Queen's Birthdat At Tongariro
Queen's Birthdat At Tongariro
Somewhere along the Desert Road at midnight you could have found us, stuffing round with an assortment of vehicles and cramming more people into the already-bloated rental vans. The scene was just as chaotic next morning at the Ketetahi Hut. As the hards disappeared up the track, the ponces who'd spend the night in the van) lifted their heads and looked blearily around at the deserted scene. Don't ask me what time we left, but it was a couple of hours in to the springs where it was time to relax again, our day's tramping nearly over. Aaaah, bliss... as we lowered ourselves into the hottest pool to join four others who'd been there for hours already. Much later, in fact just on dark, we reluctantly crawled out into the gently-drifting snow and fiddled round with boots and things. The pain was excruciating in wrinkled fingers and toes - I later discovered that such extremes of temperature are a recognized form of torture.
It was well after dark when the last of us arrived up at the hut, which by this time was packed. The rest of the party had been exploring all afternoon and had themselves established in tents or bunks, and with a bit of a squeeze we found beds for everyone. Cooking and eating were chaotic and some of the other hut users were really quite hostile. The night was cold and snowy and one of our tents was seriously wounded and had to be put down. Its occupants, to their everlasting credit, moved into another tent for the rest of the night.
It was a relief next morning to get away from the festerous place, even though the weather up top was a bit epic. Amid driving snow and strong winds, the stormgeared party plodded up to Blue Lake (invisible) and regrouped again above Emerald Lakes.
The take-it-straighters raced downhill to Oturere in lovely deep snow, while a keener group went via Red Crater and South Saddle and thence across to Oturere. That afternoon it got clearer and clearer until Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe were page 11 page 12 page 13visible and the late sun turned the whole lot to gold. Oturere seemed much friendlier with only one other party there, and that night there were even some songs. Bryan and Alan went out into the clear night for a moonlight climb of Ngauruhoe which proved windy but exhilarating.
The morning was unreal, all pink and blue, and well worth getting up for. Thousands of slides later, little mobs started leaving for Waihohonu - the van-drivers first and the hut-clearers last. The snow was a mass of diamonds under the early sun, and every creek had invented its own patterns of ice crystals and rocks and milky frozen pools. The snow got thinner and thinner, and by Waihohonu it was scarcely a coverlet to cool a hobbit's toes. A beautiful bit of country, this. Waihohonu was the logical place for lunch and it wasn't long before we turned our backs on the mountains, heading for the Desert Road. Down among the tussock the frost needles were fantastic in the shade, and we cut great swathes through them, laughing mightily as we destroyed their beauty. Down at the road, Ken was encouraged to simulate acts of lewdness to passing cars, which kept us amused until the vans arrived back from Ketetahi.
Anyone looking back at the shining mountains must have thought "tremendous". Anyone looking back on the trip probably thinks the same.
|We were:-||Bryan Sissons||Jim Metson|
|Kathy Garden||Jeff Hicks|
|Ruth Carter||Alan Cutler|
|Brian Shepherd||Tony Teeling|
|Geoff Gilman||Rod Gilman|
|Bill Taylor||Ken Taylor|
|Jane Forsyth||Carol Nash|
|Brenda Nicholson||Helen Norris|
|Elizabeth Brunton||Peter Melling|
|Dave Waghorn||Rob Smith|
|Phil Tree||Chris Mrozek|
|Jan Smith||Michael Geraghty|