Around the Mountain Ruapehu – Day 1

Around the Mountain Ruapehu – Day 1

The hike ‘around the mountain Ruapehu’ in New Zealand’s central North Island is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. The planned route for this hike was to incorporate two trails. Firstly the Round the Mountain (Ruapehu) track from Whakapapa Village, in an anti-clockwise direction around Ruapehu. Secondly the Tongariro Northern Circuit up and over part of the famous Tongariro Crossing, past Ngauruhoe and Tongariro and back to Whakapapa.
As it turned out, the weather had other ideas…

Tinytramper Setting off in the fog on Round the Mountain Ruapehu
Setting off in the fog!

After breakfast we drove the 20 minutes or so, to Whakapapa village and parked the van in the main car park. We popped into the DOC office and signed our names into their intentions book (for safety reasons) and got a ticket from them to leave on the dash of the van, which we were leaving in the car park for a few days.

Whakapapa to Mangaturuturu hut

We got under way at 9.15am and started with a road walk of 4kms (one hour) up the Bruce Road to the start of trail.

Tinytramper on a wet start to the Round the mountain track Ruapehu
A wet start to the Round the mountain track

It is possible to start using an alternative route from Whakapapa village. This would take you via the Lower Silica Rapids track and Whakapapaiti track (via the Whakapapaiti hut). However this involved a river crossing we knew would be too high given all the rain we’d had in the past couple of weeks.
It was a day of two halves weather-wise. We started the trail at 10.15am and got absolutely no views due to the terrible weather…low cloud, drizzle, strong wind, then hard rain.

Rock and mist
Rock and mist…

The rocky trail was well marked with lots of ups and downs. We saw nothing but the rocks immediately around us, and an assortment of low bushes and shrubs. As we went on, the track frequently degraded into deep, narrow, slippery, muddy gullies and we began to get pretty cold and deflated as we clambered up and around them.

Scrambling through this lot
Scrambling through this lot…

There were a few river crossings too, so our feet were wet.

Rainy river crossings
Rainy river crossings

I’m not a wearer of hiking boots and generally prefer hiking in trail runners, but on this trip I was wearing my lightweight, sturdy, non-waterproof hiking shoes (Merrell Moab Fst). I wear these instead of gore-tex as the water is able to run out of them. An added bonus is that they dry out nicely in front of the fire overnight, or in the afternoon sun.

We ignored our wet feet, and soon enough there were a couple of nice sections of trail where the track was boardwalked, which provided some relief. As the weather was so awful we didn’t stop for a break but ate a museli bar en-route.

A relief to walk a flat boardwalk
A relief to walk a flat boardwalk
The weather slowly improved
The weather slowly improved
Mangaheuheu Valley and Ruapehu
Mangaheuheu Valley and Ruapehu

With a few Kms to go before Mangaturuturu hut, we came up and over a huge hill. Thankfully the cloud began to clear. We finally got some spectacular views of Mount Ruapehu and the Mangaturuturu Valley. In the distance, water cascaded down the rocky outcrops in numerous waterfalls. We headed down a long exposed ridge into a nice section of beech forest. From here it was down flights of steps, and across a boardwalk which eventually took us past Lake Surprise.

Lake Surprise
Lake Surprise

There was a final scramble down a rocky escarpment and another beautiful boardwalk to Mangaturuturu hut. This is a lovely 8 bed hut with amazing views of the mountain.
We arrived at 3.25pm and met Lauren, a young Kiwi chick and avid tramper. She was taking a detour from hiking Te Araroa Trail to hike the Round the Mountains track. As you can image, we had loads to talk about!!
We immediately got to work and made a roaring fire in the hut, and arranged all our shoes our to dry. We made a hot soup and played cards for the afternoon as the sun shone on the mountain outside.

Incredible views from Mangaturuturu hut
Incredible views from Mangaturuturu hut

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