There I stood looking out across the Waikato for miles admiring the beauty of our new home. Sometimes the simple moments create the biggest impact in our lives. My 1st trip up New Zealand’s Hakarimata Summit made me want to challenge myself outside my comfort zone and later inspired me to share these experiences through my blog.
My 1st Climb
A little background… It was June of 2015 and our family had recently moved to Hamilton, New Zealand from the Dallas, Texas. This was my 1st expat experience with zero contacts in the country. We were fortunate to move into the jackpot of neighborhoods and enroll the girls in a brand new school. Normally moving schools mid-year can be difficult but this school had newcomers almost daily making the transition easier. There were only 95 kids enrolled on Aubrey’s 1st day and luckily for me all the moms were in a similar situation having recently moved schools.
One fellow mom noticed my workout clothes and asked what I liked to do to keep in shape. My response was that I spent most of my time participating in local gym classes. She said a small group often climbed “stairs” on Thursdays if I wanted to join them. I had no idea where they were taking me or what I was getting myself into. One thing I have learned from moving is always say “yes” if someone invites you to join them. You never know when you will make lifelong friends!
The Hakarimata Range is located near Hamilton City in New Zealand’s Waikato region (only 1 kilometer from Ngaruawahia). There are multiple walks on the range but the summit track includes 1349 stairs following a 10-15 minute lead in along the Waterworks walk (a lot of locals run this part).
The summit is 374 meters above sea level and takes around 45 minutes to the top (well at least for me). There are plenty of others that can get there much faster and some locals even opt to do it twice.
The walk starts at Brownlee Avenue car park off Hakarimata Road. Simply walk up the hill and veer off to the left to access the path. The Waterworks walk leads you around the base of the mountain until you get to the dam and waterfall where the steep ascend begins via stairs.
When I say stairs, I truly mean stairs! They can seem never-ending during the 1st few climbs but I learned to gauge by the tree markers how far up I had gone. There are few breaks once the stairs begin but plenty of people stand-off to the side to catch their breath. The stairs can be crowded during peak hours and over holidays but most trampers are friendly. I would say learning to pace yourself is key!
They installed these motivational signs to help climbers keep going. I enjoy the extra reading materials to break up the walk!
There are only two designated resting points along the climb. The 1st installed bench situated at the halfway point and then another bench at a lookout around 3/4th of the way up. Once you complete the last stair this sign below directs you to the right and a short footpath (5 minutes) leads you to the helicopter pad.
A few last stairs to reach the lookout platform and then you are rewarded with this breathtaking view. I have now done this climb many times and the view is always worth it. There are days where the fog covers the entire town below giving you a sense of being above the clouds. On clear days you can see other mountain ranges in the distance.
The return trip down the mountain seems to fly by compared to the climb. I can do it in about 1/2 the time and with a much lower heart rate.
Or maybe you want to do something a little more challenging and walk further along the range. There are paths off the top to attempt (but be warned they are lot less established). The full range would take the better part of a day (around 6-8 hours) depending on ability and would require plenty of supplies. I did get a chance to complete one of the shorter trails before our move but never the full range due to damage the track endured from flooding. Thankfully, they have repaired the damage for hikers to continue using the track.
We even made it up with the full family! Ella may have ridden on Andrew’s shoulders for the 2nd half but we did it!
I will forever be grateful for my friend for inviting me along that day! My love for mountain climbing has escalated and I have taken on some more challenging climbs such as Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Mt. Maunganui and Mt. Karioi to name a few. I brought my love for adventure with me to Australia and will continue to climb!