Friday, September 4, 2009

The Wild Side

It's been a bit of a wild week at Ruapheu this week. Wind, Rain, Sun, Snow, more wind and just a little bit of riding in between.

Yesterday (Thursday) we went to Tukino, the wild side of Ruapehu. Getting there can be a bit of an adventure. I hitched a ride with Conrad (from the Pizzeria, at the Junction @ Ohakune) in his 4wd and, with another girl Rachel, we departed Ohakune for the Desert Road. Tukino access road is well sign posted at it's sandy entrance, the road was fairly pot holey at the bottom and a bit rutted at the top with a bit of snow across the very top section. We were greeted by the familiar face of ski patroller Mike standing in the wind in his thermals and boardshorts and invited inside the Aorangi hut for a hot cuppa.

The ticket office was not running, being a weekday, so Cindy and Mike sorted our day passes over coffee at the table. Love the laid back atmosphere up here. While we were sipping our cuppa's and sussing our nutcrackers, patroller Jordan got the bottom Whangaehu tow running.

There was a cool breeze but the bottom tow was reasonably sheltered and warm and sunny. They'd had some fresh snow overnight, there was some soft snow about, but some of the open spaces were a bit wind stripped and/or icy and softened over the day. Above the bottom tow in The Gut there was a nice stash of fresh pow and a bit of a wind lip which created the perfect spot for a wee jump. We also hiked up The Gut for some fresh turns, niiiice.

The Aorangi top tow opened in the morning. As I have yet to attempt backside on a nutcracker I sent Conrad up for a look. It seemed to be similar conditions up there, sounded ICY, so I just stayed on the bottom tow opting for lots of easy runs rather than trying something new, trying it all back to front for average-ness up top. No one was really heading up there. Anyway, the bottom tow here seems so easy now after my last day on nutcrackers at Craigeburn and its 3 big tows. So thankful I have my own nutcracker and harness now too.

For lunch we sat in the sun outside Aorangi Lodge and chatted to a Chaplin in from NZ Army over sandwiches. There was a big crew of them up here doing some pre-deployment training, and gearing up for a night over in the snow. Nice guys (and gals). Back into it after lunch for a couple more hours, but Conrad and Rachel had work in Ohakune calling so we departed at 2pm. Can't wait to be back.

More info can be found at the Tukino website. It can be a bit of a mission getting up the road, so make sure you check the road conditions first and call ahead if unsure. I stayed up here a couple winters ago, so check out the ski+stay packages too.

PS: I managed my own nutcracker injury today, while hooking the rope up on odd pulleys where it had fallen off, I somehow managed to whack my knee into the lower pulley on that ride. Makes for impressive bruises!

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