Pirongia Loop of AwesomenessIntermediate
Submitted by Vicki Woolley
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Front country - easily accessible
Native bushOpen ridges/topsOther
From Grey Road carpark, head north along the Mangakara Nature Walk. Don't be in any great rush - take time to look at the information posts along this self-guided trail - your legs will appreciate a slow warmup. At the junction, stay left and follow the signs directing you to Ruapane Link Track. Follow Ruapane Track until it joins Tirohanga Track: stay left at the fork and continue heading up the ridge. The track begins to climb steeply and as the terrain changes from soft soil to broken rock, look for large limestone 'bombs' partly covered in moss and lichen as you climb. A rocky slab leads you up to Ruapane Trig where there are great views to be had although it is often too windy to loiter long. Continue on Tirohanga Track past the trig: the footing becomes increasingly technical, alternating between rooty muddy sections and rocky exposed ridge sections. Dropping down the side of Tirohanga Bluff, a sheer rock wall adorned with rata vines provides some welcome respite from the wind. Continue climbing to the lookout at Pirongia summit - shortly before the lookout note Mahaukura Track heading off to your left: this is your way down.
Make sure you are rested, refuelled and clear-headed before heading back the way you came on Tirohanga then quickly branching right onto Mahaukura Track. This track is a beast: heavily technical (slippery rocks, roots, mud) and with a series of seemingly endless ascents and descents as you undulate down the ridgeline with far less grace and ease than the wild goats who mock you from the sheer-sided peaks. Nearing the carpark the gradient becomes more gradual; the trail softens into bush again and a screamingly good descent should make you completely forget the swearwords you have may have uttered during the previous hour.
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Features of interest
Pirongia is an ancient volcano and has wonderfully interesting exposed lava outcrops such as Tirohanga Bluff. Good weather days deliver fabulous views over the Waikato Basin to Central North Island volcanic plateau and along the West Coast. Some of the best examples of NZ native bush: look for the 700-year-old pahautea trees near the hut, and rare Dactylanthus taylorii - NZ's only completely parasitic flowering plant.
Make Up of Run
Technical Single Track: 80%
Moderate Single Track: 15%
Easy Single Track: 5%
From SH39 heading south to Pirongia, turn right onto Te Pahu Road, left onto Hodgson and Grey Road is a left turn off here.
There is plenty of parking at the Grey Road carpark (road end), toilets and a sheltered information block.
Make navigation of this route super-easy by using the RunHunters app on your phone. View on RunHunters .
Navigation is easy but BEWARE: Pirongia has notoriously localised (and frequently hostile) weather that can impair visibility. Be prepared with good quality wet-weather gear; hat, gloves beanie and extra thermal layers in a waterproof bag.
Thermal leggings, Lightweight fleece top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival blanket, Cellphone, Map.
Carry own water
Notoriously muddy and slippery (rocks, roots) in the wet: exposed ridge sections with steep drop-offs where visibility can be impaired in wet weather and wind-affected.
Post run indulgence
Wild Thyme Cafe
21 Thompson Road, Te Awamutu
Fast service and good, hot coffee.
Iguana Street Bar
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