Leaving Auckland on Good Friday morning we hit traffic when we reached Route 1. An hour into it we traded stop & go for the windy Pacific Coast Highway. We reached Thames at 1pm, ate a quick sandwich, and got on the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail shortly after 2pm. A few minutes down Webb Creek Walk we viewed the Billygoat Waterfalls and started to ascend. We encountered a young man who had injured his knee and did not immediately connect him with the helicopter hovering overhead. Half an hour later we passed a medic who had dropped onto the trail in search of him.
Unfortunately, one of our friends started to feel unwell and they both decided to turn back. Allen and I continued on our own. We passed many people hiking the other direction, apparently completing the Billygoat Circuit in one day. There were frequent stops to let others pass on the narrow trail. Posters along the trail informed us that the pinnacles are plugs of former volcanoes. Over time the soft outer shell of the volcanoes eroded leaving these towering granite remains.
We reached the Pinnacles Hut at 5pm, rested for an hour, and carried on to the pinnacles summit at 759 meters. This 1km section was steeper than earlier. The path was mainly stairs with two ladders and finished with a rock climb. Hand rails secured into the rocks made the climb easier. We reached the platform at the top and took a minute to catch our breath and admire the view. It was windy and cold so we did not stick around. We climbed back to the hut just before sunset. We ate dinner and quickly fell asleep, bone tired from the day.
On Saturday we left the hut at 8:30am. The first 40 minutes we backtracked to the Hydro Camp, then turned left onto Billygoat Walk, a longer route back to the carpark. The first section was undulating, easy terrain. Then there was a steep descent; slippery rocks transitioned to clay and dirt. Once that got in the treads of my boots they felt worthless. After an hour my quads we burning from the strain of trying to stay vertical. I was grateful when the trail leveled out for even a few meters. We passed railroad tracks which had been used to hold a stationary engine for winching kauri logs up/down the mountain. We also passed above the Billygoat Falls that we viewed from Webb Creek Walk the day before. After our final descent we approached Kauaeranga River. The swing bridge was out of service so we anticipated wading through knee-deep water, but the water level was low enough for us to hop across on rocks. We relaxed at the stream for a few minutes before tramping the last 5 minutes of the trail. I was just swapping my boots for jandals when our friends arrived. Perfect timing!
Ultimately the hike was a wonderful challenge. It had not rained recently, but the path was wet so I wonder if it is ever dry. The uneven stones, rough volcanic rock, and slippery clay means you really have to watch your step. The circuit can easily be done in a day trip, but to get to the pinnacles I advise spending the night at the hut.
Dates: 3-4 April 2015
Travel with: Allen & the Bharades
Weather: sunny with a few clouds; windy at the top; temp dipped into the 50s at night
Accommodation: DOC Pinnacles 80-bed hut was full, kitchen was well equipped with pots, mugs, cutlery, gas HOB and outdoor bbq.
- pinnacles hike
- subway in thames pre-hike;
- tastebud cafe for post-hike coffee and scone;
- pb&j, fruit, carrots, trail mix, granola bars during the tramp