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The Northern circuit - in the snow !

Discussion in 'Wanderlust and Travel' started by Desmond, Aug 19, 2009.

  1. I've done the Tongariro crossing a few times and posted pictures here before , the last time was near the end of May and there was only a little snow and I had hoped for more so this time I waited until I knew there would be more snow - I had wanted a bit more of an adventure . But this time I was going to do the northern circuit which includes the scenic part of the crossing and a night at the hut followed by a 25km walk back to the village the next day .
    On Monday night I was told that there would be organized transport to the beginning of the track at 9am so I wouldn't have to walk the 9km from the Chateaux so Tuesday morning I took some pictures while I waited for the visitor centre to open so I could fill in a form stating where I would be and when I would be back .

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    When the visitor centre opened at 8 am they told me the organized transport had already left [ some people pay $150 for a guided trip up into the snow ] so I went back to the camp cafe where they arrange some transport .
    They phoned through to one of the transport companies , made some quick arrangements and I was told I had 20 minutes to be ready which is where things started going wrong - in my hurry I forgot to pack my waterproof rain pants .
    When the driver picked me up he told me he wasn't going to the beginning of the track , there was a misunderstanding and he could only drop me at the road leading to the track - an extra 7km walk .
    I never had much choice so off we went .

    Nguaruhoe in the distance while walking up the road ....

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    Ruapehu to the side .....

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    And here's a map of the journey starting at the bottom of the road ..... [Those numbers '5 1/2 ' etc. are wrong - they were written there when I was trying to work out some distances and thought each division was 5km instead of 10 km ]

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  2. It took just over an hour and 10 minutes to get that first 7km out of the way - I was going rather slowly because my pack was probably the heaviest its ever been - over 25kg because I had all my snow gear including another pair of boots . My 'normal' boots don't do too well in snow and my alpine boots give me blisters on anything other than snow so I had to carry both pairs , plus crampons , ice axe , food , clothing -30 degree sleeping bag , emergency shelter , small knife , big knife , machete ..... all the essentials :smile:
    I saw two other DSR's on the trip besides all the compacts - a Nikon D40 and a Nikon D90 - no Canon cameras .
    I had my trusty old D50 and Tamron 17-50 lens .
    I wasn't too happy with the amount of snow - I had wanted much more to make it a bit more difficult . Apparently the snow was much lower earlier and I was told that 5 days ago the ice on top was so hard that even the crampons weren't holding and climbers had to cut steps to get up .

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    Obviously enough high winds to have to chain the toilet down - you wouldn't want it blowing away - especially if you're in it :eek: 

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    Then the weather started closing in .....


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  3. On the opposite ridge I had seen the organized tour heading for Tongariro summit .

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    As I got to the top of the first climb I saw someone running down the side of Nguaruhoe and waving and thought that perhaps there was something wrong ?

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    I came around the corner to get behind some rocks so I could get my serious gear on and found "Romina from Argentina " waiting for her friend " Tina from Germany " who was running down the mountain , it turns out they were doing almost the same walk and were heading for the same hut as me so we decided to travel together . That was when I found out that in my haste I hadn't packed the rainproof pants but decided to keep going rather than turn back - if things get nasty I always have my emergency shelter .

    So we headed off into the fog following the wooden marker posts in the ground .....

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  4. Last time there was a thin layer of snow and a few ice patches , this time the poles were shorter meaning a thicker layer . I was going through the snow and ice more often than the girls because of my extra weight [ the pack of course ] and once or twice we hit 'slush' where we sunk into wet slushy snow - this particular time I ran as I kept going deeper - wondering how deep it would go but luckily it wasn't too deep .

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    And then we headed up to the red crater

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    and the clouds started moving away

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  5. Was the snow deep or was the pole short ?

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    My gear was doing ok ....

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    A look across at blue lake ....

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    there were some patterns in the snow ....

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  7. Don't walk too close to the edge !

