8 experiences you can not miss out on in Seattle.
8 Seattle activities that will guarantee a great visit to this rainy city written by a local Seattleite…. Read More
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A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
Laura and I arrived at the Mount Karioi Summit Track carpark at 1pm on Saturday May 22nd and to our surprise the carpark was already full! We pulled over on the side of the gravel road nearby to the carpark however after feeling like the car may be a little unsafe overnight as it was a very narrow road on the edge of a cliff, I decided to run back up to the carpark and do a double check, luckily a man was leaving and saved his space for us to secure a park!
Now we know to arrive early in the future!
The trail starts directly across from the carpark on the corner of the bend – you can’t miss it. Immediately met with a dirt trail and an incline, we knew we were in for a treat. We could see the top of a ridge where the trail was headed and knew it was going to be a steep one but we didn’t realise it would continue this way for majority of the trail.
The beginning of the trail is narrow and meanders up through thick bush for around 15 minutes. After the first 15 minutes we emerged onto a grassy slope that had wicked views over Raglan. We climbed up through the steep grass hill and admired the view, and the lonely sheep that Laura decided to sing to.
We continued up the grass slope for around 10 minutes until we crested over the ridge and lost sight of the carpark. The excitement levels were so high and written all over our faces.
As soon as we crested over the ridge we saw that the trail was headed back into the forest, we could also see multiple peaks that were connected by the ridge of which our trail was headed, we just weren’t sure which peak would be classed as “Karioi Summit” – it turned out that it was the peak that had a tower at the top, the furtherest peak away from us.
We dipped back into the forest, hoping to make up some time as we wanted to make it to our destination (the summit) with enough time to set up camp and enjoy the sunset. We scaled the first ridge which for the most part was covered by trees and native New Zealand flora, however every so often there would be a small break in the forest and we would score a view over Ruapuke Beach and could even spot Mount Taranaki far in the distance.
After hiking over the first peak of the ridge we were met with a steep ladder to climb down, followed by a brief rocky section to scramble down which is relatively easy for the average Joe but when you’re carrying a 20kg pack it isn’t such an easy feat. This was roughly 1 hour into the trail.
After the quick descent into the dip of the ridge we were headed straight back up to conquer the next peak. The trail was relentless in the climb, constantly hiking up and down, and only allowing for the smallest of breaks in the incline very occasionally. It really made us work for those snacks hidden deeply inside of our packs.
At 1 hour and 45 minutes into the hike we reached a chain section. This chain section was definitely a little daunting. We watched on as a lady slowly tried to navigate her way backwards down this section and I became increasingly anxious about how we would scale up these 3 chains that made up around 20 metres of length. The chains were there for guidance over branches and boulders.
It was our turn and to our surprise we scrambled up that chain section like we were two monkeys shown to a tree for the first time, barely even using the chains. We looked at each other in amazement and gave ourselves a pat on the back for what we had just accomplished by lugging those huge packs up that section using mostly just our upper body strength.
After making our way up the chains, we hit another steep section of dirt track with no roots or rocks for support. Like mountain goats we darted up the dirt and hoped for a reward in the way of the first lookout.
It was only another 15 minutes before we hit the sign for the first lookout point. We were absolutely stoked. It was now 3pm and we were ready for a break!
After a 2 minute break and realising we were quickly losing daylight, we darted back to the trail and continued on our journey to the summit. The trail continued as it had for the first two hours, steep inclines over roots and rocks, followed by short and equally steep descents down boulders, rocks, roots and mud.
After this last root section we were only 15 minutes from the summit. We hit another set of stairs and felt how close we were to the summit because we could see the phone tower and feel the wind picking up as we left the shelter of the forest. Luckily we chose a day to hike up that was relatively without wind, or so we thought.
And just like that, three hours in, many roots climbed, rocks scaled, and ladders descended, we made it to the summit! We were exhausted and over the moon – this was the adventure we had wanted. A trail that wasn’t designed for tourists. A trail that was “as rough as guts” and didn’t include long wide gravel paths and boardwalks.
