Wednesday 19th February – let’s climb that mountain !

Today’s goal was the Oturere Hut, a 5 hour walk away….. That’s if you don’t impulsively add in a mountain climb too…..

We were up at 5:45am with the plan of leaving around 6:30. Let me say now that that that didn’t happen, waaaaaay too much faffing, we finally left around 7:30……

Had a breakfast of weird cereal bites, coffee and an apple.

The tent was soaked with condensation and with the site being so dusty was pretty muddy by the time it was dismantled and packed away.

When we started walking it was still chilly with the sun not hitting our side of the ridge yet. This was an absolute blessing as the ridge was a long steep climb, in the heat of the sun it would have been awful.

I have to admit that the detail of the walk is vague, I remember following the Mangatepopo stream, the climb, passing toilets near Soda Springs, another climb and then being at the bottom of Mount Ngauruhoe (summit 2287m). The summit climb and back is ‘only’ a 3hour detour….. I couldn’t resist, especially as the Australian who’d been at our hut the night before arrived at the same time ready to do it!

We dropped our packs, took some water and snacks and headed off up – no really a defined route, just up, ideally following the rocky bit on the side rather than the scree for ease! We mostly scrambled up rather than walked, laughing as we went at the crazy impulse to do this – it would add 3 hours on to what was already due to be a big 5 hour day…….

The view at the top was amazing though, you stepped onto the top and were looking into a volcano! Everyone had the same reaction – just smiling and amazement. After a few photos Matt (I’d asked his name half way up) walked around the top and I went the other way admiring the 360 degree view we’d earnt ourselves. He headed down while I stayed up a bit longer, met a German girl also from our hut, before heading down.

If the way up was made hard by all the scree, then the way down was made scary and fun for it! The trick was to plant your heel and go with the flow of the loose stones/rocks….. Once you got used to the essentially sliding down the mountain sensation it was really good fun, at one point it was so easy that it was (in my mind) like walking on the moon, just bouncing along, although did bounce down on my bum a few times, but easily bounced right back up giggling as I went. The fun was counterbalanced by the occasional shout of ‘rock’ and one really scary time of ‘rock rock ROCK’ as one bounced down at great speed nearly catching someone on the way past – everyone was just frozen watching it pass……..

By the time I’d reached the bottom my boots were full of stones and dust, as were the pockets of my shorts and my jacket and I’m fairly sure some good bruises are in their way.

We had lunch and then continued on our merry way. From the top you could see the Blue Lake and some smaller lakes, one known as the Emerald Lake – v original names! The Blue one is formed in an old crater and the emerald one gets its colour from the minerals coming out of the rocks. We had to do more scree skiing to get down to the emerald lake, again more fun, but trickier this time with a rucksack on, balance was harder!

When we reached the lake we stopped to removed the stones again and I couldn’t resist going in for a paddle and a little wash to get rid of some of the dust! It was super cold, but felt so so good!

Thankfully the walk from here on was downhill, the sign said 1.5 hours to our hut and we were going at a good pace, then my blisters started to kick in, then 1.5 hours passed with no sign of a hut and at each ridge for the next 30 minutes hopes were raised and dashed of it being the final one.

Finally, with a major sense of humour failure, I drew a line in the sand delineating the point when the walk went from fun to not fun and crossed it. As 2hours approached we started to wonder if we’d missed the hut, but finally there it was not too far in the distance, after a few tears of relief, set off on the final few minutes of walking.

On reaching the Oturere hut, we saw Matt who was relieved to see us – we’d given him some of our water as he was really low – he’d been worried we might not make it as there had been no where to get water from at all on the walk (the lakes were a big no no!)

Found a really lovely tent site – on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a waterfall! Beautiful, but all I wanted to do was take my boots off, survey the damage and lie down.

After some time out I headed to the hut to cook dinner (more instant noodles). This hut was far smaller than the previous one with no electricity and some bunks in the kitchen area! Even though it was more cramped people seemed less sociable, maybe it was that the warden was less chatty so everyone kept more to themselves.

Not so though with an american guy we’d met last night, he came over to admire our view bearing chocolate covered almonds he’d just created – always happy to talk to anyone offering warm melted chocolate!! We discussed the massive amount of condensation he’d had on his tent this morning and was relieved to hear we’d had the same – the trials of camping!!

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