I signed up to lead this Medium trip to the WTMC Lodge as, while I’ve spent many a winter weekend up there attempting various Ruapehu peaks with various alpine tools, I’ve never been to the top in the summer. I was keen to see the crater lake and summit plateau without their full snow surroundings. With this stellar summer, the forecast was promising, but we’d need to be down before the afternoon thunder storms arrived.
Arriving at Wellington station ahead of our scheduled 17:30 departure, we five mountain bikers swiftly got on with the job of taking up as much space in and on the van as we possibly could. With bikes strapped to the back and Emily’s Mt Ruapehu trampers crammed inside with all our bags and wheels, we set off.
Day 1; 42 Traverse
Having arrived at the club lodge late on Friday evening the five of us were up early on Saturday morning and hit the road just after eight. Sadly Mike, having done all the work to organise the trip, was unable to ride with us. He graciously offered to drive the van and shuttle us home from the end of the track at Owhango instead.
Rather than driving to the start of the 42 Traverse (off SH47) we elected to ride from the door of the lodge. This added just under 20km to the day’s riding but was almost all downhill and on tarmac: definitely worth doing to save a van trip!
Anything you read about the 42 Traverse online warns you of mud so deep you can’t ride through it, river crossings that can be impassable after rain and navigation so tricky that you can easily end up stranded in the middle of the wilderness. Pausing in Whakapapa we got chatting to a DOC warden who told us that there had been heavy rain and flash flooding in the area overnight. Expecting the worst, we headed off down to SH47 and the start of the track.
As it turned out the trail was often slippery and wet with some fairly deep puddles, but everything was easily rideable with the exception of a couple of stream crossings. One was a wet foot affair but the second crossing reached my kneepads and would be one to take care over if it had been much deeper. We were all grateful to Bryce as he was the only one who had remembered to pack chain lube in his daypack! Navigation was no trouble, the Traverse was clearly marked and the track was obvious. The most challenging part of the day was probably the heat, we were certainly glad for the cloud cover; even though it interfered with what we were told are great views of the mountains. Instead we got some amazing bush and a pretty waterfall to admire.
Total time 6h20m; moving time 4h40m; total distance 65.2km; total climb 871m
Day 2; Fishers Track
This promised to be an easier day, with just one climb to begin and then a long descent before finishing off along a gravel road to the pick-up point. From my research the previous evening I was expecting the ride to take from two and a half to three hours.
Mike, chauffeuring again, dropped us off at the start point next to National Park rail station (apparently the café here does great cakes and breakfasts) and promised to meet us at the track end near Kaitieke.
The initial climb was dispatched by everyone at their own pace with, minor bike fettling aside, no issues. Almost before we knew it we began the day’s descent: a gently sloping grass track with the odd rut and puddle but nothing to distract from the great views out across the valleys. The pace stayed very relaxed to make the most of the great views while farm gates made for natural regrouping points. Once we hit the much less scenic gravel road the group picked up the pace, eventually finishing the track in less than two hours. After a little more bike fettling and some lunch Mike arrived to pick us up and we headed back to Whakapapa to meet up with the tramping group.
Total time 1h55; moving time 1h25; total distance 27.5km; total climb 164m