Long Weekend Trip - Friday 3 February 2017 to Monday 6 February 2017 (4 days)
Saturday morning, the sun rose over the mountain casting its pink rays across Hauhungatahi and Taranaki in the distance. It was to become a familiar sight over the three mornings.
Saturday, after breakfast we left the lodge, destination crater lake. Mike, John and Martin took advantage of the scenic chairlift ride whilst Robin, Fay and Anna decided on the more active approach along the track to the Alpine Sports Club hut . Both parties passed by Delta Corner, up Restful Ridge, onto Restful Rocks then the Dome Ridge to the Dome Shelter. It was a tad breezy on top - probably gale force and it was difficult to find a sheltered spot whilst we had lunch and took in the views. Given the wind and paucity of alpine equipment, Robin forsook an attempt on Paretetaitonga and instead we dropped onto the summit plateau and sauntered across to Cathedral Rocks, then returned north across the plateau to just below Tukino Peak.
At this point some braved the steep snow / ice slopes whilst others took a rocky / scree ridge down to the top of the Knoll Ridge T bar. Again there were two routes taken - follow the T bar down or cutting across to the Valley T bar, both groups meeting up in time to catch the last chairlifts down at 4pm.
Sunday - we planned to head north. The chairlift trio took the easy option again, then from Knoll Ridge café, we all dropped down to the Waterfall T bar and followed the poled "Skyline" route up onto the ridge above the Pinnacles. From here we planned to keep to the 2,200m contour and sidle across to Waihohonu Ridge. The terrain looked to be slightly more difficult than what appeared on the map. There were several rocky ridges with unseen snow / ice patches in between. After the first shaky traverse on scree above a steep patch of ice / snow, Robin decided it would be best to drop down and cut across diagonally down to Waihohonu Ridge. A good choice - whilst we had to drop down a steep scree slope, we could see later that the snow / ice slopes that we would have had to cross were not insignificant (and quite steep). As it was we crossed a couple of minor chutes of snow / ice, descended more scree / rocks (the call of "rock" becoming quite regular), bum slid down 50m of ice / snow in varying degrees of grace and control, with a run off (well there wasn’t one -just rocks / boulders), before climbing up onto the last spur before Waihohonu Ridge for lunch. With blue skies, views back to the Pinnacles, up to Te Heuheu and across to Ngauruhoe, many photos ensued. We followed the spur down to a stream before sidling up onto Waihohonu Ridge - destination Saddle Cone.
From the ridge, most of the party were underwhelmed by Saddle Cone - not surprising given that in the background loomed Ngauruhoe, however, as we got closer, it slowly revealed its true nature - more a Mt St John than a Mt Eden, Mt Hobson or One Tree Hill. From the cone, we followed its lava flow north, ending with views down to Lower Tama Lake. We were then on to the RTM / Northern Circuit track back to the Chateau, with stops at Taranaki Falls (cooling off by walking behind the falls through the spray) and later to administer first aid to a young English tourist who whilst running along the track and admiring the scenery, had tripped and cut her knee rather badly. It was after 6pm when we got back to the lodge, eagerly anticipating dinner. Unfortunately, whilst dinner had been prepared, the slow cooker had not been switched on (my fault), so it was a bit later than planned, that the evening meal was taken.
Monday - Mike and John opted out of the day’s activities, so after tidying the lodge up, Robin, Martin, Fay and Anna headed down to National Park. Cars were left at the railway station, then we followed Fisher Road for about 1km to the start of Tupupakurua track. The track is being developed by DOC in conjunction with the local community. Buckets of gravel were laid out at the beginning of the track for willing volunteers to carry to depots spaced approximately 250m apart along the track. Volunteers could therefore carry buckets a way, drop them off at a depot, then pick up some more buckets further on. We dutifully did our bit, ferrying several buckets along the track. First stop was Taranaki lookout - and Mt Taranaki was actually visible. The track continued along the ridge, dropping down to a stream, up onto a further ridge before reaching Tupupakurua Falls lookout. Early lunch. We decided not to continue on to the foot of the falls - instead we went on a further 200m to the edge of a spur which offered better views of the waterfall. After lunch, we returned to the cars, following the same route and picking up empty buckets along the way and dropping them off at the beginning of the track.
We were - Robin (leader), Fay, Anna, John, Mike, Martin (scribe)