Te Aroha, Kakepuke and Hakarimta summit tracks
Since returning from my thru-hike of Te Araroa Trail I’ve been a bit of a homebody. It took a good week or so before I wanted to get out and do some fitness again. But in the past few days or so I’ve got back into the groove. As work starts next week (for 3 weeks, before the next adventure begins!) I decided to take myself out on a mini adventure. The weather was looking good so I drove over to Te Aroha, a small town at the base of the Kaimai mountain ranges. I wanted to walk the summit track up to the mast – a landmark which can be seen from miles away from across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty.
Te Aroha summit track
Te Aroha Summit Track is 3.9kms one way and 952m elevation. I started at around 9.30 am. It felt amazing to be in the forest again, and as I was only carrying a tiny Camelbak with a couple of snacks and water, I bounced up the mountain at a reasonably fast pace.
When I head up Te Aroha, I split the track into three sections. It starts at the domain by the natural hot springs and geyser and takes you on an easy uphill on a wide, well-formed and well-marked track to the Whakapipi lookout. Once past the lookout, the middle section becomes a little more tricky and incorporates some tree-rooty, slippery, muddy parts and even a little scrambling up and over some sections. For the final section up to the mast it gets steeper, more gnarly, and rocky – requiring more scrambling; and the forest changes to a more alpine environment. When I reached the top I checked my watch and had managed what I think was a personal best time of 1 hour 14 minutes!! I have a tendency to turn a nice stroll into a bit of a competition with myself, so I was really pleased.
The view from the top of Te Aroha is amazing! On a clear day, you can see all of the Bay of Plenty and the Waikato, and even down to the central North Island mountains; although yesterday it was a bit cloudy, so the view was limited somewhat. I had a quick snack at the top, then made my way back down the way I came. There are lots of trails around so it’s possible to come down using other, longer routes. I was pretty pumped, so I ran down from about halfway, and could therefore justify an ice cream at the bottom.
I didn’t have any plans for the remainder of the day and I felt really good, so I got to thinking that I could do another summit. I drove back across the Waikato, through Morrinsville and Te Awamutu to the ancient volcano crater of Mount Kakepuku.
The Kakepuku Track is 3.2kms one way and 449m elevation.
Again I generally split the track into 3 sections. From the car park, it starts on an easy gradient grassy four-wheel drive track which switches back on itself a few times. This eventually takes you up into a steeper, and very pretty, forested mid-section. The final third – mostly steps (groan!) which lead to a viewing platform at the summit. I reached the summit in 43 minutes (not a personal best, unfortunately). From the summit, the views over Te Awamutu and the Waikato are marvelous! I could see all the way back to Te Aroha.
Finding Treasure – Taupo Rocks!
I investigated a small box on the summit and found a beautifully painted stone inside! On the reverse was a message from the artist, to photograph it and upload to Facebook. It had been painted by someone for “Taupo Rocks”. I duly completed the request and took the stone with me to re-hide it for someone else. I ran back down the mountain. Now I had a rock-hiding mission to complete, so I drove home with a quick detour, via the Hakarimata Summit Track.
Hakarimata Summit Track
The Hakarimata Summit Track in Ngaruawahia is my local gym. It is 2kms one way and 372m elevation, with 1349 steps through beautiful forest. It is a hugely popular track – especially at 4.45 pm when everyone’s finishing work. I ran the 1km or so to the start of the track from the car park and began climbing the steps. There’s a turnoff after the first couple of flights, that leads off to another short walk to the waterworks. This is where I time myself from.
Because this track is pretty strenuous, again, I like to break it down into psychologically manageable sections. Overall I split the trail in half, then split the top and bottom halves into 2 sections each. Each of these sections has two, very long sections of steps, broken up by a small flat part. I walk the trail numerous times each week, so I know exactly what’s coming and how far there is to go – which can be a good or bad thing depending upon how you’re feeling on the day! The halfway point is signposted, and there’s a bench if you need to stop for a rest. On the upper half, there are some wonderful inspirational quotes to help you get to the summit. My favourite is by Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right”.
I was a bit narked that I hadn’t beaten my pb on Kakepuku, so I was aiming for a decent time up the Haks. It began to throw it down with rain which was wonderful as it cooled me down. I reached the summit in 21 minutes – shaving a minute off my personal best!. However long it takes to get up there, the sense of accomplishment upon completing the Hakarimata steps is phenomenal.
There is a lookout at the top with views across Huntly and Hamilton, and on a good day, the entire Waikato down to Ruapehu. I chatted with some people up the top for a moment before hiding my beautiful Taupo rock, then running down & back to the car.
Road trips and challenges around the Waikato
And there ended an unexpectedly awesome day out! If you like a challenge it’s a really cool way of road-tripping and seeing some of the most beautiful parts of the Waikato. If I had actually given it some thought beforehand, I would have started Te Aroha around 6.30 am, and then I could have squeezed in the Wairere Falls (near Matamata) too. Definitely one for next time.
Check out these guides to today’s summits: