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Mt Ruapehu Basecamp 10-17 th February 2021

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

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Mt Ruapehu Basecamp  10-17th February 2021

The attached photos were taken on the club basecamp at Iwikau Village on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu, 10th to 17th February 2021. There were 18 participants. The camp was brilliantly organised by club member Carolyn Blackford and was based at the Alpine Sports Club Hut. The hut provided spacious accommodation and had a living/dining area on the upper floor from where we enjoyed views of the sunset behind the distant peak of Mount Taranaki.

The highlight for most of us was the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, for which we had a beautiful windless and sunny day. Members who had done this walk before said that it was the quietest they had ever seen it, due to the lack of overseas visitors and the school holidays having finished. The local shuttle service picked us up from Chateau Tongariro (no, we were not staying there!) just before 7.00 a.m. to take us to the start of the track at Mangatepopo, from where we started the walk at about 7.45 a.m., and it collected us at the Ketetahi end at 4.00 p.m. We found that this gave us plenty of time for admiring the spectacular scenery and taking photos en route.

Another highlight for a smaller group of us was the day we hired a guide to take us up to Ruapehu Crater Lake. For safety reasons we decided that we needed a guide for this trip. Only two to three weeks before the camp was due to start, monitoring had shown an increase in the water temperature of the crater lake from below the normal 40 degrees to 42 degrees and this triggered a change in alert level from 1 to 2. This would have meant that we could not have got any nearer to the crater than the upper station of the gondola. Fortunately, the alert level changed back down from 2 to 1 a short time before the start of our camp. At no time may one approach to within 700m of the centre of the crater. We had a very experienced guide and a helpful and knowledgeable Japanese trainee to navigate our route up to the crater rim and back. For both the Skyline Walk (which we did on the first afternoon) and the Crater Lake Walk we availed ourselves of the impressive new (just opened in 2019) Sky Waka Gondola, to take us from Iwikau Village up to a ridge at about 2020m altitude.

Other walks included the Silica Rapids Track, which was at a lower altitude and passed through beech forest, wetlands near the stream and over scoria fields. Here the diversity of plants kept me well occupied! A walk through the forest round Lake Rotopounamu provided relief from the sunshine on a hot day and some of us then made it to the thermal baths at Takaanu Hot Springs, to relax sore limbs.

Unfortunately, four of us had to leave the camp two days early when Auckland went into Covid alert level 3, but the four days we spent up there were absolutely wonderful and an experience that I will remember for a very long time. A big thank you to Carolyn for her sterling work in making this basecamp possible. I am sure that other camp participants will have their own memories to share.

Paul Maurice.

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