Sunday, June 24, 2012

Scroggin and other things your parents don't want to know.

Tim and I on Mt Ruapehu

Last week Tim, a British chap who works down the street at bivouac, stopped in to see if Alice and I wanted to do some night trail running.  I was down originally until we got the news that the weather was clear enough to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  So I had to bail last minute as the crossing should really be attempted when there isn't gale force winds like they had the week before.  He was cool with the last minute change as he was not feeling that great and was interested in doing the crossing as well.  In the same conversation, Tim said that he wanted to get down to Mt Ruapehu in the next couple weeks for a summit.  Mt Ruapehu is also found in the Tongariro National Park and only about 30 minutes from where Beth and I spent our days off last week.  So Tim stopped into work on Monday to see if I would be down for some alpine adventure on Wednesday.  This didn't allow me that much time to gather/purchase gear.  I would need crampons, helmet, axes, sleeping bag, and gaiters for sure.  I have warm clothes and rain gear and Tim was able to scrounge around for all of it except the gaiters which I purchased from work.
Early morning view from the hut.

Tim and I left early on Wed morning for a 2 night stay on the mountain with 3 days of lugging packs and wielding axes.  I didn't know much about Tim other than where he works and that he climbs with Alice.  We had some interesting conversations on the rides to and from about our outdoor experiences, zombies, and what we were looking to accomplish over the next couple days.  He was keen on making a summit via the farthest west ridge of the Whakapaka ski field.  I just wanted to get out and enjoy New Zealand.
This is Tim after the drizzle.
We arrived at the ski field around 1pm and talked to the ski patrol about avalanche conditions for the mt.  They said that it was up to us to determine the risk, but that up to 2500m they were confident they wouldn't form.  Above that for sure the SE aspects were wind loaded.  We donned our rain gear as it was pissing rain for our long trek up the mountain.  We had to cross several streams and ridges before we found the hut that would be our dwelling for the next 2 nights.   It took about 3 hours to hike up, but the view once the rain and clouds moved was pretty amazing.  Little did I know that the view was going to be better once the sun burned off the clouds the next day. 
The hut.
The hut is ran by the New Zealand Alpine Club and it sits off from the commercial ski field, but if you were charming you might be able to catch the series of 3 chair lifts to get to the elevation of the hut and then have about a 10 minute walk to the hut.  The hut itself sits out on a ridge with a wonderful view of the valley below, the other mountains in the near vicinity, and all the different northern aspects of Mt Ruapehu.  We were the only ones in the hut, but it could probably hold a dozen or more comfortably.  We talked some more and had our Back Country (dehydrated) meals and turned in.  I had the roast lamb and vegetables with creamy mashed potatoes.  I ended up putting too much water in and had lots of lamb flavored water to drink.  Probably not a bad thing as I didn't drink enough water over the 3 hour ascent up.
Isn't there an elevator?
The next morning (shortest day of the year Steve!) we got a peak of the sun around 7:15 and cranked the heater on for 30 minutes while we made porridge and hot drinks (tea and coffee).  Our goal for today was to get used to each other and play around on some of the different aspects on the mountain.  My only previous experience with crampons and ice axes was ice climbing with Kyle and  Bethany of Eden Guides.  We went out for a short warm-up before lunch without our packs.  It was fun to try to move up steep inclines with the aid of the sharp spikes on my not so stiff soled boots and the 2 zombie killers in my hands.  The hardest thing I had to do was down climb which takes a lot of concentration, but as the day progressed it was getting easier to find a rhythm.  We went back to the hut for a quick lunch of bread, brie, and salami.  I also grabbed a pack of scroggin, or what I would call back home trail mix.  I think I like the name scroggin better though.  The weather was pretty awesome and the weather for Friday was expected to be even better.  So we spent the entire day working on being comfortable reading lines, working with our tools, and moving around.  For tomorrow we would make our ascent to 2700m.  We returned to the hut around 4pm as the sun wouldn't be up for much longer.  We had another wonderful meal of dehydrated food where I tried the Bobotie.  I like to pronounce it at work bobo-tie and Alice has now caught herself saying it as well. 
Lovely view from the hut.
Our evening was pretty solitary as we both dived into books. Tim had brought one from home and I picked up one from the library shelf.  I started to read The Intruders which is about a Navy pilot working with the Marines after Vietnam teaching them to fly the A-6.  I made it over half way by the time we left the hut after breakfast the next day.  Over 200 pages of fights, dropping bombs, and Flap running his mouth.  I'll finish the book the next time I'm up there.  We didn't sleep much as the weather forecast was wrong.  The strong winds started at 3 am and the hut was making noises most structures never make.  I was doing a mental checklist of all my vital gear if the shit hit the fan.  My boots were hanging above my head and my head lamp is next to my pillow (my soft shell jacket) and my rain gear and gloves were across the room.  Tim and I didn't sleep much but rather just curled up in our respective bags until the sun came out.  That view was pretty awesome even behind 2 plates of glass! 
Yes that is a reflection of my camera.
The winds were crazy strong and we both were thinking that a summit attempt would be retarded.  Over breakfast we both voiced the same opinion even though we were hoping that the wind would die down and we could run along the ridge to the summit.  Instead we opted to play a little on the way down and take a couple different ridges.  The wind was something fierce and the clouds were rolling past very fast.  The descent was easy for the most part except for the section where we had to slide over a rock to find solid footing and I put a few holes in my new (expensive) rain jacket.  I will be getting it repaired soon.  Anyone know if you can get a pirate flag eVent patch made?  The holes are in my chest pocket and a pirate flag would just be gnarly. 
Snow capped Mt Doom.
As Tim and I were loading up the car a guy walked by with a Wisconsin Rugby jacket on.  I called after him and found out that he and his 3 friends are also on working holiday.  He went to school in Madison and is actually from Apple Valley.  Small world.  They were in the process of relocating a camper van to Christchurch and doing some sight seeing on the way down.  On the ride back Tim and I started to make some other plans about going mountain biking the Redwoods in Rotorua and make a trip over to Mt Taranaki not to mention our desire to summit Mt Ruapehu.  I also pitched the idea of doing the 42nd Traverse which is a 46km mountain bike ride down an old logging road in the Tongariro National Park.
Making our way up as safe as possible minus the ropes.
On a completely different tangent, I have an interview scheduled for a data analyst position that I applied to like 6 weeks ago on Monday.  All I know so far is that is a 6 month contract and they need a lot of data work.  Hope it goes well, but if I get the contract it means that I would have to change my return plans just a little!

1 comment:

  1. Good luck on the job interview. That whole travel to the mountain sounds awesome. Love how the hut was rattling during the high winds. Yeah, that kind of stuff gets your blood pumping. Killer views! Can't think of a better way to spend the shortest day of the year! Wish I was there!