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The Pinnacles

Now, I can’t report JohnO’s contribution to the conversation verbatim, because I don’t listen to him much. The gist of it is that he said, “The Pinnacles? Are you sure you’re able for it?” And I said, “*scoff!* YOU walked it, didn’t you? How difficult can it be?”

On occasion, JohnO says something that is relevant and/or important. In retrospect, this was potentially one of those rare occasions; and instead of saying, “The DOC says it’s only 5 hours and we’re pretty fit. So, you’re building a shed? That sounds pretty uninteresting,” I should perhaps have said, “Able for it? Why do you say that, JohnO? Is the walk particularly challenging from a distance, climb, terrain or predatory animals perspective? Please impart the specifics while I pay attention and perhaps take notes.”

Thereupon he might have told me that most of the 759m climb to The Pinnacles takes place along a ½ km section that redefines the word ‘savage’.

Whereupon I would most likely have said, “Eh, we’re hardy.”

Evidently, I was going to have to learn from experience.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We woke at about 05:00 hrs on Friday morning to a sullen day with low cloud cover. Having packed the tent, we struck out for The Pinnacles. Minor detour back to the car to retrieve the suntan lotion, just in case the sun made a guest appearance.


For a while, we were stuck behind a couple who persisted at walking at the same pace as us. Thankfully, they had an absolutely rip-snorting argument about who had forgotten to pack the map, and we passed them when they stopped to point at each other.

After a gentle 3km meander up the valley criss-crossing Webb Creek, we hit a series of steps hewn into the natural rock. In the early 1900s, packhorses used this trail to carry supplies up to the logging camps of the back country. They must have been fairly gnarly back in the days, since some of the steps required pitons to scale.

We stopped at Hydro Camp to catch a few gasps, then pushed on to the Pinnacles Hut and Dancing Kauri Dam, where we had ‘smoko’ (coffee break to the rest of the world).

Kauri dams allowed kauri logs to be flushed out of the inaccessible back country using a tripping mechanism that released the front gate of the dam and blasted logs down the floods. A plaque advised us that Dancing Kauri Dam was built in 1924 by Jim Angel, who happens to be Husband’s maternal great great great uncle. For the sake of posterity, it is worth mentioning that the bauld Jim was a champion two-man saw master in his day.

He is immortalized in the famous song, Jim Angel (really needs to be accompanied by a fiddle):

When Jim Angel was a baby
He was the size of three grown men
Could pound rocks to rubble
With the flat of his bare hand

Oh! Jim Angel he’s a mighty man <fiddle fiddle fiddle>
Washes his face in a rusty can <increase fiddle tempo>

When Jim Angel was a boy
He was the size of two pack mules
And could do the work of three or four
Made other boys look like fools


When Jim Angel was a man
He built the Dancing Kauri Dam
Kept the leftover trees for picking his teeth
Just because he can


In the book, Tramping in New Zealand (40 great New Zealand tramping trips by Shaun Barnett), kauri dam technology is described as ‘ingenious but destructive’. Evidently his mother’s bloodline is prevalent in Husband.



It is another kilometer and a half to the top of The Pinnacles, a pretty steep climb involving steps, rungs hammered into the rock, and – in two instances – ladders. Because I’m weird, I counted the steps from The Pinnacles Hut to the peak. It was 555 on the way up (I was gutted when I counted only 552 on the return).


The track up to The Pinnacles, photo taken from the hut

I followed Husband, concentrating more on hauling air into my flaming lungs than where I was going, which is probably how I ended up scaling a fairly sheer rock stabbing out of the side of the mountain. Balanced precariously on top, I looked around for any sign of the track.

“Husband!” I quavered, and his head popped up over a rock about 200m beyond me. “Hey! How the hell did you get up there?”

“More to the point, how the hell did YOU get up THERE?” enquired Husband. Then he laughed at me as I tried to get off it without tumbling to certain death.

After lunch at the top, we returned to the carpark via the Billygoat Track. I didn’t notice very much about it, because I was distracted by my thighs screaming in agony.

Since they’re still at it three days later, my ears are now ringing too





Pinnacles Hut from the summit


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