The North Island’s Central Plateau - epic volcanoes, desert plains, a handful of waterfalls, and expansive vistas stretching across the island. The Mount Ruapehu summit, being the tallest mountain in the North, gives you a brilliant, as well as a rewarding climb, which is often a lot of people’s first venture into the alpine (for North Islanders at least!).
The most popular side to access the Mt Ruapehu summit, and the only side I have ventured up from, is from Whakapapa Village on the Northern side of the maunga. From this side, you can drive up the Bruce Road towards the Iwaku Village and start your ascent of Ruapehu from there. Depending on what time you chose to start (and how adventurous you’re feeling) you can either make your start from the base area of the Whakapapa skifield, or you can take the Sky Waka from the base to the Knoll Ridge Chalet.
Some of my favourite experiences on Ruapehu have been the epic sunrises, watching the first light of day illuminating the snow underneath my crampons, watching the stars glistening above my head as I drift off to sleep on the summit plateau, and coffees shared with friends as we defrost from the night.
Crampons and an ice axe will be absolutely essential to accessing the Mt Ruapehu summit in the winter. If you don’t know someone who has experience in using these tools who can teach you how to use them, seeking guidance from experienced guides will be a good way to learn the essential skills needed to use them. I will cover a few of the basics so you have a good idea, however, it is essential to practice in a safe controlled area with a good run out so if you do have slips or falls, you’re in a safe area.
Want to take things to the next level on your trip to the Mt Ruapehu summit? Spend the night in a frosty oasis, melting snow, and drinking lots of tea to keep toasty? Here are a few tips to help get started if you want to camp out above the snow line.
When you’re asleep, you only have what’s between yourself and the ground to keep out the chill of the snow. In order to do this, an inflatable sleeping mat is essential. When looking for this, you should look for a sleeping mat with an R-value of 4 or higher. In addition to this, you should pair your mat with a closed-cell foam pad, with a reflective side that radiates the heat back towards your body and traps warm air in your inflatable sleeping pad.
Cooking above the snow line is a whole new experience. Your typical gas won’t work as efficiently at higher altitudes or at colder temperatures, so I recommend at least using an isobutane fuel, or even better, white gas. Utilising reusable hand warmers to give your gas canister a little boost of warmth is also beneficial, as is keeping it elevated off of the snow. If you’re melting snow to enjoy some delicious Backcountry Cuisine freeze-dried meals, ensure to put some water in with it to begin with, as this will speed up the process significantly. Keeping water once it’s warm will speed up a few of your processes as well! I highly recommend Nalgene water bottles, fill them up with boiling water and they can also double as a hottie, or can be used to dry wet boots.
A sleeping bag liner can add a hugely beneficial boost to the warmth rating of your sleeping bag, plus tends to feel a bit nicer against your body than the inner of the sleeping bag itself. A good set of merino thermals and sock will keep your body warm throughout the night and stop you from getting cold toes. A Nalgene full of hot water at the bottom of your sleeping bag, between your legs or up by your chest will provide the most warmth for you while it's hot. An inflatable pillow is a small but invaluable addition to your kit if you want to have a great night’s sleep!
*Please note – all images were taken prior to the increased volcanic alert on Mt Ruapehu
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