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    Red crater steaming away .....

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    The emerald lakes were a bit snowed up

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    someone had taken a short-cut across the crater ....

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  8. wow very cool next time fly me out there i'll carry your gear lol
     
  9. Next time I'll take less gear ! :smile:
     
  10. After the emerald lakes we started heading down ....

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    and suddenly it's a different world with different scenery

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    Tina was also carrying a reasonable size pack ...

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  11. just to take us to the next page ....

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  12. The mountains were clouded over again as we approached the hut

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    and the view from the hut was pretty good .

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  13. We were all pretty tired , and after eating , the girls were in their sleeping bags by 7:00 pm - I waited till 8 and I think got about 5 hours sleep in total , noises outside , aches and pains and just about being too tired and sore to fall asleep . At 11 it started raining - heavy ! I spent most of the night waking up and listening to hear if it was still raining since I never had my rain pants with me .
    In the morning it was still raining but the weather was quite warm .

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    Then suddenly it stopped raining , the weather went cold and it was snowing .

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  14. And these are the last few pictures before I had to put the camera away .
    Romina getting ready to go ...

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    I wasn't sure which was worse , warm and wet or cold and snowy but at least we only had one to contend with . I eventually resorted to cutting my emergency blanket in half and wrapping it around my legs before we left , I also put on my track pants over it all . It probably made a difference , I was a bit sweaty at first but eventually I was soaked and when we got to a little bit of shelter I took one last shot of my pack before hiding the camera at the bottom with some dry clothing - each time I checked on my camera there was some water on it so I decided it was time to stop taking pictures .

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    I had seriously considered leaving my fleece jacket at home because I thought my alpine jacket would do a good enough job but I really needed it ! After we got down to Waihohonu hut I put my fleece jacket on because I was rather cold , and then the alpine jacket over that - somehow water was getting in everywhere and my hands were cold - I got my gloves on but when I took them off later I couldn't get them back on because my hands were wet so resorted to pulling my hands up inside my sleeves .
    The snow kept falling , we had about 10 km to walk to the hut and after that about another 15km to walk back to Whakapapa village . The girls had parked at the beginning of the track so to save them an extra 8km walk I offered to give them a lift back to their car if they walked to the village where my van was .
    So we all kept going to the village , the last part of the walk is relatively flat compared to what we had been through but the weather was getting worse and I seriously wondered how long I could last on the ridges when the snow turned to small ice particles blowing in our faces . My old H-frame pack is getting a little tired and the strap kept jumping out on the left side while the waist belt kept slipping , it wasn't a comfortable walk back - mud puddles , slipping and falling in the snow , adjusting the straps with cold wet hands , the last few hours seemed to take forever ...... it was one of my best trips ever !
    When we finally got back I dropped the girls back at their car ,we said our goodbyes and they mentioned the fact that they were heading to Taupo and the hot pools and I thought of my cold van at the campsite ..... and headed for National Park where I saw a sign at a ski lodge advertising spa baths . $70 Dinner bed and breakfast was pretty good and I got to talk to one of the guys who worked in the kitchen about his D80 and photography .
    The next morning the mountain looked really good .

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  15. IanT

    IanT

    407
    May 14, 2008
    London UK
    What an adventure! Great shots from a wonderful place!




    And now, after reading through these, I have to travel into Central London on a commuter train!
     
  16. It was an adventure - and a lesson on being prepared !
     
  17. Rob Zijlstra

    Rob Zijlstra A Koffie Drinker

    999
    Nov 5, 2008
    Netherlands
    Thanks for sharing. Wonderful pictures.
     
  18. It was a wonderful trip ! Also meeting up with others doing the same walk was a bonus .
     
  19. ArtScott

    ArtScott

    Jul 11, 2009
    WICHITA, KS
    Wow...way cool journey and pix.....
     
  20. You live in a beautiful country mate...
    Looks like an awesome hike. Nice pics too!
     
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