Winter Round The Mountain
It doesn't take much excuse to get out in the park these days, so when the nephew needed a holiday adventure, I said lets go around the mountain...
Going clockwise starting at the Stratford Plateau proved ideal for our weather window and gave us a great final day up on the alpine sections from Holly to Tahurangi and on to the skifield.
Our first night at Lake Dive was wet and wild and howling, but it settled at dawn. In the mistiness we traversed the jungle and swamps of the lower route to Waiau Gorge. Famous for its mud, slips, scrambling up and down banks and stream crossings, these days you also have to deal with low hanging supplejack, and monster fallen trees. Its all part of the experience.
There has been some track work done in random places but its by no means anything resembling a track.
At Mangahume Stream there's a diversion which requires care through a jumble of sawn logs and rocks. And about 2kms shy of Waiaua there's a massive windfall that obliterates the track over an area the size of a football field.
Lugging alpine gear, with still heavy packs and the short winter days, it was with happy tiredness to finally climb the ladder out of the Waiaua Gorge and up to the hut.
We had the west side huts to ourselves, no one else seemed to be quite mad enough to battle the jungle in winter. The forest was wet and drippy, and wet hands was to become my personal bug bear.
Day three involved traversing less swampy forests and generally better tracks through to the Stoney River, then up river to Holly. We come across a mob of goats with two new born kids
There are two interesting untracked sections in the ever exuberant Stoney, with few markers at present.
Boys will be boys.
And, big boys will be big boys, so when we came across a one tonne boulder balanced precariously on top of another boulder, it was unanimous that of course we should make it safe for passing trampers (you understand).
After the Jungle, and the Forest, the vast openness of the Quarry was a refreshing change.
And the rock hopping exercised the balance and agility needed for snow craft later.
At Holly Hut, on our third evening, there was a definite air of fitness around the card table (where on previous nights bed was much more interesting). Our first humans in three days, a family with twin dinosaur suited kids entertained us.
For our final day, we are out the door at first light, and as we climb up through the cloud we are treated to our first actual real sunshine. Its surprisingly warm, and we are down to one clothing layer for the first time.
The snow starts somewhat above Jacobs ladder, and as we ascend the Razerback around Humphries Castle, the crampons go on (which we had practised in the evenings). The 13 year old takes to them like a duck to water.
We climb as far as the summit stairs at 1700m on the lower slopes of the north ridge. The snow while thin on the ground this year, is firm and most excellent cramponing.
To the east, Ruapehu stands above the cloud. After the usual initial descent jitters, the lad's downhill technique quickly becomes as good as any I've seen. And after some step cutting practice, we are soon having a brew up at Tahurangi.
The photo above shows the ascent spur, and at the slope at right, the younger member of the party invented an innovative technique for tussolky snow sliding.
The low cloud hangs around all day, and the light is mild mellow and fairly photographic.
Then, all that remained was to wander around the icy track to the skifield. Appearing for all the world virgin and untrodden, again, the appropriate amount of maddness was all that was required.
A winter Egmont National Park circumnavigation, with a 13 year old.