This artice was first published in The Tararua Tramper in July 1997
Tararua Hut Excursions
The last few days of December 1996 proved to be a great time to visit Tararua Hut - continuous good weather until the tropical cyclone, which turned out to be a fizzer. The effects of the recent eruptions were visible everywhere and the whole mountain had turned a darker shade of brown.
We went up to the crater on our first full day on the mountain. Dome Shelter was looking a bit sad from eruption damage and with lots of snow inside. It was very interesting to see the Big Hole with sulphur deposits far down at the bottom, big clouds of steam, and deep rumbling sounds. At the highest summit, Tahurangi, I found that the ash had caused hard ice to form, and as I had left my crampons in the hut I decided against trying the last few metres of the peak solo. Dave went up Paretetaitonga, below which there was a big bank of muddy ash studded with holes where larva bombs had plopped in. Coming back down the Whakapapa Glacier and past the Far West T-bar, which was the route of a major lahar in September 1995, Dave and I passed a continuous spectacle of unusual patterns formed by the remains of the lahar and by the snow melting because of ash.
On day two we set off for Ngauruhoe from the Chateau across easy country via the very pleasant Mangatepopo track and then up the Mangatepopo Valley to the saddle where the usual route up Ngauruhoe begins. Barry went back from here because of a foot injury while Dave and I went up to the top into a bit of cloud, and down the other side to Tama Lakes. At the crater we picked up a Czech visitor interested in something more than the usual return trip. The great thing about the country around the lakes is you can walk pretty much wherever you like. We arrived back at the Chateau after a nine and a half hour day.
Day three was the evidently world-famous Tongariro circuit. We decided to do the trip anti-clockwise - from Ketetahi to Mangatepopo. This is the way to go if you like meeting people. There was a steady stream coming the other way, maybe around 300. Ketetahi Hut, at midday, was already full of overnight trippers who had staked their claim. We were the only ones going against the stream. For Barry who was up ahead, this was quite useful as he could send back messages such as "What's taking you so long?" and "Hurry up, I'm getting cold.".
Tongariro National Park and adjoining areas offer huge scope for summer walking. Besides the above three classic trips, there are many excellent day and half-day trips for all levels of fitness. Tararua Hut is the place to stay - very economical, centrally located, quite an easy walk up from the road in the summer, and with unbeatable views.
- Trip members
- Barry Dyksman, Dave Reynolds, Hugh Fyson (scribe).