Aorai is the second highest peak in Tahiti, and in French Polynesia, after Orohena. Moon Handbooks says this is the best climb in French Polynesia. The Tahiti Mountaineering Club says this mountain has some of the best views in the world. While those two comments may be true, this mountain is also very wet and rainy. I never even did get a good view of the peak. The mountain is a good place to escape the tropical heat.
The mountain has some nice rainforest and is really wild and scenic, despite the fact that it rises behind the largest city in all of French Polynesia. The mountain isn’t climbed very often, but since the trail begins at the French Army training center, the army keeps the trail well-maintained and in good condition.
While Tahiti and all of French Ploynesia are very popular with tourist, expect to have the mountains all to yourself. I never did meet anyone on any of the routes. It seems almost everyone hangs out at the lagoon, beaches, and resorts instead of climbing mountains, which is a good thing if you enjoy solitude.
Despite the fact that the mountain is right next to the capital city of French Polynesia, it isn’t that easy to get to the trailhead at Le Belvedere. There are several ways to get to the restaurant at the trailhead.
If you are alone and have three-days to spare, you can walk to the trailhead. This is 10 kms/6.2 miles each way from downtown Papeete. You can shorten the walk by 3 kms/2 miles each way by taking a bus east from Papeete to the suburb of Parae.
Walk or take a bus to east of the Hippodrome stadium in Parae. This is about 200 meters/700 feet east of the Total Gas Station. From there, keep an eye out for the signs pointing out the road to Le Belvedere. There are several turns, but there are signs for the restaurant at every intersection. Follow the poor paved road to the restaurant (7 kms/4 miles from Parae). The restaurant and trailhead is at 600 meters/1970 feet elevation, and is a hot walk.
If you are lucky you may catch a ride to the restaurant, but don’t count on it.
Follow the directions above, but rental cars are very expensive on Tahiti. Parking can be a problem at the trailhead if you are not eating in the restaurant.
If you have two or more people, the restaurant will pick you up, assuming of course, that you eat in the restaurant. The meals aren’t cheap, but are really no more than they are in the other upscale restaurants in Tahiti. Any travel agency along the main avenue in Papeete can hook you up with a shuttle. Make sure to let them know you are climbing the mountain and want to take the shuttle down the same day. You can also try calling the restaurant directly at 42 73 44.
If you have the cash to spare, a taxi will take you to the trailhead, for $65 each way. It’s almost cheaper to eat in the restaurant and take the shuttle unless you have a group of more than three people.
There is a large sign at the trailhead, so you can’t miss it. The trail is also next to the French Army Training Center. The trail climbs steeply up the ridge to the south. There is no water on the ridge, but you will hear many springs and waterfalls down below on either side of the ridge. You will notice several fixed ropes on some steep sections. If you are climbing the mountain when the weather is dry, you may question why the ropes are there, but try coming down the trail in the rain! It’s super slippery!
The trail strays from the ridge in a few places and goes through a wonderful and dark rainforest before regaining the ridge. The first hut, Fare Mato is at 1400 meters elevation and is just after a steep section. The most difficult section of the climb is not far beyond the hut. You must climb up and along a fixed rope section, and it will be slippery if it has rained recently, or if it is raining. Fare Ata hut is at 1800 meters and is 8.6 kms/5.4 miles from the trailhead.
From the Fare Ata hut, the trail climbs along the knife-edge ridge to the summit of Aorai. If the weather is clear, you will have some great views of Papeete, the ocean, the island of Moorea, and many of the extremely steep surrounding peaks. The summit is 10.6 kms/6.6 miles one way from the trailhead.
If walking the entire way from Papeete, plan on taking three days, and sleeping in one of the huts for two nights. You could do it in two long days, but since the skies are usually clearer in the morning, it’s best to do most of the hiking early in the day. If you are driving, taking the shuttle, or taking a taxi, the trip should be done in two days. You can do the hike in one long day, but since afternoons are almost always cloudy, even in the “dry” season, it is much better to do the climb in two days and spend the night in a hut in order to visit the summit early in the morning.
July through September are the driest months and the best months for climbing. May and October are the second best months for climbing. April can go either way, but mid-November through March are very, very wet. This peak is extremely slippery during and after rain and should be avoided.
This is one part of French Polynesia that can actually be chilly, so go prepared for that.
There is no camping on the mountain, and its too wet for that anyway. There are two huts on the mountain. Fare Mato is at 1400 meters and Fare Ata is at 1800 meters. Both huts are free and in good condition. They even have solar powered lights, but they don’t always work. Both huts usually have water, but the tanks can get low on water if it has been a drought (rare). Bring a sleeping bag and pad as you will sleep on the floor. I saw some kind of rodent near the first hut, so consider hanging your food.
|Best months for climbing:||Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep|
|Nearest major airport:||FAAA (Papeete)|
Thanks to Scott Patterson for adding this peak.
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NOTE: Trip reports were previously called "Summit Logs" - same feature, new name
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