday - 81) and returned to the ever faithful Boris in heavy showers. On the way down we visited (just below the hut) the Ngati Porou whakairo (sculptures) - erie in the mist and drizzle. Late in the night we crept back into our beds in Hamilton - well satisfied with our efforts.

Mike White Amid the Sub-Alpine Vegetation
Spaniard on Lower Mountain

Figure in the Mist

Some of Whakairo