With the completion of the Round The Mountain (Ruapehu that is) last weekend I have done all the Central Plateau hikes this year, and this weekend I’ll doing the crossing again just for fun, and to try out a pack from Aarn. On this trip I used Paul’s MacPac Ascent Classic. With the size 3 harness it is 70L+ and I was glad for it. My sleeping bag is bulky and clothes for 4 days are similar in size to clothes for 9 days. This was my first time with a CamelBak and I really liked it, I kept two water bottles in the outside pockets like I usually do, but only drank from the hose, with it being so easy I found I got through a lot more water which is probably good for me, so I’ll have to get one of those in San Diego.
The Round The Mountain track is by far the longest and least trodden of the tracks. It starts in Whakapapa and heads across the Tama Saddle to Waihohonu which is the reverse of the last leg of the Northern Circuit. I had taken a long time to get going that morning so I powered up to the saddle, scoffed lunch and set off for the hut, where I promptly found that the tag the DOC lady at Whakapapa sold me wasn’t valid for camping at this hut. I really have my doubts about the DOC staff there. Last time they sold me camping tickets for huts that didn’t have campsites, and this time they sold me a back country hut pass when I needed a Great Walks Hut pass. Grrrrr. The very particular hut warden took my credit card number and will now charge me an extra $15 for that night. Anyway, I got a prime tent spot, being the only tent there, under the trees to avoid the dew and talked to a guy from Scotland about him trying to convince his girlfriend to move to Canada. Back to my tent and I found the only other person not staying in the hut had decided to set up about 10m from my spot. In the whole camp ground, were every other spot was clear, he preferred to make an entirely new place in the middle of the big flat communal area (instead of one of the areas cleared marked out by trees and bushes) to face directly into my tent, geez, personal space man. Back to the hike. I set off quite early and took the time to see Onipango Springs, very nice and worthy of a swim, but not at that time in in morning. A long gentle rise on a dry sandy river back and then across some rocky plains to the dirt road before the Rangipo hut. This is a pretty desolate place, as my pictures will show when I upload them. Luckily for me some kind souls have put bridges in over most of the big rivers, and since this area is entirely rock it is really appreciated. Getting washed away here would be very bad. I crossed the Wangaheuhu River, where the lahar will flow when it finally bursts through the damn, the wire bridge there goes over the deepest part and feels really flimsy compared to the flow of the glacial melt below.
By the time I reached Rangipo it was raining, I ate inside and carried on when the rain died away. Down in the valley the army were testing explosives though I thought for a time the rolling sound was thunder, or maybe even the lahar coming down. After Rangipo there was a really big gorge, a steep descent and then a climb up the other side was really hard, good thing the wind was blowing my way. Since leaving the river bed that morning I’d been in the true Mordor but now I was reaching the tree line again. One last copse of trees and I smelled wood smoke and sure enough the hut was right around the corner. Again I struggled to find a tent spot, but with my trusty orange trowel I dug out some roots and made room. The tent held up fine in the wind and rain and I was off early again.
After only a couple of hours I was at the Blyth Hut turn off and retracing my steps of a few weeks before. back to Oakune Mountain Road, up the hill to Taranaki Corner, down the Cascades (much scarier going down that way) and lunch at Mangaturuturu. Then on towards Whakapapaiti. At some point earlier that day I had decided that if I reached Whakapapaiti by 5 I would carry on and walk out that day. I rolling in at 4:30 and did indeed carry on. My feet were sore and I was thinking I’d gone too far but I was down at Whakapapa before 7pm and thus completed 31.9km that day. With the additional walk to the car I had made 20miles, and that is only the average for the PCT. The first few weeks are going to be good practice for the rest.