|Welcome to the Mountain|
Education or fun? While the Ruahines would have been a true adventure, I chose to invest some time learning skills in alpine rope work, pitching, abseiling, anchor-setting, ice-climbing, and snow-caving. Preparing for the higher mountain! When we spun the weather-pokie-machine, we were over the moon with the result: a straight flush: five suns. Epic!
|The striking silhouettes of the Pinnacles and Ngauruhoe|
|'Ice climbing' en route to the Summit Plateau, via Glacier Knob|
Clinging for dear life on the side of a 60 degree ice slope, it's nice to have something to lean back on. Hence the first lesson was how to set a good anchor. Depending on the snow conditions- dry & powdery, or hard & compressible - you would set a lightweight aluminium snow stake into the slope vertically or buried horizontally. Ideally, a deep layer of ice beneath the snow layer would set up a bomber anchor with fifteen whacks of the ice-hammer. Solid - hang off that all day. And just as well, as we began practicing the routines of pitching, we could be waiting as long as an hour per pitch as our climbing partner progressed up the slope.
Life could be worse: during the belay sessions I had one eye on the rope, the eye gazed over the snow-covered Kaimanawa and Ruahine Ranges and picked out Ruapehu's most aesthetic peaks... Girdlestone, Tahurangi, Te Ataahua, Ringatoto...
|Nico basking in the final few rays on the Plateau|
|A snow cave - once made it is a fantastic shelter from the elements|
Instead we shovelled masses of snow into a mound, and tunnelled into it from either side. The advantage of this, we now had smooth snow to dig into and no ice blocking the way. The effort invested in the snow mound paid off, and the two tunnels were soon connected, and enlarged into a just enough space for three cold mountaineers to sleep out the night...
|Tunnelling in from the north|
|Minimising heat loss and maximising heat gain!|
|Owen's Himalayan tent shelter|
|7:45pm and ready for sleep in the very warm snow cave|
|Melting the day's water under a surreal solar glow at dawn|
|Ruapehu's summit arena (www.nztopomaps.com)|
|Helen on the crux pitch. Feel the exposure! (Photo: Owen Lee)|
|A perfect descent on dusk|
|Nico squatting on Taranaki|
|Working the 6-1 pulley system to save Nico from falling into the Whakapapa Ski-field 'Crevasse'|
|Abseling off Delta Corner (Photo: Roman Amman)|
|The Prussik Challenge involved team work, knot-skills, and intense facials!|