Mount Pirongia is the highest mountain in the Waikato region, and I’ve hiked to the summit once before and wanted to do it again. The first time I walked up, there was an old DoC (Department of conservation) hut and some really nice camp sites but they had since built a new 20 bed hut at the summit so I wanted to check that out. I had previously walked up the Tirohanga Track which is possibly the easiest way to the summit, then back down the Mahaukaura Track (a difficult track across a ridgeline). Links the the tracks here. It was about 20km and took the better part of 10 hours, it was a lot harder than I had expected. Being the way that I am I wanted to hike up via the longest track to stay the night on the summit so I planned to take the bell track.
The bell track is approximately 18km with a sign posted time of 8-12 hours for serious trampers. I set off with my bag weighing 16kg (4 kg of that was water) and the first half of the track was quite enjoyable. The first side track was a small set of limestone caves to walk through which was something quite cool to do. The next little side track was about 3 hours in, the tallest tree in the forest at 66m tall which again was a nice sight to check out. After another hour I got to the half way point, a small clearing/campsite where I took a breather for half an hour.
It was around this point that my toe started hurting. I had injured it the weekend before walking 20km along a beach, and this toe had previously been injured training parkour. The big toe joint was starting to hurt from overuse, but I just had to push on, keeping my mechanics as good as I could.
Sidenote: If you injure a big toe joint don’t turn your foot out to save the big toe joint, you will mess up your knee and hip mechanics, I’ve made this mistake before.
|7 hours in and I still have to climb this|
The track also got much rougher and less well sign posted at this point as well as progressively muddier. With about an hour to go to the cone I thought I would be walking mostly low gradient, then I caught a glimpse of the cone through the trees, I had a lot of uphill left to go. It was a very rough climb over rocks and through mud to the cone, and then the same to the hut, with very little board walk before reaching the hut.
I had originally planned to set up a tarpaulin and sleep under that but I was so worn out from 8 hours of hard tramping and with no one else in the hut I decided to take the easy indoor option. When I woke up the next morning my toe was still stiff and swollen and the track I was taking down to my car was 3-5 hours but I had to stuck it up and just do it. Again the track was quite rough and muddy but easier that the hike up, and reasonably enjoyable despite my toe.
Once I go back to my car I could barely walk, my big toe was swollen almost solid. It took several days to come right so I really need to address this problem joint in the future.
I really enjoy doing overnight hikes, I like getting out for a solid 8 hours of low level moving around and being out in nature. This hike was really hard, I enjoyed it but it wasn’t enjoyable at the time (if they makes sense). It’s another element to my fitness, and a lot of fun to ‘train’ because it’s really not training at all. I think the fitter I get doing these kinds of hikes the more enjoyable they will become as the weight of the pack, and the gradient of the track matter less as I get stronger.
Note: I try to keep my posts around 500-1000 words (closer to 500) but if you want to read some longer content post in the comments or on facebook because I could easily write around the 1500 work mark for some of these posts.
|Some berries at the start|
|The very first campsite at the bottom of the track|
|Hook grass everywhere|
|Lots of mud|
|Finally board walk|
|Looking back to the cone|
|From the Summit|
|From the summit|
|The walk down|
|It was so close I could have touched it|
|Back down at the start|