Tagged: Ruapehu Lodge
- This topic has 2 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated 1 month ago by Megan.
6 Aug 2021 at 1:04 pm #45202Tony GazleyKeymaster
To many trampers skiers are a poncy lot who have expensive gear and clothing to make themselves look good but who spend most their skiing day in après activities—siting in the café with their Oakleys on their forehead drinking lattes and talking loudly. And that boarders are a young scruffy lot with dreads and no concerns for others.
You certainly will meet those types on the slopes but they won’t be from the WTMC. Our remaining club skiers are generally a hardy breed who after years of tramping realised that once you have climbed to the top of a snowy peak the easiest and fastest way back down was not to walk but to ski.
It was for these people that the club saved enough money from raffles, collecting tea coupons etc. to build the first version of the Ruapehu Lodge with club volunteers over 60 years ago. Since then there have been major additions to complete the lodge as we know it now—again with all the work carried out by club members.
Not too long ago nearly all club members could ski—many to a very basic level but with enough enthusiasm to fill the lodge every winter weekend. Today the club has very few trampers who also ski, and the lodge is filled by members who have joined the club not to tramp but only to ski.
But skiers enjoy a whole different perspective on mountains that is closed to trampers—mainly the ability to travel rapidly and easily over snow covered terrain. And on a fine day with good snow Mt Ruapehu has skiable terrain up with some of the best—especially if you are a ski tourer. Check out the story of a recent trip by club members who visited the Whangaehu and Mangatoetoenui Glaciers from a base at our lodge.
Once you have mastered the basics of ski touring at Ruapehu then there are even better places to try. A little-while-ago four WTMC members made annual winter trips to the Mount Cook area—particularly the Murchison, Tasman, Fox, and Franz Josef Glaciers.
And one of the most memorable of these was a ski touring and climbing trip to the Murchison Glacier—one of their favourite areas. But this trip was unusual in a couple of ways. For starters there was the glorious powder snow that fell continuously over the five days they waited out a storm at Unwin Hut, to be followed by seven days of perfect weather and some of the best deep powder skiing you could wish for.
Plus, there were the two crashed ski planes—the one they were in when the landing on the Murchison Glacier didn’t turn out too well, followed by the Hollywood style cartwheeling crash of the plane just before dark that had been sent to supply their pilot with some survival gear. Fortunately, and amazingly, both the pilots and the crewman were essentially unhurt—but the skiers had to provide the three of them with warm clothes and food until they could be rescued.
Over the next days the long ski runs from high saddles or under towering peaks was as good as it could get. Below are a few photos:
The pity is, nowadays the best of it is rapidly vanishing. Glacial recession left the Murchison Hut tilted on its crumbling foundations some years ago and too dangerous to occupy and so was removed and it is unlikely to ever be replaced. Travel into the Murchison Valley on skis is now only reasonably possible via Tasman Saddle (or from the Godley if you are keen enough), meaning long day trips from Kelman Hut are the realistic alternative.
And the small but still wonderful glaciers at Ruapehu are also retreating at a very rapid rate. All the glaciers except the Whangaehu are now cut off from the Summit Plateau which was once their main supply of ice.
However, we are lucky that there is still good skiing in these places at all—in a generation or two most of the currently skiable terrain may well be gone completely.
Best to make the most of it while it lasts. Get up to the lodge and if you don’t already ski take some lessons from the ski-school dudes and you’ll soon be on your way. Then after some practice you’ll be able to join in a ski touring outing for that totally amazing skiing experience.
Lodge Promotions8 Aug 2021 at 9:20 pm #45241David and CharlesGuest
Nothing like a poncy skier on a cold winters night15 Aug 2021 at 3:54 pm #45366MeganGuest
Love your stories Tony G!