We threw our packs down and celebrated, we were the only ones here! The view all to ourselves and an epic camp spot on a concrete helicopter pad that had views over the ocean, out to Mount Taranaki, over Mount Ruapehu, and back towards Raglan.
We quickly sent the tent up, organised our gear and tucked into some well deserved food.
When the sun went down the wind began to pick up. We googled what the wind speed was going to get up to and googled what a strong wind speed was. We questioned whether we would be OK to sleep here overnight. After very little deliberation and some reassurance from Laura that no, we would not blow away, we decided our campsite was a good decision, even though we were unable to peg the tent down to concrete and had only three guidelines to tie to the hooks that ran along the edge of the helicopter pad.
The temperatures were dropping and we layered up in our warmest clothes, snuggled into our sleeping bags and Laura put her ear plus in. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have the luxury of earplugs, something that I quickly learnt was a huge mistake. It was 9pm when we said good night, the wind gusts were at 22 km/ph.
For the next three hours I tossed and turned trying to convince myself that the tent would be OK, it had been in worse winds in Canada and everything would be fine. There were 30 second breaks between the wind gusts and then the tent would get hit again. I’d hear the poles shift as they moved along the concrete and my eyes would immediately dart to the top of the tent to make sure everything was still intact and holding up.
Three more hours passed as I tossed and turned checking the tent. Not a wink of sleep was had for me. At 4am Laura woke as the tent thrashed about in the wind, we decided something needed to be done as I didn’t want to risk any damage to the tent and frankly, I needed some sleep. We decided to take the poles out and let the tent fall flat on-top of us to reduce the height and the ability to be caught by the wind.
We pulled the poles off the hooks from the fly and held them against our bodies through the doors of the tent. The wind was so strong it moved my pole right off the edge of the pad until I only had the last part in my hand, we quickly collapsed the poles completely and tucked them safely inside the tent. At this point we were smothered in the tent and the fly.
As the fly shifted in the wind I lay there virtually outside with only the mesh of the tent covering my face, looking towards the stars, hoping to make it through the night, while the 36 km/ph wind gusts whipped and thrashed on and around us.
I finally drifted off to sleep with the fly and mesh firmly gripped in my hands as an extra precaution. I woke at 6am, after having slept for only an hour and waited for Laura to wake too. I peered through the mesh at the sunrise we had been eagerly awaiting, we were in the clouds, nothing could be seen.
Laura woke and we decided to pack up. We sat in the tent like little kids with sheets over their bodies pretending to be ghosts, and packed our bags. Slowly we managed to battle the wind and pack it all down. In this moment we were laughing hysterically, we couldn’t believe the night we had just survived and we thrived off the adventure.
We hiked back down and to our surprise the relentless wind didn’t let up even through the thick of the bush. We scrambled back through the bog, down the roots, up the rocks, down the ladder, up another, abseiled down the chains, found a swing formed by a branch, and smiled the entire way, stoked with our adventure.
The journey back down took only 2 hours as we raced back to the car. Rain was due at 12 pm and we did not want to get caught in it. We passed only two other hikers on the way down and shocked them with our overnight stay.
We hit the grassy slope before we knew it and were amazed with how much time we had shaved off coming down. We thought due to the roughness of terrain it would take an equal amount of time to come down as it had taken us to get up. We could see the car and we were so ready to take our boots of and relax!
Although we absolutely loved this experience, I would highly recommend against camping up at the summit of Mount Karioi. The helipad is extremely exposed and as described, not an ideal spot to sleep in. We were very lucky to be prepared and have the necessary tools and mindset but others may not be so lucky. Make sure the weather window is perfect or just enjoy the day trip.
I’d also recommend making sure you lock your car up if you’re going to tackle this hike because it seemed others had encountered a bad experience.