Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ruapehu Grand Slam

After a week of good melt-freezes the corn skiing season is in its prime here on Mt. Ruapehu. A lap on the Mangatoetoenui Glacier yesterday afternoon convinced me that now was the time to link together all six glaciers on the mountain into one fantastic, circular traverse.

We started the day with a chairlift ride over the barren lower slopes, and then a shot of espresso and a slathering of sunscreen at the ski patrol HQ. At 9 we started skinning on firm snow up the slopes to the saddle between Tukino Peak and Glacier Knob. A quick skate across the summit plateau brought us to the top of the Mangatoetoenui Gl. and its easterly aspect was already slightly softened by the morning sun and offered up some brilliant first turns for the day.

Mike hiking the last section to the saddle.

turns down the upper Mangatoetoenui

From here a short skin back up to Cathedral Rock was followed by descent of the Whangaehu Gl. on firm snow before wrapping around a ridge into the Crater Lake drainage. As we skinned up the drainage a barrage of rocks from the rapidly warming northern slopes of Mitre Peak reminded us that spring was well and truly upon us. Our route up the large basin was well protected though and had a perfect firm surface for crampons.

Mike skiing below Cathedral Rocks
Skinning up the Crater Lk. drainage
And booting up towards Mitre Peak.
A short walk up the ridgeline towards Tahurangi and we were ready for skiing the stunning Wahianoa Gl. which combined ripe corn with expansive views over Girdlestone and the remote SE corner of the mountain.

Mike starting down the Wahianoa Glacier with Girdlestone in the centre of the picture
After a bite to eat we booted up to the broad col which separates Girdlestone from Tahurangi and stood above the Mangaehuehu glacier, our fourth for the day. Firm rime on this shadier aspect made for the worst skiing on the traverse, so rather than descend down the fall line we opted to traverse above the Turoa ski resort towards the Mangaturuturu glacier. The skiing here was more sun softened corn and we enjoyed a great line down to the lower cliff bands before our final skin back up to the Pare Col.

Mike above the Mangaehuehu glacier with Girdlestone peak in the background

Skiing the Mangaturuturu glacier
Skirting around the Crater Lake we looked over at the points we had passed a few hours earlier, amazed with ourselves for not having completed this terrific ski tour earlier in the winter. The last run down the Whakapapa glacier and back to the ski area was also on fantastic snow. Our total trip time 4:32, left me thinking that we ought to have milked a few more turns on the Wahianoa and made the day a longer one.

Another view of Crater Lake

Mike on the last descent of the day back down to Whakapapa.

This traverse confirmed my long held suspicions that ski touring on Ruapehu is all about the spring corn: just when the crowds are thinning out, the skiing is at its absolute best. Looking forward to the final few weeks on the mountain and some more great spring skiing!

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