Around the Mountain Ruapehu – Day 3

lahar round the mountain rangipo tinytramper

Around the Mountain Ruapehu – Day 3

This morning the weather gave us a window of opportunity to get off the mountain. The forecast was fine with lighter winds until around 11am, before more gales and thunder storms were due to set in. We took the chance and woke at 5.30am for a 6.30 start. After surprisingly decent sleep and a museli bar breakfast, we headed off across the Rangipo Desert towards the Waihohonu hut.

Early morning Rangipo desert
Early morning Rangipo desert

Rangipo hut to Waihohonu hut

We felt pretty good as we crossed the Rangipo Desert. The ups and downs didn’t seem so bad today, and the views across the barren landscape were stunning in the morning light. As the name suggests, the desert is so called because its harsh alpine climate, strong winds, poor soil and frequent snowfalls mean that not much can grow here.

Crossing the Rangipo desert
Crossing the Rangipo desert

The track was easy going and despite the ups and downs we covered the 13Km distance quickly. Highlights included a river crossing over a beautiful new bridge, and walking through a variety of sculpted landscapes.

Crossing the lahar zone - Rangipo desert
Crossing the lahar zone – Rangipo desert
Wind sculpted landscapes
Wind sculpted landscapes

We arrived at Waihohonu hut by 10am, made a hot drink and had something to eat.
This popular 28 bed hut is like a palace compared to most backcountry huts, and you need to book in advance if you want to stay here. We stayed for an hour and chatted to the DOC warden before heading off.

Waihohonu hut
Waihohonu hut

Waihohonu hut to Whakapapa Village

From here, we had been intending to head on past Oturere hut to camp for the night, before doing the Tongariro Crossing tomorrow (on the Tongariro Northern Circuit) but with the forecasted gales and storms, we headed straight back to Whakapapa Village via the Tama Lakes.

Mount Ngauruhoe from Waihohonu hut
Mount Ngauruhoe from Waihohonu hut

We took a short detour to the historic Waihohonu hut, which has an interesting and informative display and is definitely worth a visit.

The trail to Tama lakes was easy uphill all the way, for around 15.5Kms. The views of the Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe to our left and right were splendid.

Impending storm at Mount Ruapehu
Impending storm at Mount Ruapehu

As we got past the Lower Tama Lake it started to rain again and the wind got up. We could hear thunder in the distance. Luckily we were well protected against the elements with all our gear, but this section of trail is popular with tourists (being so close to Whakapapa) and we felt sorry for the families who’d been caught out by the rain.

I hiked the Tama Lakes a couple of months ago in glorious weather, but this time I couldn’t wait to get back to Whakapapa via the Taranaki falls track. The past few days hiking had definitely taken its toll on my unprepared body, and I was about ready to drop!

Home sweet home
Home sweet home… 🙂

We got back into Whakapapa Village around 3pm, and sat in the sunshine as we took off all our wet gear. We had a little lie down in the van, then got ourselves together for a little treat… High tea at the Chateau Tongariro 🙂

Awesome views from Chateau Tongariro
Awesome views from Chateau Tongariro
Celebratory treat
Celebratory treat!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.