Mt Taranaki climbers told to hold on at high point

HANNAH FLEMING
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2013
Ash billows into the air on the side of Mt Taranaki on Sunday.
MARCUS LACEY

Mt Taranaki

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A Taranaki mountain guide says there are not enough facilities on Mt Taranaki for climbers to relieve themselves when nature calls.

Ian McAlpine, who runs Mt Taranaki Guided Tours, is concerned about the lack of public toilet facilities available to climbers above 1500 metres.

He felt the number of people climbing the mountain had increased over the past few seasons and said the Department of Conservation was neglecting one of its core duties - to conserve the national park in its natural state.

"I see many people having to duck away to relieve themselves up there. Some don't even bother going off the track.

"And where does it end up? In the waterways."

Mr McAlpine said in time, those actions could greatly affect the region's water.

For those climbing from the Stratford Plateau, there is a toilet at the Mountain House and also at Manganui ski field. On the north side there are toilets at the North Egmont Visitor Centre.

While there are facilities located at Tahurangi Lodge, these are off-limits to the public, meaning the last public toilet stop is at the Hen and Chickens site.

Mr McAlpine said the distance and time it took to climb to the summit caused problems for people.

"It can take some climbers seven, even eight hours to climb to the summit and back from Tahurangi. It's a long time for many to hold on."

He said a portaloo had been placed near the Hen and Chickens site last year, but later removed.

"I have suggested several times in the past to get DOC to fly in for the summer season one or two portaloos.

"One could go somewhere around Tahurangi Lodge to catch those coming from the east side, and another on a site near the Lizard or in the crater," he said.

Doc programme manager Dave Rogers said last year's portaloo had been there as a replacement while the on-site toilet was being fixed.

He said the organisation had not considered putting extra toilets above 1500m.

"It's not in our interest, for cultural reasons, to put any toilets or structures above 1500m. It's more about educating people and them realising that if they're going up the mountain, their last opportunity to go is at the Hen and Chickens."

Mr Rogers said for those who were desperate, the appropriate action would be to do their business in a bag and carry it down.

As far as people urinating near the tracks, Mr Rogers said that was always a concern for DOC and it was deemed inappropriate behaviour.

"It's not the most appropriate action but we do have goats and possums and stoats doing the same thing. We would assume the volume wouldn't be that great, although that's by no means making an excuse."

Mr Rogers said because of the good weather recently, many people had climbed the mountain.

However, numbers were not higher than usual.

"If there is a dramatic increase in numbers then we might look at putting more toilets on the sites, or below, but there would be nothing put above 1500m."

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