Spring weekend on Ruapehu
16-17 September 2023
‘Cool branding, Mum' enthused Ned, sliding open the footprint-emblazoned door, stashing his skis under the van seats.
We were a motley crew. Three pimply sixth formers sprawled across the back seat, the deep rumble of their chat a backdrop to our journey.
Hannele, Folkers and Bill, 2022 AIC graduates keen to practise snow-craft, rushing to Platform 10 to meet us, from a week of corporate hustling.
And upfront, the greybeards; Mark, Paul and myself, as excited as the others for a weekend in the snow.
Kebabs at Bulls, where we changed into mountain clothes and distributed group food. The gleaming club van surrounded by a miscellany of climbing gear, mountains of food and people undressing drew interested stares.
It had stopped snowing and the stars winked at us as we piled out at the Top of Bruce Road. Strapping on crampons, we realised our skier boys would struggle on the ice without crampons.
Bill appointed himself their guardian, leading them up onto Hut Ridge, kicking steps with his rigid climbing boots and looking for un-iced rocky sections. The cramponed others waltzed up Tennants Gully, arriving at the Lodge briskly in 20 minutes.
Tea, milo and ginger nuts all round as we relaxed into the familiar comfort of our beautiful lodge. Theo tuned up the guitar and the three boys serenaded us as we unpacked food supplies and made plans for the morrow.
Folkers wasn’t as relaxed as the rest of us. He had to return to the car park to meet work friends he’d lured to the mountain with stories of a ski lodge minutes from the road end. He hadn’t deliberately misrepresented the situation, but Nat and Franky, with no experience of our backcountry, had quite a different impression of what they had coming to them. They arrived at the Lodge – hauling a wheelie suitcase behind them - after midnight.
Saturday dawned, blue and sparkly, making the dramas of Friday night completely worthwhile. I’ve often questioned the wisdom of our forebears choosing a hut site so far from the road end, but it’s pretty neat waking up, higher than everybody else. Our climbing party was leaving as Nat and Franky came out to enjoy the mountain dawn with a can of V and a cigarette.
A blustery northerly buffeted and an extra layer and thick gloves were added to our ensembles when we reached the Alpine Club Hut at Delta corner. As we gained altitude, alternating between groomed ski trails and snowy ridges, the wind dropped. By the time we got onto the gentler gradient of the Whakapapa Glacier it was more a breeze than a gale. Just as well, as Hannele and I were both feeling the effects of lingering lurgies.
Paretetaitonga was the goal of the day – towering majestically above Crater Lake. The blokes gamely tackled it, front pointing the steeper aspects, and quickly gaining the summit. Hannele and I watched their progress from our viewpoint above the steaming lake. The next objective was Dome and Glacier Knob, before a quick descent, dodging skiers.
Back to the Lodge by mid-afternoon for tea in the sun, morphing into pre-dinner nibbles and drinks, and a spectacular, fiery sunset over Taranaki. We even had tea-time guests – a couple of Hutt Valley’s we’d overlapped with during the day - calling in for a drink and recap of the day’s adventures.
The skiers arrived back later, maximising lift pass value by getting the very last ride up the mountain. The teenagers were glowing - not just with spring sunburn but also the satisfaction of a perfect day on the slopes.
As forecasted, Sunday was grey and drizzly. We got up early to put a cooked breakfast on the table for the boys, determined to get in another half day skiing. A good team effort on cleaning up chores and then back to Wellington to be greeted by severe cyclone conditions and power cuts in multiple suburbs.
- Party members
- Climbers: Mark Edwards, Paul McCredie, Hannele Tulkki-Williams, Bill Wang, Sarah White (scribe), Folkers Williams. Skiers: Franky, Nat, Ned, Theo, Toby.