By Pia, 21 August 2011
2nd AIC I
Mt Ruapehu – June 24th – 26th
By Pia R. Skorstengaard
We were going to be 5 or 6 people going to Mt Ruapehu to learn the basic in alpine tramping, but we ended up being only Carina and Me as the newbie’s into alpine tramping and Mike as the instructor.
We were more than the AIC group going to the Tongariro National Park. Therefore the trip started a bit earlier for Mike and me because we had to pick up the mini van from Porirua because the VUWSA van was already booked, I was too late. But Mike was late Friday so we missed the train – Mike agreed to go with me to pick up the van, as it was my first time driving in NZ (the wrong side of the road). The man with the vans kept talking which lead to a even later departure from Hunter car park and with a detour around Petone it got more and more late but we were on our way.
I drove the van most of the way until Mike took over the last way to Whakapapa. 12.30am and we arrived at the public shelter.
At 7.30am we woke and got ready to drive the Mt Doom people down to Whakapapa Village but Mike made a 180 in the van in a corner because of the snow that have fallen during the night. We decided not to drive further down the mountain and after group photos the Mt Doom people left us at the van. Mike tried to drive the van back to the public shelter but it was not safe so we left the van at the car park we reached in the 180 degrees.
AIC was on the move, we followed a snow-covered track up the mountains (the weekend before when the 1st AIC was here, there were practically no snow) underneath the ski lifts. Our first stop was an old building – the abandon ski lodge, I don’t think it have ever been a lodge. At this abandon place we got the first instructions before it would be for real in the snow and ice. Further more we got the three AIC rules:
1. Never talk about the mountain
2. Never talk about the mountain
3. Never fall over.
We continued up the mountain to find a place to learn some real things, as we found a possible place the sun came out from behind the clouds and Mike was quick to get the sunscreen out from the pack but the bottle didn’t want to stay so it started its run down the mountain and Mike was just behind it trying to catch up with it.
Mike came back with the sunscreen and we tried to do as he had told us before about the self-arrest and Carina and me was quick learners so it didn’t take long time before we walked further up the mountain and with the nice weather we were trying to get to the plateau. But on our way the weather changed to be very windy but we continued for a while until we heard a man scream and we saw the man falling down from the part of the mountain that he was trying to climb. His fall was about 30m and he bounced of the cliffs 3 or 4 times before he was lying at the bottom. Mike was already running in his crampons and Carina and me walking in the direction of the climber, but we didn’t want to follow down and up the valley, we couldn’t do anything anyway so we just waited for Mike to come back with news – we could see that he was moving and they were talking.
Mike reached us and reported that the climber had a sore knee and a crampon I two pieces, which was put back together. That was all – freaking wild, he just fell 30m and didn’t have a scratch – he had landed in soft snow.
Once more we set out towards the top but the weather got even worse and we found an alternative way down back to the shelter. It was weird walking between the empty houses it was like a ghost-city because the ski season hadn’t started yet.
The public shelter became our place to stay one more evening and night. It was not that late when we came back so we started out with cheese, crackers and wine before we started to make dinner in the candlelight.
The second day started fine with sun so we decided to go towards the plateau again. But as the day before the weather changed to wind and snow and we couldn’t make it further than the top ski lift where we were able to get cover in a small shed, which was really good because it was awfully cold outside and my toes was not the best.
When we were at the shed we suddenly heard avalanche explosions and the subsequent avalanche, definitely another freaking thing on this 2nd AIC I.
So with avalanches and really bad weather we started our descent but before we made it all the way down we stopped at the abandon lodge to eat our lunch.
My notes from the trip stops here so the rest is what I have in my memory :o)
We got back to the public shelter to get changed and warm before we had to pick up the others from another road end. The van was picked up before we started the day because the road was dry and drivable. Now we had to pick up the other group and then come back to Whakapapa ski field because one of the girls had drove there in her own car. The problem was that the road was wet from the thaw and the sun was about to go away, which would lead to ice on the road. We didn’t make it all the way to Whakapapa ski field before the van had to turn around so Mike and the girl walked up to her car. The rest of us went down to Whakapapa Village to get a hot drink while we were waiting. It didn’t take long before they were back and we started our drive back to Wellington.