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Trip Reports 2016-12-02-Whangaehu Glacier

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This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper Volume 89, no 2, March 2017

Article TitleSummer Skiing on Ruapehu

December 2-4 2016

On a sunny Friday afternoon our party of four jumped in the car and headed north towards Ruapehu for an opportunistic December ski. On the hot and snowless lower mountain we walked our way towards the lodge making hopeful predictions about the snow higher up.

After a bit of planning and a lovely dinner at the lodge we headed to bed excited for the trip to come. The morning greeted us with sunny skies as we had breakfast and put together our sandwiches for the day and headed out. We scrambled towards the west chair up boulders and over the rich volcanic soil. At about 1800m up we found a small stretch of muddy snow. We had had enough of carrying our skis and thought we would try our luck skinning. Our luck came through and that skinny little stretch of snow carried us all the way to the snow-covered upper mountain. Visibility started to close in as we reached the top of the far west tee but we got a beautifully clear sunny patch just in time for lunch on the Whakapapa Glacier. Approaching the crater lake we encountered full whiteouts and had to ski to compass bearings. As we reached the top of the Whangaehu Glacier the clouds cleared and allowed us unlimited visibility as we prepared for our first downhill of the day. Incredible snow and perfect weather gave us the dream skiing we had been looking for as we carved fresh lines down the glacier towards the Whangaehu Hut. We dropped our packs at the bottom of the glacier and headed back up to the top to resample the perfect snow. On our way up we came across some friendly faces from the TTC with whom we would be later sharing the hut.

As we neared the top of the glacier the cloud closed in and visibility neared white out. After exploring Dome Shelter we emerged from its darkness to clear skies and unlimited visibility. We took our skins off as fast as we could and charged off carving new lines down the perfect snow. All too quickly we were at the bottom again where we collected our packs and headed for the hut.

With the four of us, another party of three and a solo climber, the four bunk hut was full and jovial. After a beautiful dinner of smoked salmon pasta we all shared stories and a collection of Dominion Post five minute quizzes carefully collected by one from the other party. Later we went to bed and hoped the howling wind that had crept up would dissipate by morning. We woke to bacon butties and still blue skies. After a slow and steady pack up we headed off back up the glacier. About halfway up the Whangaehu Glacier we decided to head North East towards the Mangatoetoenui Glacier for some more exciting climbing. After a lot of deep step plugging in the relentless sun we reached the Summit Plateau and stopped for snacks and a drink. A quick skin across the plateau and we were ready to begin our descent in impeccable conditions. We took off down the Whakapapa Glacier and veered northwest, sticking to the powder-covered ridges. After a long, breathtaking run we stopped at the top of the west tee for lunch, beaming from the joy only untouched powder can bring. A few sammies later we took off again now looking for the long and improbable strip of snow that carried us up the mountain. We found it and skied until our tips hit rock and there was no more snow to be had. Skis off, we donned our heavy packs and headed towards the lodge. After the usual rigmarole of cleaning and closing the lodge, we walked out on a lovely sunny evening towards the car, content that we had made the most of the summer snow.

Party members
Alison Davis, Henry Dengate-Thrush (scribe), David Grainger, Gareth Gretton

Page last modified on 2017 Apr 05 00:57

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