I've been meaning to do a tramp up to Bells Falls for a while now and finally got my chance yesterday when the persistent cloud that has been hugging the mountain for the last week finally cleared and we got a fine clear morning.
I set off early wanting to get to the falls before the sun rose too high so I could get long exposure shots of them still fully in the morning shadow without the bright contrast that would be caused once the valley was lit by sunshine.
The first third of the track is through the bush before the track cuts across and enters the wide cut of the stony river valley. There are two route options and DOC currently have signs up announcing that the lower route into the stony river is closed due to erosion, however having gone up by this route I could see no reason why the track would be closed and found it easier going and safer walking up the stony river valley than the Kapoaiaia track recommended by DOC.
I made into the stony river valley (Hangatahua) just as the sun rose above the western ridge of Taranaki so managed to get this stunning photo before carrying on up the river valley.
The Sun Rising Over Taranaki From Tee Stony (Hangatahua) River.
The next third of the track follows the river up the valley until you get to the confluence of the Pyramid stream and stony river. This is also where the alternative route via the Kapoaiaia track enters the stony river valley.
Taranaki From The Pyramid Stream At The Confluence Of The Pyramid Stm & Stony Rivers.
The track then reenters the bush on the right bank of the river for most of the way until you get to the falls. Bells falls are formed by the stony river flowing from the swamp (Ahukawakawa) through a steep canyon formed between the Pouakai ranges and the Dome. The Dome is a huge spherical geographical feature formed by a large lava bubble forming over a volcanic vent.
I made it to the top part of the stony river valley before teh sun had broken over the ridge line of the dome so managed to get several long exposure photos of the falls and river. I had just finished taking these photos when the sun poked over the ridge line filling the valley with deep contrast.
Bells Falls & The Stony River.
After taking the above photos, I made my way right up to the plunge pool at the bottom of the falls. The top of the valley was full of spray mist and the rocks were wet and treacherous.
A wide angle photo of the falls and the plunge pool.
As the sun broke over the edge of the dome it lit up the river and valley. It was a beautiful spot to sit and have some lunch before heading back down.
The Stony (Hangatahua) River Just Below The Falls.