Ski Touring Camp Stream Hut 2021

So after spending two nights at the CMC lodge in Mt Cook village we drove back North to Tekapo in the fresh snow that had come down very low and was coating the valley floor near Lake Pukaki. I hadn’t seen this much snow here… ever? We drove to the DoC access point near Mt Gerald station at the head of Lake Tekapo.
After parking in the little DoC area, we set off up the hill carrying our skis.
We’d left pretty late which wasn’t too surprising so only had a few hours to get to the hut before dark.

At some point we were high enough for there to be enough snow to use our skis.
We began skinning up the hill cursing the tussock and matagouri bushes sticking out from under the snow.
Finally we got high enough that we only had delicious snow. And what a lot of snow. There was ooodles of new powder. My skis kept getting lost under the white and it was an effort to create a skin track. We reached the saddle that we were aiming for as the sun was setting. There was a nice but cold view back across Lake Tekapo.

Lake Tekapo (Ski Touring Camp Stream Hut Aug 2021)

Off came our skins. Skiing down was difficult to begin with. The powder was so deep and the slope so gentle that we just flailed around making very little progress. Finally we got moving and had an uncoordinated descent, following what was probably a four-wheel-drive track in summer, and hitting a few submerged rocks on the way down.
The powder was deep but there was almost no base so it was easy to hit the rocks underneath. We crossed a river at the bottom. I opted to walk through it and Craig decided to take off his ski boots and walk through in bare feet to keep his boots dry. This was quite a process.

The adhesive on my skins was struggling to stick in the powder as we skinned up towards the hut and as we skinned down the small descent to the hut I lost one in the snow. It required a few minutes of digging up along the track but luckily I found it. It was dark by this point and we were searching with headlamps.

Skinning to the hut (Ski Touring Camp Stream Hut Aug 2021)

There was an older couple in the hut when we arrived and they already had the fire going. The hut was very old with just 6 bunks. It’s maintained by a trust and is kept going by donations.
We squeezed in and made cous cous for dinner, flavouring it with avocado, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and feta. Yum. The couple were long time ski tourers and had done many trips throughout NZ and Europe. We clambered into bed. Well I did as I was on a top bunk. The others fell asleep quickly but I couldn’t. Or perhaps I dozed but in any case rustling in the hut got my attention. I could spy mice running about and trying to get our food. I rescued the food bags and hung them up from the roof.

It was sunny and wind-still the following day, perfect for ski touring. We decided to take all of our gear with us rather than leaving it at the hut with the plan to do a day’s touring and then head out to the car. The snow was still good and we trudged back along the path towards the river until we could take a right and head up the ridge further into the mountains. The couple we’d stayed with in the hut were already out and we saw them skiing down towards us in the powder whooping.

We skinned up for a couple of hours stopping for a lunch break. It reminded me of Europe. There was proper snow. Not ice and bits of tussock. It was light and fluffy and it felt like we were high and alpine. We could see peaks off in the distance covered in snow. The weather was predicted to deteriorate and we could see the beginning of cloud coming in. Our skis took us further up the ridge. Not wanting to get caught in that flat light that can make descending so difficult, we dropped off and had an amazing powder descent down some way into the valley. The snow was perfect. The conditions were great. It’s funny how long you spend slogging up for just a few enjoyable turns. The descent probably only took a couple of minutes but it was worth it.

Snow and tracks (Ski Touring Camp Stream Hut Aug 2021)

We’d decided to make the most of the great conditions and stay another night in the hut. The only thing which was making us unsure was a group of 10 people we could see in the distance so we skinned back in the direction of the hut, gaining height and had a chat to the group as they were coming back down. Nope, they were a guided group staying at Rex Simpson Hut so we’d surely have the little Camp Stream hut to ourselves.

We got back up to the ridge in now much flatter light and descended down the way we had skinned up. The first part was still nice but then the powder became much heavier. I caught rocks at least twice cutting deep grooves in the bottom of my skis. Back to New Zealand conditions.

We managed to pick our way back down without destroying our skis completely and skied along the track back to the hut. I was eager to have a cup of tea and sit down but as we turned up I was dismayed to see a group of four French guys who’d come in for the night. The hut only holds six and the couple were still there. No room for us. We had a quick chat and then began skinning back to the river. It was already 4pm so it seemed likely we’d be out in the dark. We reached the saddle in good time though and still had a bit of light for the first skiable part of the descent. It didn’t take long though before skiing wasn’t an option. The headlamps came out later and we continued in the dusk and then in the darkness to the car.

After a curry in Tekapo and much discussion with Gina about what we should do we drove to the Mt Dobson ski access road and camped the night there. We spent a nice day skiing on the field the following day.

Tongariro adventures

 

I flew to rainy Wellington on a Thursday evening and met Craig at the airport. We jammed my gear into his already heavily laden Sentra and drove North stopping to pillage a Pak n Save on the way. We arrived at the Mangatepopo Hut carpark at the Tongariro National Park around 2 a.m. and unloaded much of the contents of the car into the shelter. We decided we’d be optimistic and packed our skis. After a short walk we were at the Mangatepopo Hut and were surprised to see the hut relatively full. We took the opportunity to make ourselves unwelcome by rustling around getting ready for bed.

The weather was a bit mehh on Friday morning and the snow conditions even more so, i.e. there was very little snow. We left our skis at the hut and went for a day walk into the park. There was a little snow by the time we reached the South Crater but it was mostly slush on the ground. We started up towards Red Crater ignoring the stern looking DoC warden on the sign board telling us about all the possible dire consequences of continuing. The snow hardened and after peering into the Red Crater we headed up along the ridge towards Mt Tongariro with crampons and ice axes.

