Top of the North Island – Penthouse suit. ZL1/MW-001 in SOTA terms. 2797 m ASL. This is a summit not to under estimate. My tramping buddy / cousin Olivia and I decided we wanted to attack this summit this season (February to April roughly speaking).
So we checked out the weather forecast. We both knew the weather had to be calm and clear for this to be a success. The first weekend we were 50/50 on the weather so we abandoned it and decided to wait for a better weekend. Coming up to the weekend of JWMFD the weather was looking promising. Fine, low winds, clear skies. We made the final call Friday that it was a go for Ruapehu on Saturday.
We set off from Turoa ski field carpark at about 0730. We wanted to get as much of the day as we could on the mountain. You follow a quad bike track up to the Winter Garden, and then up more quad bike tracks until you reach the top if the giant ski lift. From there follow a trail up to the top of the high noon express chair lift (the very top lift house). By now you are at 2350 m ASL. From here there is no track. Head out east, across an ice stream – taking extreme care to find a rock bridge. The ice is very slippery, and some of the ice looks like rock. Once you have crossed and come out of the gully there is a bit of scoria to cross and you will get up onto a lava flow. Look up to the skyline and you will see a ridge. Aim up the lava flow to the top of that ridge. When you get to about 2600 m ASL it gets steep. A bit of rock scrambling is required until you end up on a knob. That scramble is the hardest part. From the knob it’s a short walk over to Tahurangi. You have now climbed 1200 vertical metres.
This hike took us 5 hours to get up – we were pacing ourselves but we weren’t mucking around either. At the top Olivia went searching for the geocache up there which she found quickly and I set up for some RF. I had packed a little lighter than I usually do for this trip, leaving the amp at home and having constructed a lighter weight dipole which is only set up for 40 and 20 (and 15 from the 3rd harmonic of 40). In about 45 minutes of RF I had gathered 13 contacts on 7 MHz, 3 on 14 MHz and 3 on 146 MHz including a summit to summit with Soren on Te Mata Peak in Hawkes Bay.
The walk down was tough – and like any good volcano the higher you are the steeper the climb. SO it was with the decent. Finding stable rocks to keep the footing secure was the challenge. We stumbled onto a stream carve out and followed it most of the way down as it was easier than scoria and sliding on your butt, which happened more often than I would like to admit. We crossed the ice a little further up in what seemed like a good spot where there was a good rock bridge however on either side the ice was hidden just under a fine layer of scoria and I ended up going for a slide. With only my ego bruised we carried on.
With a good pace on it still took four hours to descend – putting us back at Turoa ski field carpark at around 1730. A little sun burnt and a lot worn out, we stopped for a hot chocolate at The Blind Finch (opposite the fire station) in Ohakune – best hot chocolate ever. This is to date the tallest activation done in ZL however this is not a challenge to take on unless you are prepared. I am happy to share this tale to other would be mountaineers to assist them to achieve their goals safely.
Summit – ZL1/MW-001 Tahurangi / Ruapehu
Height – 2797 mASL (climb 1200 m)
Access – From Turoa Skibase – see text.
Nominal time to summit – 4.5 – 5 hours.
Mobile and internet coverage from the summit – Good cell and lots of a repeaters.
Summit Marker – Cairn
Land Access Permission – Not required – National Park.
NB: Photos are not for use elsewhere without prior permission