Thursday, August 1, 2013

Skiing Ngauruhoe: a taste of Doom

A few months ago when I first got word of the job down here in NZ I immediately started scouring the internet for some info on ski touring in the area. Within minutes a peak called Ngauruhoe was in first place on my to do list. Its a proud little volcano on the northern end of Tongariro NP, beautifully symetrical and with a relief of around 1400 metres above the surrounding plateau its a local icon. It might just have become the world's most recognized mountain profile since being used as the filming location for Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings films.

Ngauruhoe as seen from the slopes of Ruapehu a few weeks ago.
After over a month of waiting for a day off work to coincide with the right conditions (ie. winds less than gale force, visibility more than 20 metres), I headed up yesterday. Its been a few weeks since the last snowfall, and in the interim we've been enjoying spring like temperatures and a blazing sun, so conditions were a little "summery". 

 After a little over an hour of walking from the trailhead along a nicely maintained track (apparently the most popular day hike in NZ), past the Soda Springs and up most of the Devil's Staircase I reached a continuous band of snow and swapped out running shoes for ski boots and booted straight up. The ascent was uneventful save for one close call with a falling rock the size of a small canteloupe. About 2:15 after having left the car I was on the summit rim, I took my time wandering around admiring the wildly rimed up snow surface and spying a few ski lines for the next time I come back when conditions are a little better...

The crater
More summit crater

Rime in all shapes and forms on the upper slopes
 The skiing was teeth chatteringly firm on the upper slopes and dissuaded me from vague plans I had for doing a few laps. Instead I went to Turangi for a meat pie. It was good to have finally made it up this iconic peak and scoped a few lines which I look forward to skiing in the next few months.

Post ski: snus in lip, and hiking towards a meat pie.

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