With the tantalizing prospect of settled weather arriving after a good dump of snow, it seemed that much of Wellington headed North to play on the mountain. We enjoyed a mesmeric Kapiti sunset and the gastronomic highlights of Bulls before ploughing onto a blustery and very foggy desert road.
A midnight briefing at Tukino Alpine Sports Club (TASC), and the onset of some persistent galeforce South-Westerlies, meant that Saturday morning consisted of leisurely coffee, and hut banter before heading out to Margaret’s leap, where three top ropes were slung over excellent ice. The 60m routes offered a variety of features from bullet proof icicles to receptive rime that provided satisfying axe-placements. Fun climbing definitely compensated for the grazing spindrift and meagre sandwiches. We returned to sample a hearty meal, NZAC snowcraft lectures and a couple of climbing movies in the warmth of the hut before retiring at 8pm in anticipation of a bigger day.
Sunday dawned: a Bluebird that saw Harry lead out his group to Mitre before suffering a cramputation. Bereft of this Bronze-Age wonder he soldiered on to Mitre as we made well-shod tracks to Matihao / Cathedral rocks (S39° 16.485′ E175° 34.679′, 2483m) to sample the lead climbing.
Mike P was kind enough to lead this newbie up a variation of Left Couloir, which seemed to gain an extra pitch. Good picket placements secured the 1st pitch of easy climbing, which got steeper, a little icier and way more fun by the second pitch. Great views at this decidely chilly belay: the crater lake expanse opening up to my left was peppered with ski touring parties enjoying the beautiful day. We topped out onto a rimey saddle, large ice ridges lined up like iron filings in a magnetic field. We scoffed another meagre sandwich (and a gobful of jet planes) before descending to meet Mike S, Barnaby and James who had climbed a beautiful, steeper WI2 line to our right.
We descended via the gentle slopes of the Whangaehu glacier hoping to find the obvious trackmarks of our one-cramponed compatriot back to the hut. This was not to be and a rather bluffy route appeared forcing an unwelcome retreat back up to Whangaehu hut then onto a ridge to gain the marker poled area of the Tukino ski field. Was this tactical route-finding by the Chief Guide to avoid departure duties? I made a mental note to try the “Bluffed out” excuse at home.
On arrival, Ngauruhoe glowed in the dusk and was a fitting footnote to a fun and as it turned out quite big day out on the hill. Sadly we missed the treat of Abbie and Tom (Alpine Club members) getting towed up the hill on their mountain bikes, perhaps we can convince them to put it on the trip schedule next year?
A great weekend, with superb conditions and a good lodge on perhaps the best side of the mountain.