Emma and I did this was a little over 2years ago when SOTA hadn’t made it to New Zealand. Because of this (and other commitments with the children, in particular Miss 9’s increasing social life) Emma decided to sit this one out. Pirongia is not for the faint hearted. It is a decent walk in to the summit – allow plenty of time (fully dawn to dusk time frame). In the photo above you can see Kakepuku ZL1/WK-139 for scale. We live on the other side of Kakepuku so this is all in our neighborhood.
Pirongia is an extinct volcano that towers over the Waikato area and can be seen from most parts of Hamilton. The track starts with the usual uphill slog for an hour to Ruapane – a trig on a spur. The views from Ruapane are excellent if you have visibility. The track this far is in good condition and has steps in places. As you approach Ruapane you are climbing up lava flows from the extinct volcano. It takes roughly an hour to get to this point. From here the track looses quality and the journey goes considerably slower.
After descending off Ruapane towards the summit there is another lump to climb over. This one is steep and is fitted with chains to make the climb up and over a little easier. If you aren’t good with heights you will not enjoy this. Along to Tirohanga is relatively easy going with mud and tree branches crossing the track. Down from Tirohanga and then a decent climb up to the main ridge. This climb is harder than the ascent to Ruapane due to the mud and roots on the track and some very large steps and slippery sections. Once on the main ridge there are board walks to make the final push to the summit and look out tower easier. This track is marked 4 hours but I took slightly over 4.5 hours. One fellow tramper I passed on his way up and down (I was going up both times) claimed he ascended to the summit in 2 hours 10 minutes – his personal best.
The timing for this summit climb was designed to coincide with the tail end of the VHF field day contest. I managed to work a few stations on VHF SSB which was a nice addition to the log. I deployed a new dipole that I built the night before and was forced to lie it across the tops of bushes. Not ideal but it seemed to work. 7 MHz around New Zealand was open so I worked a few locals. I switched up to 14 MHz and worked a few more VKs. I could hear VK2IO in there just but we did not make a contact. As luck would have it I had just packed up and put my back pack on ready to depart when I see a summit self spot on 14 MHz in VK. Bugger. Nope I had to set off and get down before the end of the day.
The walk down is not any faster. The mud, roots and large steps slowed you down. Only when I got back to Ruapane could I pick up the pace. There were plenty of other people on the track and the track is well defined so no issues getting lost. Most of it is under the tree line so shade isn’t an issue – however the summer heat can quickly build up regardless. This was a neat summit to do and should be on the to do list for more experienced trampers at least once. However it needs plenty of time and respect. This is not a friendly mountain.
Summit – ZL1/WK-034 Pirongia
Height – 959 mASL
Access – Carpark is at the end of Corcoran Rd, Te Pahu. Allow at least 4 hours walk to the summit from there. There are other tracks to the summit of varying lengths.
Nominal time to summit – 4 hour walk minimum. (10-12hr return trip, including SOTA activation time).
Mobile and internet coverage from the summit – 4g coverage from the summit however poor coverage on the track up.
Summit Marker – Lookout platform.
Land Access Permission – Not required – DOC land.