On Friday the 13th of March, the Massey Alpine Club headed up to Mt. Ruapehu for a Saturday summit and a couple of awesome nights in “The Hut”. Despite the date of departure, the trip was incredible.

Arriving late Friday night, we all settled in and got a good night’s sleep in preparation for next day’s adventure. Personally, it was my first trip with the Alpine Club, and I must say, what a weekend. The hut was everything it was hyped up to be, and the mountain… I had no idea what we were in store for.

It was a crisp, clear morning as 40 groggy faces wolfed down breakfast and prepared lunch for the mountain before packing into the cars. We were on the road by 8 o’clock and reached the ski hill base at around 8:30. It all happened very quickly, and before we knew it we were on our way up the treacherous slopes of Mordor. With Mt. Doom looming in the distance, my inner Lord of the Rings nerd was having an absolute field day the whole way up. Only it wasn’t quite as menacing without the explosions of molten lava and a giant flaming eyeball.

I’m not sure about the rest of the group, but the hike was really quite challenging. I felt like Sam with Frodo on his back as sandy ground constantly gave way with each step, expending loads of extra energy. Eventually, the footing became much better, with the terrain turning to mostly rock and compact dirt. I can definitely see why Peter Jackson filmed the Mordor scenes on Ruapehu and the surrounding area in Tongariro National Park, with the jagged rock formations and ominous, volcanic setting. The foggy cloud cover that came in as we got about half-way up the slope only made the experience that much more real. Luckily, we avoided any kind of significant rainfall, and much to the relief of my quads and calves, were nearly at the summit. 

As we climbed the final ridge approaching the summit, the clouds began to clear, as if welcoming us to our heavenly destination. I can honestly say that I have never been atop a peak so majestic as Ruapehu’s. Between the steaming crater lake, to the never-ending views of New Zealand, to the multiple jagged, uniquely formed peaks that surrounded us, it was a breathtaking scene.

The challenge of the ascent was every bit worth it, especially as some of us cracked our hard earned “Summit on the Summit” thanks to Richard’s mint purchase on the way to the mountain. There honestly aren’t too many words to describe the view from the summit, but if I had to choose one, it would be EPIC. That being said, you really have to go there for yourself to truly understand the magnitude of Ruapehu’s beauty. Here are a couple of pictures from the summit.

 After a well earned break on the summit, we began the victorious descent. Little did we know it would be just as treacherous as the climb to the top. After making it a bit past half-way down, a large portion of the group began to realize that we weren’t quite going the same way we came from. Shortly after coming to that realization, we also realized that we had come to an extremely steep portion of the mountain (one might even have called it a cliff). One of the particularly bold members of the expedition bravely descended the steep slope, and let us know that it was “doable”... Concluding that we had no other choice than to go back up the way we came--which nobody was about to do--we all strapped our boots on a bit tighter and went for it. I am happy to say that it ended up being a bit easier than we anticipated, and we all got down that face with the speed and grace of a pack of mountain goats. Moral of the story, if you want to be a bad-ass, join the Alpine Club.

As the group approached the highest cafe in New Zealand, the rain began to set in. Although I think we all wanted to say that we went all the way up and down Mt. Ruapehu, the combination of rain and a free chair lift ride the rest of the way down was too much to resist. After gathering at the bottom, we hopped into the cars and headed back to the hut, ready for a night filled with celebration of our awesome achievement. As we got back to the home base, we were greeted by an always welcome site; a double rainbow all the way across the sky. It was the perfect cherry on top of a sweet as day, and I can suffice to say that we all had a great night. That is where I will leave it, and if you want to find out what actually happened that night, well, come along for the next trip ;)

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