I had an itching to ride some sweet volcano corn and decided late spring was the time to head to the North Island and check out Mount Ruapehu, so after a few much needed days of R and R staying with my friend Ryan in Christchurch I was on a plane heading to Wellington.
I was super lucky that Simon Edwards was kind enough to pick me up at teh Wellington Airport and carpool with me up to Ohakune where I met up with my friend Shannon and we waited for a storm to push through. I had the intentions of riding corn but once I arrived the volcano got blasted with snow for 2 days straight. It was our intent to stay at the NZAC hut on the North side of the volcano and found that we could take a shuttle for 40$ or we could carpool to the southside and ride Turoa for 50$ in 30cms of new snow then climb up and over in the afternoon, we decided to do the latter.
From around 9 a.m. to a little after noon we had a blast riding Maritime style pow and though I had never been to the resort it was easy to traverse and find the goods. We kept going further and further until that got tracked out as well then decided it was time to climb up and over the volcano and find our shelter.
Conditions were a total whiteout the whole climb and I carefully navigated off of slope angle and elevation making it all the way to the summit with almost zero visibility, I don’t recommend doing this but I felt confident in my abilities. I knew I was on the summit the moment the terrain flatened and I could smell sulfur and it was at this moment that the clouds cleared up for a second revealing the crater lake.
Once on the summit we found a low col that dropped off the North side and carefully navigated our way down until we got under the clouds. It was a sigh of relief when we got within the Whakapapa ski field and found the hut just as the sunset alpenglow was starting to arrive.
It was a full moon and there was powder to be had so Shannon and I decided to start moving at 3:30 a.m. and ride the southern powder slopes through the glow of the moon. It was a surreal experience.
That day I went from a NE to west circle going counter clockwise and hitting all the glaciers along the way.
I expected nice protected pow on the glaciers but all the Eastern aspects were pretty hammered by the wind.
After riding the Mangaturuturu Mangatoetoenui and Whangaehu glaciers I decided to head for the true summit of Tahurangi via a direct route inside the crater. I expected it to be mellow climbing but near the top turned into solid Ice climbing. By that time it was about 10:30 A.M. and I was sure everyone from Turoa had hiked the 2,000 vert to the top and was tracking it out but when I got there I realized I was about 20 minutes ahead of the crowd bootpacking up for first tracks, so I transitioned and made my way down as a hundred people hooted and hollered.
Once I rode down to the top of the chair I followed the bootpack to the summit ridge then put on some crampons for the spicy sidehill to the true summt. Here there was a hundred people but I shared the true summit with only one other guy.
I rode both the Wahianoa and Mangaehuehu glacier before heading down to the Turoa resort to grab some much needed water for my final climb of the day then set my way back up to climb the volcano for the 6th and final time that day. I was really exhausted and not stoked to find that snowshoers had destroyed my skin track.
For my final run of the day I traversed a little bit further north so I could ride fall line back to the hut. The clouds had built up down low but I felt confident in my skills to navigate back to the hut.
That night we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and I was physically exhausted from a 14,000 vert day and one of the worst sunburns I have ever received.
The next day I slept in to about 9 and was back on the summit by 11:00
and riding off Pyramid Peak by 11:30
I was super fortunate to meet up with Nick Voltaren who is a local and we made our way to the summit of Paretetaitonga.
He showed me a gem of a line riding down the South face.
It was sick and amazing powder all the way from the top. Nick decided he would start traversing towards the resort after the first thousand feet as I decided to drop the full 3,000 feet all the way to snowline.
When I got to the bottom I realized the terrain was going to be a challenge heading back up safely so I carefully chose a route.
I decided I would put in a steep skin track and stay on the firm snow on the edge of the slope compared to the wind loaded gut. If it did slide my hope it that it wouldn’t accumulate nearly as much.
As I climbed the clouds came in once again and I was going on Braille. I would pass other peoples skin tracks but decided not to take them as I had no clue where they were going. Once again the clouds only cleared out once I made my way to the summit.
After that I rode back to the hut and called it a day.
The next day was a weather day with it being a 100% white out until the afternoon arrived. I could tell that the NW corner of the volcano was in a rain shadow and the only clear spot on the mountain so around 6:30 p.m. I made my way to the summit and took in the views for the next 3 hours.
Before making my way down the one break in the clouds.
It will be a memory that I will carry for my life time.
The next two days the storm raged and I rested my beaten body waiting for a clearing. Luckily rain had turned to snow.
I was stoked when I woke up one morning to find bluebird powder conditions.
Here I was at a ski resort with 30cms of new snow and not a soul around.
I skinned up to the summit crater and had an amazing run back down to the resort.
And it was awesome!!
The rest of the day I ran around the ski resort and attempted to track out as much runs as I could.
It turned out to be such a rad final day on the volcano. I had hoped for corn but got something much better.
After that I hitched 4 times and finally made my way down to Wellington and off on an airplane heading towards Queenstown.