Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Mt Ruapehu is well known as the highest mountain in the North Island, but the volcano actually has 12 prominent peaks not just a single summit.

I climbed my first of the peaks before I was 10 on a family summer-time scramble up to Dome. The true summit, Tahurangi, was achieved in 2009 and at the time I found it pretty scary. Te Heuheu was memorable as my first solo alpine ascent, and my favourite climb was Girdlestone last year. Gradually the various peaks were ticked off the list until only one remained: Ringatoto.

The east ridge of Ringatoto

Escaping from work at lunch time on Wednesday, it was a long drive down to the eastern side of Ruapehu and halfway up the 4WD Tukino Road. The last flush of twilight faded as we set off through the snow towards Rangipo Hut. It was a glorious clear night with only the faintest mountain zephyr and a bright moon illuminating the landscape. The snow was soft and deep so crampons weren't required. Dad took on the unenviable role of breaking trail through the at times knee-deep snow. It was exhausting work doing repeated one-legged squats with a heavy pack.

Rangipo Hut

From previous tramps I expected to reach Rangipo Hut in 2 hours, but it was an extra 45 minutes before it finally appeared. Snow was piled around the hut and it took 10 minutes to clear snow from in front of the door. Once inside it was straight into our cozy sleeping bags, hoping for the snow to freeze overnight.

Still soft. Abandoning our original plan of traversing over Ringatoto to Tahurangi, around the crater lake then down to Whangaehu Hut we instead opted to leave our sleeping gear at Rangipo and simply tackle the east ridge Ringatoto. This meant lighter packs and far less post holing through the soft snow.

An intense orange glow spread across the horizon as we headed up the ridge behind the hut. Layers were soon being peeled off as the sun warmed us up and there was no cooling breeze. After an hour we donned crampons as there was a hard layer under the surface snow in places. The vista was grand: white-capped Kaimanawa Ranges to the east, to the north Ngauruhoe was cloaked in snow with Lake Taupo beyond, and Te Heuheu, Cathedral Rocks, Pyramid and Girdlestone forming the eastern ramparts of Ruapehu.

The easy ridge walking gave way to steeper terrain with a few sidling traverses and short mixed rock steps but nothing too difficult. We used the rope twice for security where there was loose snow on steep rock. The final pinch up to the shoulder of Ringatoto was up a steep firm gully - the only decent snow on the whole climb! We soloed up and I was reasonably comfortable, albeit tired by the time I topped out onto easy ground. A short stroll led to the summit. Peak number 12 accomplished!

On top of Ringatoto with Tahurangi behind

The weather was still perfect so we spent half an hour soaking in the grandeur of the mountain before retracing our steps. Dad belayed me down the gully, and then apart from a very short abseil down a rock step it was all straight forward back to Rangipo.

7 hours from Rangipo hut to Ringatoto
3.5 hours down

The 12 peaks of Ruapehu

Tahurangi (2,797m)
Te Ataahua (2,757m)
Paretetaitonga (2,751m)
Te Heuheu (2,732m)
Tukino (2,720m)
Dome (2,672m)
Cathedral Rocks (2,663m)
Girdlestone (2,658m)
Pyramid (2,645m)
Glacier Knob (2,642m)
Ringatoto (2,591m)
L Peak (2,580m)

No comments:

Post a Comment