When: 15-Feb-2020

Summary

  • Distance: 15.7km round trip
  • Duration: 5h, including a break at the top of about 30mins
  • Elevation gain/loss: 750m each way
  • Pinnacles summit lies at 760m
  • The car park at the end of Kauaeranga Road is at around 10/20m of elevation, so basically sea level.
  • The path is well marked and maintained.
  • We took the same way back. But there's an option to make the walk into a loop over the Billygoat Track. Keep an eye on rainfall if you do decide to do so. The Billygoat Track does not include a flood detour, so you will have to walk across the river.
  • You can also do the walk up to the summit over multiple days with options to book nights at the Pinnacles Hut (must be booked in advance), Dancing Camp Campsite and Billygoat Basin Campsite.

Location

Difficulty Rating

Below is my personal grading of the track including some key points. Check out the intro page to the SB scale here if you want to know how I do the rating.
The overall difficulty rating for this track is (with 10 being the hardest): 2.8 / 10
This is made up of the following categories:

Category A: General - 5 / 10

Distance: 15.7km round trip
Duration: 5h
Elevation gain/loss: 750m each

Category B: Terrain - 4 / 10

The entire path is very well-marked.
All the way to the Pinnacles Hut the path is pretty much what our AirBnb host in Thames described as "highway".
Nice forest ground. Wide path. Stairs for steep bits. Flood detour in case the river swells up.
Note that only the Webb Creek Track seems to have a flood detour. If you decide to take the Billygoat Track be prepared for a river crossing or stick to the Webb Creek Track, especially during and after heavy rainfall.

The last bit from the Pinnacles Hut to the summit is much steeper. While the first part is still equipped with well maintained stairs, be prepared for a bit of scrambling over some rocks right before the summit. Metal stairs are installed as help.

Category C: Weather - 2 / 10

It was a bit cloudy all day. Every now and then the sun would take a peek through the clouds.
Temperatures were nice and warm.
Be prepared to sweat a bit more due to higher humidity.

Category D: Special Conditions - 2 / 10

Be prepared for a bit of a challenge in case you are scared of heights or insecure climbing up ladders. This only goes for the last bit of the hike though.

Category E: Individual Condition - 1 / 10

I was well in shape and stoked.
This was my first actual hike in NZ coming from South America.
So yeah, motivation and fitness were quite good.

My Experience

Green, green, lots and lots of green.

This was my first actual hike in New Zealand and the views were so worth it! I'd just arrived from Santiago, Chile a few days prior and as much as I had enjoyed my time there, I was a bit over being in a crowded city. Especially given how dry and smoggy Santiago can get in summer.

In short, this walk was quite a change of scenery. Trees, lush green everywhere, rivers and streams, the typical smells of forest, humidity,...

 

 

One of the most memorable things about this track, next to the views of course, is how well maintained it was. That doesn't necessarily make this track stick out. NZ's Great Walks, non backcountry tracks or simply very touristy tracks are quite common to be well maintained by DOC (NZ's Department of Conversation).

But again, I had just come from South America after a year full of tracking of all sorts, specifically in Patagonia and Peru. For a track to have stairs starting a couple hundred meters of elevation below the summit and going almost all the way up was just...
Odd.

This does make this track a good option for hikers at beginner level. Still, parts of the track get reasonably steep. The last section from the Pinnacles Hut to the actual summit may impose a challenge for people who are scared of heights or uncomfortable climbing up somewhat steep ladders.

If you feel like the elevation and/or distance is a bit too much for a single day, but don't want to miss out on the views: Just stretch it over multiple days. As I mention above in the short outline, the hut and a couple of campgrounds give some options to adjust to personal wants.

 

 

Another thing that made this one a bit special to me was the disinfection station on the way in/out. Kauri are an indigenous tree species in the North Island of New Zealand. They are threatened by a fungus-type disease called Kauri dieback Put simply, this is spread through soil and primarily caused by human activity. Which is what these cleaning stations are for (see photo).

Oh, by the way, these trees can get over 2,000(!) years old.

Two thousand years...

Let's have that sink in for a wee moment. This means, from what is currently assumed, the oldest Kauri trees, such as Tāne Mahuta and Te Matua Ngahere, already existed way before the first humans arrived in the main islands of New Zealand.

If you're as excited as me about these trees and want to read some more about them, check out DOC's info page here.

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