The usul hitch-hiking farce ended with the three individuals on the trip perched on a Landrover, heading up the Eastern side of the mountain; I was the last to get picked up, so I sat on a front mudguard. Fantastic way to get up mountains, I thought, with the Rover's honest little engine buzzing the spinning front wheels through the scoria. In a freezing wind and a soft sunset that only tussock country seems to produce, we arrived at Tukino village and scampered along the snow poles into the fast gathering darkness. The carbide lamp was started with the only available source of water, (yes, it works!), and we stumbled up through volcanic rubbish for about an hour, on a climbing sidle, watching for the myriads of pseudo-cairns that appeared everywhere. An hour after that and we still had not located the 30 foot snow pole which indicates the presence of Wangaehu hut - so the tent was pitched on a hastily levelled site (the sight of three figures raking away at the sand with their ice-axes in the middle of the night, half-way up Ruapehu must look bloody ludicrous).
A freezing wind and a blushing snow started off Saturday. Two hundred yards to the South was the magic snow pole, (screams of joy). We hastily packed up and picked our way over to the hut - 100 yards to the South of the pole. Breakfast, then away towards Te HeuHeu. Slowly the Mangatoetoenui glacier fed itself under our feet until we were standing right under the peak. Blowing like buggery. So we climbed from the plateau up to the nob to the West of Te HeuHeu, smashing away the sastrugi from the steep slope in tinkling showers of ice. A pause on the ridge, looking at the southwards marching sea of puffy great clouds around us; then crunch along to the summit. Navigating across to Dome was on instruments alone, as we were enveloped in a whiteout. Entry into the Shelter was effected by vigorous blows at the ice build-up on the door. Glassy shards of ice splash everywhere. Great fun.
After lunch the weather consisted of a dense white sub-zero wind, so we sneaked off down the Wangaehu to the hut, conspicuously perched at the top of a humdinger bluff. The garbage-disposal method was a positive one; bracing oneself against the safety-fence at the top of the bluff, swish the bucket upwards. A brief flurry of dehy packets vanishing at frightening speed over the bluff, and it's all over. Gale force winds do have their uses.
Wind and rain on Sunday vanished at 10.30, so we headed page 22uphill instead of down. ("It's a great day for Kodachrome, fellers" - executed with a Waikato nasal drawl). Two of the party dropped packs under Dome and walked up Paretetaitonga. Seems like the Ministry of Jerks got here first, judging by the fantastic garden path of steps cut up to the summit. Back to Dome for a brew, then off down to the Top o' the Bruce. Crunch crunch go the crampons. Klik klik go the cameras. Down to the lowlands, with its cars and roads and houses.
Individuals:- John Wharry Keys, Nev. Lupton, Pete Radcliffe.
"The line which separates the difficult from the dangerous is sometimes shadowy, but it is not an imaginary line. It is a true line, without breadth. It is often easy to pass, and very hard to see. It is sometimes passed unconsciously, and the consciousness that it has passed is felt too late. If the doubtful line is crossed consciously, deliberately, one passes from doing that which is justifiable to doing that which is unjustifiable."
- Whymper 'Scrambles Amongst the Alps' 1900