It was quite nice picking our way along the ridge line and we could see blue sky behind us at points. As we ascended to the summit of Tongariro the mist that had been hanging around the summit cleared and we had somewhat of a view in some directions… As we decided which way to descend the mist rolled back in until we were in a whiteout. There was enough visibility to feel our way back along the ridge a little before we dropped down into the South Crater picking our way around a few bluffs as we went down.

Craig studying the route (Tongariro Adventures July 2021)Above: The visibility improved and we found our way down through the bluffs.

The visibility improved and it wasn’t long before we could see blue sky again. We stopped for lunch in the basin before walking back out to the track. To give us the full four seasons experience it started snowing on us briefly which turned to rain as we descended back down to the hut.

Getting ready to skin up to the TTC (Tongariro Adventures July 2021)Above: After our walk up Mt Tongariro we drove to Whakapapa and got ready to ski tour.

We packed our gear and walked out to the car and then drove to the Whakapapa ski field on Mt Ruapehu. We loaded far too much stuff into our tramping packs, put our skis on our feet and toured up to the Tararua Tramping Club Hut not far up the ski field. We met Kieran and Cecile at the hut and Craig created a fiery chilli con carne (without carne) before getting into the scrumpy.

Skinning up the mountain (Tongariro Adventures July 2021)Above: We started skinning up the mountain. Rachel came with us with boots and crampons which proved more efficient than skis.

The weather on Saturday morning was not at all mehh, it was more along the lines of mmmmm. We packed a slimmed down version of our gear into smaller 40L backpacks and headed out. We toured slowly up the ski field, picking our way through the rocks. Kieran and Cecile were on their skis too and Craig’s friend Rachel walked up wearing crampons and demonstrating how inefficient it is to lug skis up a hill.

Taking a break (Tongariro Adventures July 2021)Above: The top of the skifield was closed so there was nobody further down and again nobody above the top lift. We had great views.

The sun beamed down from above and the sky put on its best blue. Craig farted, not for the first time. We ate a snack and looked back down at the slopes below us.

We continued up to an icy last section before a saddle. I crunched on some stalactite ice blocks hanging off the big chunks of snow and ice at the top while everyone carefully ascended the icy slope. We swapped our skis for crampons and walked along the ridge before dropping down and taking an easy line onto the Summit Plateau. We had a late lunch and then toured over to the Cathedral Rocks. There was a breeze on the plateau and it was more sheltered by the rocks.

Rachel said goodbye and set off to walk back down and we began to dig out two large flat pads for tents into the side of the snowy hill. We pitched the tent and began sorting out dinner. It got very cold. I burnt Craig and I some dreadful dinner hampered by the cold and the cooker that was struggling to make things boil. The sun had set and there was an awesome orange glow across the plateau. Looking in the opposite direction, the big cliffs along Tukino Peak were a rich dark Mauve.

The sun about to set (Tongariro Adventures July 2021)Above: The sun sets.

We said good night and scurried into our tents, Craig entering first and getting ready before I did the same due to the lack of space. It was very cold by now and I put on thermals, fleece pants and my down jacket before burying myself in my sleeping bag. As it was only 6:30pm I found it hard to sleep, which was the pattern for much of the night. I dozed. I got up in the night to pee and looked across the plateau that was illuminated by the full moon. It would have been an amazing night for a tour.

The sun was out again in the morning and we packed up camp. There was some wind but it wasn’t too bad. We skied around and traversed on a slight angle to a spot above the Whangaehu glacier. We removed our packs and dug out a whole for them. Then without the weight of kumara, potatoes, and other alpine-inappropriate foodstuffs from yesterday’s poorly planned dinner we skied down the glacier. It was so good to be back on skis and after a few turns I felt like I remembered how to ski after my two year break. The snow was firmly packed and a bit icy but I didn’t care, it was a great feeling. We stopped at a few places during the descent and then turned around and started to skin back up, which was also quite pleasant.

Cris infront of the Crater Lake (Tongariro Adventures July 2021)Above: The crater lake is behind me and the water is steaming.

We retrieved our packs and skinned around the side until we had a view into the crater lake. Acidic grey water bubbled and steam rose from the lake. We skinned up between Dome and Paretetaitonga and got our skis ready for the downhill. We skied down the Whakapapa glacier, stopping for lunch along the way. The snow was icy at the top but we all stayed upright. We traversed back over towards the ski field and the snow improved. We had a great view down to the plains below and cloud in the distance. We picked our way back down through rocks on the ski field and then fare-welled Kieran and Cecile. Craig and I packed our tramping bags at the Tararua Tramping Club Hut and headed down to the car before driving the long drive back to Wellington to sit out the bad weather predicted for Monday.

We had a delicious pizza night at Kieran and Cecile’s house on Monday evening and caught up with Rachel again and some old faces I hadn’t seen for a few years and some new ones.

 

Above: Our ski tour up Mt Ruapehu.


View Larger Topographic Map

Above: The same thing on NZ topomap.

1718

With a slightly earlier start this post might have been named Elise Peak. Pat, Georgia, and I drove into the Rainbow to the locked gate and then cycled to the start of the Lees Valley Track. We went for a walk up the valley and then took a right, bush bashing up a ridge. We left the bush into sunshine and continued to the top of the peak 1718 m. It was then down another ridge and back out to our bikes. A good day out.


About to start cycling (Climbing 1718 July 2021)Cycling to the start (Climbing 1718 July 2021)

Riding (Climbing 1718 July 2021)Setting off on foot (Climbing 1718 July 2021)

View up Lees Creek (Climbing 1718 July 2021)Walking up the valley (Climbing 1718 July 2021)

Ice on branches (Lees Valley July 2021)Georgia climbing up (Climbing 1718 July 2021)

At the summit of 1718 (Climbing 1718 July 2021)