On the Road to Mount Doom

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09/01/08
Howdy winter folks! ActiveSteve here, reporting from Tongariro National Park. Today’s bike ride was more or less a highway to heaven sort of thing. It was a steady all day climb, where we started at 380m, and ended up at 1140m, in a little place called Whakapapa Village, which is near one of the busiest ski areas in the North Island. Of course, it being summer over here, the town is a little more deserted. Basically, anyone who is up here is here for one reason alone. To do some hiking in the National Park area. Were there not so many clouds hanging out right now, I’d have a pretty splendid view of Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe. Not to mention Mount Ruapehu, the tallest of the lot. So, what’s up now you ask? Well, read on and I’ll spin you a little yarn.

The ride today was a relatively short one, at a mere 54km. However, as previously mentioned, it was a pure uphill slog to the village of Whakapapa, where we’ve got a cabin for tonight, as well as for Saturday Night. We’re in the midst of sorting gear and trying to pack 3 days worth of hiking gear into our little day packs. Not a small feat, considering we need to pack all our camping gear in case something happens on the slopes of Mount Doom. We’re fairly certain we shouldn’t have any problems, as there appears to be a window of 5 days of good weather, but you never know in an Alpine environment.

It was a fairly hot ride over the final 6km, which took us up a relatively steep pitch to the village. Once there, Ralph and I secured our hut passes for the next two nights, and consulted with a few people on our chosen route. We were told there should be no issues, and that we’d probably have clear weather and that the huts shouldn’t be full, so we might actually get bunks. You see, in the height of the season, a hut with say 24 beds will be filled with about 50 people, doubling up in beds, sleeping on the floor, etc. etc. They’re first come first serve, so you take what you can get. Seeing as we’re trying to do a 4 day trip in 3 days, we’ll be hiking longer days, which means we may not be the first ones at a hut. I’ll let you know on the return.

The route we’ll be taking takes us around the two smaller summits, and will give us a chance to summit both of them if the weather is okay. Speaking of summits, these are not regular mountains either, they are all active volcanoes! Yup, the third peak, Mount Ruapehu last erupted on September 25, 2007! We’ve actually decided that the day after we get back to Whakapapa, we’d like to do a summit climb of that peak as well. By combining a chairlift ride with some hiking, you can do it in about 5 hours return. We’ll wait and see how the weather is, and how tired we are before we make a final decision.

Anywho, after getting the little details sorted out, we’re now sitting in our cabin deciding on gear selection. We’re both very excited to be doing these hikes, as you can probably tell. There’s a chance we won’t quite get the spectacular views that you see in the postcards, but at least we’ll be here doing them, right? I’m sure I’ll remember the overall experience regardless of the overall weather situation. That’s about all I have to say for the day. Gotta finish getting ready, and get a good nights rest. We found a nice spot tonight for a pasta feast, and finished off with Ice Cream. My belly is full, which is a good thing. No fancy food for us the next few days. My diet will consist of nuts, some instant noodles, granola bars, oreo cookies, crackers and dip, and some beef jerky. Huzzah. We’re already planning a big meal upon our return. Take care all, you’re all with me as I tackle the big hills!

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