Mt Taranaki – Speed Record

This isn’t going to be a piece of elegant writing. We had way too much fun and were accepted so well by the local climbing community that I couldn’t do justice to it. So this is simply going to be a description of what I did and hopefully give some guidance for those who want to have a go at some of the Summit Records, a number of which I believe are achievable for people with a solid base and some determination. Some of the records are sturdier than others and would require a talented athlete, but they are all beatable by the current crop.

We were frustratingly denied a lot of the information that follows and if anyone wants more, I can try to provide or at the very least point you in the right direction. A lot of the things we learnt, were on the mountain, from the local climbing community as we were moving up and down. It was fantastic to be able to share their playground and see the passion they had.


Sometime in December – I get an e-mail from Grant Guise asking about routes on the mountain and then follows an invite from Anna Frost  on behalf of Salomon for me to join them in a weekend exploring Mt Taranaki, breaking and setting records that appealed to us. Google Earth got a work out in the following two months.

Thursday – Fly in with Anna and wait for Paul Petch from 90 minute run up the Puffer around and down another track. 1st set of photos, 1st and only blood for the weekend.

Friday – Salomon gear arrives at Frontrunner, sans Shoes, Pick up Grant, 90 minute run from Dawson Falls to Camphouse. Heavy discussion on who was doing what on which day and when.

Saturday – 6:30am Anna & I start our work. 30s later I hear, “Anna, you’re going too slow, Matt you’re going too fast.”

Immediately before we started on our planned route up The Puffer to Tahurangi Lodge, Anna was informed by a local guide that we should use “The Razorback” instead. Too late, we didn’t really know the route and how it related to the upper sections. 32 Minutes to Tahurangi and then into the Hongi Valley and the Stairs to the lower scree slope. Worked efficiently up the scree to the bottom of “The Lizard” and good progress resumed on what is essentially a Rock Climb/Scramble.

The Lizard however showed us that a 24 hour effort was not an option. Slick ice-covered most surfaces and at night with a fatigued and foggy mind would become lethal. It did improve during the day, but I have no idea what would have happened at night. Best to save that for another more settled day. Wind in the Summit Crater might be described as fierce, it was very cold with Rime ice on all the windward surfaces. As I approached the crater I could hear Frosty hooting and hollering after her 1:29 ascent. High Five and then tagged my 1st in 1:39.

Summit #1

Turned back down and time to learn the route off the mountain. The Lizard is slow to get down, on the left (looking down) is a snow slope ending in a gorge. On the right is another snow slope leading to the upper scree. So I looked to get to the edge of that has high as possible which is maybe 1/2 way to 2/3 down the Lizard. The upper scree section is a bit thin and boney compared to the lower parts, but progress is much faster than the rocks and once the true scree is hit it’s all on to the stairs, most of which can be avoided by more scree on the left of them. It may also be possible to take a direct route across a grassy/moss section and short gully to the road. I saw one group heading that way and could be a good option and worth several minutes. It goes straight ahead instead of a slight right turn onto the stairs.

Back at the Camphouse in 2:31 and on target for both the 3 and 4 summits records as well as setting a standard for 2. For some reason there was no recorded time for 2 summits???? See the table below for the other summit times. I hope it makes sense.

Summit TimeBottom TimeTop Rest RoundTrip Up Down
1 2:31:00 1:39:00 0:00:00 2:31:00 1:39:00 0:52:00
2 5:39:00 4:39:00 0:01:00 3:07:00 2:07:00 1:00:00
3 9:41:00 8:26:00 0:05:00 3:57:00 2:42:00 1:15:00
4 13:39:23 12:41:00 0:16:00 3:42:23 2:44:00 0:58:23

2nd was about right, 3rd was incredibly difficult. Frosty came 3/4 of the way back up with me and carried my gear for a large portion of it. All I wanted to do was sit down. I was struggling to eat, no 3 summit record for me. That one will be tough to beat.

So tired and so steep.

While I was out doing #2 and #3 Grant had tagged a summit via the now infamous Razorback and so I had more info and more confidence in giving it a go. On the return from 3 I got my now regular phone call while Bombing the Scree and an order was placed for Crispy Bacon, 1 egg omelette and Kumara Chips and I had a solid break at the bottom in an attempt to pull myself together. The Bacon and Eggs were Gold. Grant was happy as I didn’t touch the Kumara Chips.

So up the Razorback which is actually closed, across the round the mountain track and cross over to above the top of Humphries Castle. This was a great place to be, alone on the mountain and quite at peace with myself. I stopped to smell the roses a couple of times.

Humphries Castle

I think I lost the track above here but have subsequently learnt that there are left and right (as you look up) variations. I took the left angling towards where I knew the polled route up the scree was. I entered the scree about half way up. Both Grant and Chris Morrissey took more right hand options and both got to the scree higher up. Well worth a day walk to try to sort out the right hand variation which would have you avoid the scree almost completely.

I topped out for the final time and then had a final glorious descent on the scree, the best of the day and hammered the run down the road in around 16 minutes. Immensely satisfied with what I’d achieved and the people I’d talked to during the day. 13:39:23 took 2 hours and 26 minutes of the old record, although if you believe the Ian MacAlpine quote in the paper, only Anna broke records, Grant and I just made up new ones.

No Caption Required

Without Grants idea, the support from Anna Frost and Greg Vollet from Salomon I wouldn’t have been able to go and play. It goes without saying, but Family let me do it. Thank You.

Finally, a map. I’ll post it as an edit later. I’d like to draw in the route options and don’t want to rush it.

One More finally – Good luck to Alistair McDowell who is going to give the 2 Summits standard a nudge. I think he’s having his 1st recce tonight.

edit: Route Map

RED = Razorback, GREEN = My descent line, YELLOW = Possible Descent

The higher you can get using the Razorback the less scree you have to climb.

5 responses

  1. Congrats Matt and thanks for such a fun weekend! Until next time…..:)

  2. […] Matt Bixley looked back at his multiple summits records on Another Running Geek. […]

  3. Congrats on the fantastic achievement! Great write up and thanks for the inspiration to try new things.

    1. Thanks Travis, that’s the goal, get out and do some things just for the hell of it and have a good time.

  4. […] of climbing and a summit of just over 2,500m. It’s a big day, but still not as crazy as these cats, 4 summits in 13 hours is plain […]

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