Last weekend, I went on a trip with the Massey University Alpine Club — all the way to the top of Mount Ruapehu. I’ve been meaning to get a post about this up all week; unfortunately, I’ve been swamped with assignments. Apologies for the abbreviation here…hopefully the pictures make up for it!
Our destination was about two hours north of Palmy, so we loaded up cars with our packs and boots on Friday night and set off. After winding through Tongariro National Park, we arrived at the Alpine Club’s hut, a cozy chalet on a secluded side of the mountain. Although bringing more people than we had mattresses, everyone cozied up and tried to get some sleep for the early start (luckily, I snagged a spot in the loft all to myself).
We set out from the hut in darkness on Saturday, watching the sun rise over the mountain as we drove to Whakapapa Village. The town nearest Ruapehu — Ohakune — seems typically alpine, filled with A-frames and ski shops. Parking at the resort, we set out on the dark volcanic rock in the chilly dawn.
Those familiar with Lord of the Rings may know that the Mount Doom scenes were filmed on Ruapehu, though the actual image of the mountain comes from nearby Mount Ngauruhoe. It didn’t take any stretch of the imagination to see why Jackson chose this location for Sam and Frodo’s climb: between soft soil and loose rock, parts of our hike felt more like a scramble, at best.
The sun rose, but temperatures only dropped as we got higher. Three-quarters of the way up, we reached the snow that remains on the mountain all year. The clouds got thicker as well, and by the time we neared the top it was hard to see more than twenty feet ahead. I’ll admit, I was pretty tired out near the end — something that seems justifiable considering the 9,177 feet we ascended. By a little before noon, though, we had reached the summit and could look down into the crater lake.
After a much-needed lunch, our descent back into the clouds began. Rain was anticipated, but then actually came once we made it down about halfway. Although we couldn’t say we hiked all the way up and down Ruapehu, I think everyone was grateful for the charlift rides we took back to our cars.
That night we relaxed in the hut, ate massive plates of nachos, watched the sun set and the moon rise. Among all the Americans on the trip, our view was consensus: seriously, New Zealand? Can you GET more beautiful? Oh, that was a rhetorical question — of course you can.
This weekend, I’m looking forward to heading back up north to visit Lake Taupo and hike the Tongariro Crossing. Fall is beginning to set in here, so I’m trying to get a few last excursions in while the weather is good. Soon it will be our two-week mid-semester break, and there my South Island adventures will begin. Still loving every minute of life here, and always feeling incredibly grateful to those who’ve given me the means to live out my crazy New Zealand fantasy.
(P.S. — For those of you who said you wanted more pictures of me on here…your request has been heard!)