New Zealand Backcountry Conditions Report: The Stunning Summit of Mt. Ruapehu

Guy LaDouche | | Conditions ReportConditions Report
Terrifying icy traverse in the background. Lucas ripping glorious corn in the foreground.
Terrifying icy traverse in the background. Lucas ripping glorious corn in the foreground.

They say the best time to ski at Turoa is in the spring, and I’d have to agree. While the lower mountain is looking quite grim, everything on the upper mountain still has amazing coverage. Ripping groomers in the morning followed by soft corny goodness off-piste by 11am make for lots of legs days this spring.

Feel that burn
Feel that burn

The other great thing about the clear spring weather is that there are plenty of opportunities for hikes to the summit. Mt. Ruapehu summit stands at 2,797 meters (9,176 feet). The highest lifted point of Turoa Ski Area is at 2,322 meters (7,618 feet). That leaves a nice 475 meter (1,558 feet) boot pack to the summit from the top of the Highnoon Express. The hike is quite steep and can take as little as 40 minutes for the the super fit. We took quite a leisurely pace and reached the top in about an hour. Even though there was a nice boot pack in place, the surface was quite icy in placed towards the top. Crampons and ice axes are definitely recommended if you have access to them.

The Stunning Crater Lake at the top of Mt. Ruapehu
The Stunning Crater Lake at the top of Mt. Ruapehu

From the summit, you can see into the epic crater lake that sits atop Mt. Ruapehu, which is an active volcano. The run down to the lake looked nice, but we had our sights set on the adjacent Girdlestone peak, which I’ve been eyeing all season. We made the terrifying icy traverse across the western face of the Mangaehuehu Glacier and found a much softer eastern face. From there, we had a nice, long descent through the Glacier Backcountry Area and ended up back at the Nga Wai Heke chair.

Our route for the afternoon
Our route for the afternoon

With rain in the forecast this weekend and a chance for snow on Monday, it’ll be interesting what the mountain holds for us in the final week.

Photo Tour:

Sam coming down under the Girdlestone
Sam coming down under the Girdlestone
Lucas on the icy traverse
Lucas on the icy traverse
Looking back down at the bootpackers during a short break
Looking back down at the bootpackers during a short break
Looking West from the top of Ruapehu
Looking West from the top of Ruapehu
Sam riding past with his trusty ice axe
Sam riding past with his trusty ice axe
‘Merica!

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