By Campell Loudon

Tongariro Northern Circuit (December 16 – 20, 2019)

Is it still worth going if the weather is going to be cold and wet?

On the wettest four days in weeks I was out tramping to the Oturere Hut with my sister, two friends and our shadow. My boots were already soaked and water was foaming out with every step, and this was just the first hour of our four-day silver qualifying journey.

Water water everywhere and a bit more. One of the largest obstacles was the weather. I had been planning for months, but had not expected the weather to be so bad, even with our raincoats we were soaked through.  We were cold, wet and miserable.  Every footstep was slowed.  The track turned to mud under our feet. What should have been an easy two-hour stroll turned into a four-hour trek through mud and driving rain.

On Day Two, I awoke to another very wet day.  The wind was blowing storm-force (88 to 102kph) across the Tongariro Crossing with the forecast for the following day even worse. We decided that completing the circuit was not worth the risk even the ranger advised us not to cross. There was another family there who decided to stay another night and continue, but we wanted to get more tramping done and made the disappointing decision to turn back on the grounds that we could always come back another day. It was not worth dying for.

I had wanted to keep going and be able to complete what we set out to do. I had spent hours prior to the journey calculating route cards for the circuit and now they were almost irrelevant. Plan B was to retreat to the Scout Lodge and attempt to make it to the Waihohonu Hut the following day. At the Scout Lodge we were able to dry out all our equipment, the first time everything had been dry in 24 hours.

Day 3:  On our way to the DOC office, the dry ditch we had crossed the day before had become a fast-flowing stream. There was water everywhere. Plan B involved a river crossing, so we changed over to Plan C, which was a day walking on Mount Ruapehu, another night at the Scout Lodge and continuing to the Tama Lakes the following day, weather permitting.

The weather cleared enough to enable us to go up to the snow. On the way one member found $20 between rocks.

We gathered a bag of rubbish from the track as we walked up the mountain. We left it under some rocks with the intention to retrieve it as we walked back down; but as we were coming down, some low cloud rolled in restricting visibility to less than 15 metres and there was confusion as to where the rubbish was, though we managed to find it.

Day 4 had better weather than we had experienced the previous three days.  The walk to the Tama Lakes was at first undulating before a steep climb to the Upper Tama. It was windy and freezing at the top, so we did not stay there long before heading back to the end of our tramp.

Two days before we started our journey, the four of us had been finalising our trip. The forecast was grim. One member asked, “Is it still worth going if the weather is going to be cold and wet?”

So is it?

We had not have done what we had planned.

We had got wet, tired, cold, hungry, miserable, damp, soaked, drenched, inundated, saturated and frozen. We knew our limits, we knew when to turn back and when it was not safe to continue. We gained experience that will help us plan better, make sound decisions and stay safe. We had fun and made memories with friends and family that we can have a laugh at.

Yes, it was definitely worth it.

We’re delighted to share another trip report from recent recipients of FMC’s Youth Award Grant. These grants are awarded four times a year, so if you’re inspired to get some financial support, head over to FMC’s website to apply.