Conscious that we had only had one weekend away instead of the usual two I made the offer to the group that if they came up with an idea for a post Snowcraft trip and organised it I would come with them on it.
Dan and Amie were up for the challenge and in no time a trip to the south side of Ruapehu to climb Tahurangi had been organised. This was scheduled to coincide with another ALP 1 trip with the same objective led by David Jewell.
The weather for the weekend of Aug 7-9 was not the best and I would have happily stayed in Wellington but everyone else was keen to get out of Wellington so to Ohakune we went. We stayed at a house that Amie had arranged except for Graeme who stayed at his own house. Staying together worked very well. I knew exactly where everyone was even if everyone else spent large parts of the weekend wondering where I was. It is, I discovered, possible to spend a weekend leading an ALP1 trip without being in physical proximity to your punters for most of the time. Don’t try this unless you have a group of punters of the calibre of Rhinehold though. See above for details of the required characteristics.
On Saturday we could not see Ruapehu and it did not seem likely that the ski field road would open to vehicles without 4WD anytime soon. We decided that both groups would drive round to Whakapapa and do a loop incorporating Tongariro and part of the Crossing. David’s group got down the road a few kilometres then we heard that the road was closed due to a truck sliding over the viaduct north of Ohakune.
It was now time for some new plans. What could we do given all the roads were closed and the weather was rubbish? The Snowcraft group organised themselves to go for a walk to Blyth Hut using a road that was still open. Graeme’s detailed local knowledge came in very handy. I took myself off to the nearest café for a second breakfast then it was off for a run with Marie and Viktor. Having noted the weather forecast we’d come prepared to do other activities. We hit the Old Coach trail where we bumped into Henry leading a small group of punters on a tramp in the snow. The others all came up with other plans involving the local climbing wall, a bit of running and a lot of sleeping bag maintenance. The evening passed pleasantly enough consuming calories followed by, in the case of our group, a very entertaining session of Cards Against Humanity.
Sunday the weather looked more promising. We could see the mountain. The ski field roads were, however, closed again. The decision was made not to drive round to Whakapapa but to wait and see if the Turoa road would open before 11am. It did not and David’s group decided to head back to Wellington. I was wandering around somewhat aimlessly on the bushwalks behind the Top 10 Holiday Park when I got the call from my group. They suggested another walk to Blyth Hut from the Turoa Road this time. The road was now open to both 4WD and vehicles with chains. It was just after 11am. Great idea I agreed. Pick me up at the carrot when you are ready.
Did I wait for them at the carrot? No. I decided to test their lateral thinking and headed back into town in search of more calories. Did they find me? Of course! In no time at all we were heading up the Turoa road only to discover massive queues caused by the chain fitting process. No problem. Graeme and Amie hatched a plan that involved driving some distance up the road on the wrong side (don’t worry Richard I am lying to make the story sound more interesting), pulling into the queue and doing a u turn to park facing downhill. Initially the other vehicle owners were a little cross with us but once we explained our intentions they chilled out and watched with interest as Dan parallel parked in the snow or was it our snow expert Pavlo? Well done whoever it was. We disembarked and walked up the hill to the Blyth Hut turn off waving at the millions of queuing skiers as we passed.
The walk to Blyth Hut was great fun and the scenery beautiful with the heavy snow overnight and on Saturday having coated the forest with white frosting. We wandered through snow drifts, crossed rivers, admired waterfalls, traversed boardwalks, smashed icicles and climbed hillocks. We had superb views across to Ruapehu and I was able to point out Girdlestone the peak Henry’s team had hoped to climb but sadly had not even glimpsed. At Blyth Hut we ate our lunch then retraced our steps. From time to time snow showers descended but then the sun would come out again. It was not the boldest alpine adventure one could imagine having on a weekend but crucially we made the most of the weather and the roads to ensure we got time on the snow and everyone had a good time. We got back to Wellington safely thanks to great driving by Pavlo who had to drive through snow between Ohakune and Taihape, and Dan who had to drive while listening to me and Taylor Swift.
Big thanks to the post Snowcraft team for organising a fun, self-directed weekend. A lot of people would have given in to frustration and lassitude when confronted with the obstacles we faced but inspired by Rhinehold you showed patience, determination and a huge capacity to make your own fun. Great team work and problem solving skills were displayed throughout the weekend. The ability to have fun regardless of factors beyond ones control is probably the second most important alpine skill one can learn on a Snowcraft, (after how to stay upright) so I salute you all. Special congratulations to Holger who is the reigning champion of Cards Against Humanity. The team was Dan, Pavlo, Holger, Graeme, Viktor, Julia, Tereza, Amie and James who joined us from David’s group for the Blyth Hut walk. Take note of their names and invite them on your Alp1 trips people they are gold!