By Robert Milne

When my daughter Eleanor and her tramping buddies invited us to tag along on their trip, we jumped at the chance.

Before I moved to Ohakune, I was a member of the Victoria University Club and loved the whole club lodge weekend adventure – car pooling, driving up from Wellington with a nosh stop at Bulls, maybe a beer at the Ohangaiti Pub (times were different way back then), and arriving at the Top o’ The Bruce in the dark, ready for the hike up the snow (sometimes ice) to the lodge halfway up the Rockgarden. Happy days.

Eleanor’s crew were coming up from Wellington and we had just a short drive from Ohakune. So we had the planned luxury of an afternoon skiing, after taking our gear up the Rangatira Express and strolling over to the Tararua Tramping Club lodge at the head of Tennant’s Valley.

Then we realised our fantastic outdoors sleeping bags were gone and we had no tramping packs (on long-term loan to the tramper child). We borrowed some sleeping bags, which were quite heavy – but I’m not complaining!

The thought of trudging on snow with a wheelie suitcase didn’t appeal so we borrowed a good pack, to go with the oversized day pack that we already had.

Work day changes put paid to the afternoon ski idea.

“No worries, we’ll get there in time for a night ski ride up the lift,” we thought. Except the weather didn’t play ball – night skiing was off. Then we realised the weekend deal didn’t include Friday night dinner (the others were arriving close to midnight). So, we stopped off at the Chateau for a very non-tramper style dinner, choosing the venison and velvet stout pie. Maybe not a great choice before a half-hour climb up a ski field, carrying packs, ski gear and supplies.

The hike up Tenants Valley was quite spectacular in the moonlight, but we could have done without the howling gale. The groomers driving up nearby looked tempting – wonder if they pick up snow hitchhikers?

I’d seen the lodge many times before, but coming up to it from down hill, and in the dark, had me a tad concerned that I might have the wrong one. Neither of us were particularly enjoying the hike, but it was a safe bet that if we were headed to the wrong one, words would be spoken. But thankfully we got it right first time.

Next we discovered how cold a building in the snow can get when no one’s been in it for a while. I raced around turning on all the heaters, to warm the place up for the crew when they arrived. But a text from the crew said “no!” Not until after 9 – the power prices are too steep!

After a couple of hours’ wait, a few bouncing head torch lights came up the valley and soon the lodge was full of keen folk, all buzzing about the weekend ahead.

Next morning, after a leisurely breakfast and then our dishes duties (are you sure that’s all you need us to do?) we headed for the slopes in small groups, bypassing the madding crowd at the base area and sidling around onto Hut Flat and straight onto the Waterfall Express for a day’s skiing.

Apart from the head start in the morning, the other lodge life bonus is the ski back there for a crowd-free lunch, then a snooze in the sunshine, looking out over the lower Whakapapa slopes and across to the beautiful Ngauruhoe.

But the big bonus with clubbie life is the chance to spend time with a whole bunch of keen beans who are willing to spend a bit of a slog to earn their turns – hearing their stories, sharing some banter and grabbing ideas for other adventures around our magnificent country.