A small group ditched the comforts of a roaring fire and hearty meal and traded them for a few scraps of fabric and pieces of foam. Equipped with a fresh set of skills from advanced snow school Jayden, Leo, Brendan and Jodie created an ambitious plan involving snow (ice) camping.
The drive down on Friday saw the plan change as the 3 am alarm was ditched for a more reasonable 5 am plan. 90km/h winds were predicted for the following morning, which we were hoping to avoid.
We had a bit of a leisurely morning as we rose and drove up to Whakapapa, loaded our gear out of the car and got ready for the walk-up. Our bags were filled to the brim with many sleeping bags, mats and tents as we prepared ourselves for our first snow (ice) camping experience. The walk up was gorgeous, as we saw the sun slowly rise over the mountains. We questioned where the predicted wind was as the 90km/h winds did not show. Arriving at NZAC, it was a relief to be able to ditch a portion of our gear as our bags dramatically decreased in size
The weather remained beautiful as we climbed further up towards the summit plateau. The climb did see us encounter a lot of ice, and careful planting of feet was necessary. Arriving at the summit, we looked up towards Tukino Peak, our original plan but decided to save that for another day when we had more time; weary we still needed to put up our tents for the night. We relaxed in the sun, eating lunch and recovering from the climb. Deciding on our alternative plan, we headed up Dome and towards crater lake, where we admired the views the bluebird day offered us.
We headed back down towards NZAC, where we ran into one of the beginner snow schools practicing their front pointing on a particularly icy slope. We headed up ourselves and started to set up camp for the night. The icy ground made for slow, hard going as a flat surface was eventually dug out and a hole for our gear made. The tents were put up with much difficulty and we just caught the sun dip below the horizon. Unfortunately, the ice cream planned for that evening ended up being fed to the snow when it was discovered the bag had a hole.
The next day we woke up well-rested after a reasonably warm and minimal wind night. We had a lazy walk back down the mountain enjoying the incredible weather Ruapehu was offering us.