RUAPEHU, March 1 to 6, 2014, Tongariro National Park.
When you are on the mountain, you do what the mountain lets you – and this year was no exception to the rule. The weather was changeable although always windy up high, so all our tramps were lower down the mountain. Seven of us spent the week there, with an extra guest at the weekend. We had one day confined to the lodge but were able to tramp in reasonable or better conditions on the other days.
As normal, Day One was limited to an afternoon’s walk to acclimatise and get the legs working after a morning in the car. Nothing too strenuous, but soaking up the views.
There was wind and cloud high up the mountain so Day Two was down to where the conditions were great. We headed for the Tama Lakes area and split into sub-groups to suit and all had an enjoyable day in good late summer conditions.
On Day Four, we were confined to the lodge. It was cold, with driving rain and by mid-afternoon it was snowing. Good decision.
Day Five was bright and clear with the overnight snow settling below hut level. The mountain magic was back. With judicious option choices, it again turned out to be a good day at (but not on) the mountain. First stop was the Rimu Track, a bush walk at the start of the Mountain Road at Ohakune. This is a great bit of bush with many mature trees but also with lots of low-level shrubs and ground cover. Coffee, then off to Ohinetonga to do the loop track. On the way home, we stopped to watch a train on the Raurimu Spiral.The weather on Day Six was again poor. It looked like another day confined to the lodge. Some developed hut fever after lunch and, in full wet weather gear, set off (by car) down the mountain yet again where the conditions were OK – but it was nice to know that a hot shower was only 15 minutes away. We walked the track alongside the Whakapapanui River and in to the Silica Rapids. On our return to the lodge, we were greeted by the triumphant jigsaw puzzle crew who had just completed their mammoth task.
Although the weather had been poor at times and had restricted our choices and activities, we all enjoyed the varied week. I particularly enjoyed how the extremes of the wide open Desert Plateau contrasted with the cathedral-like feeling in amongst the tall mature rimus and kahikateas. The enforced rest and confined hut life during inclement periods were also pleasant.
Those up the mountain were: Paul Exeter, Ted Angove, Vic Bullock, John Marshall, Peter Slagter, our lone lady Jenny Porter, Simon Hill (weekend guest) and Ken Ross, the appointed scribe