Climbing Ruapehu has been a goal of mine for so long.
When I was a little kid I remember looking up from my toboggan (on a little slope below Happy Valley) and thinking I should walk to the top of the mountain. I figured it couldn’t be that hard.
When we finally got up there, on the 10th of March 2012, it didn’t disappoint at all! It was the most epic day I’ve had.
Ruapehu is so big it’s not so easy to point out the top, it has seven major peaks.
The trampers summit is Dome Ridge at 2672 metres. Peak Bagging counts that as a successful bag. Beyond that you’re supposed to be an experienced climber with all the gear.
The true summit is Tahurangi. It stands at 2797 metres and is on the south side of the mountain so is usually climbed from the Turoa ski field.
Our official goal was Dome Ridge, but if it looked clear we were keen to see how much further we could get.
The red line on the topographical map shows the route suggested by Peak Bagging (it assumes you will take the chair lifts and miss out on the bottom half of the climb). The blue line shows (roughly) our ascent and the green line shows our descent.
We set off from the road end at the Top of the Bruce just before 7 AM with the sunrise just striking the tops of the mountain. (We had camped nearby the night before, setting up our tent after dark and breaking it down before dawn.)
A thick band of cloud came down the mountain as we climbed, but we were so happy it was clear the rest of the way up.
We made good progress up the Whakapapa ski field, passing the cafe in about an hour and a half. The jackets were all getting stuffed into the packs by this stage.
Zac down inside a snow cave.
Behind me you can see the top of the ski field. In the background is the cone of Mount Nguaruhoe which is a similar height to the top of the ski field at about 2300 m. We cleared the top of the ski field just after nine o’clock or in a bit over two hours.
The week before our trip we had a “weather bomb” sweep over the country and dump a snow cover right down the mountain. By the time we got there it was the perfect amount of snow left to make it fun without being enough to slow us down.
We came up on the Summit Plateau. Here we are walking around the side of Dome Ridge.
Big country up here. Looking at Pyramid Peak from the South end of the Summit Plateau.
Finally! The enormous crater lake. To the left of the photo is Tahurangi, the true summit of Ruapehu.
Reading around the web I couldn’t find any account of trampers making it to the true summit from the Whakapapa side (there is some talk about it on Tramper), but from what I did read we decided to attempt it by crossing onto the ridge south of Paretetaitonga and following it along.
On the glacier on the north side of the Crater Lake, crossing over to the ridge.
Pushing along the ridge, it got progressively more difficult. There was ice in the shade and you had the choice of lose rocks and scree or slippery snow on the increasingly steep slope.
It got to the point where a slip would mean fairly certain death. Josh and I decided we’d rather live to fight another day. The others pushed on another 100 metres or so and made it to the sub peak before Tahurangi at 2757 m. You can see point on the topo map above. (I’ve seen a name for the peak somewhere but I can’t find it again.)
Here’s the a photo Zac took of Tahurangi from the peak they got to, before they turned back. Still quite a long way off. We’ll be back when we’re better prepared and trained.
The weather was packing in, so I was glad we turned back while we could still see. We went up to the Dome Summit. Apparently this emergency shelter (picture by Daniel Stuart-Menzies) is the highest building in New Zealand. A man lost his leg in the 2007 eruption when a rock smashed through the roof and trapped him inside.
We headed back along the Dome Ridge. There’s a bit of a trodden track just here from the peeps who take the guided tour to the top.
Back down through the ski field. The descent above the ski field involved a pretty fun amount of sliding on snow!
I was well and truly limping on my bad foot by now.
Taking a look at the trail map at the Knoll Ridge Cafe.
All up, the best day out!
Video to come at some point.
Photos by Zaccai Foster and yours truly.