Ruapehu - West SideIntermediate
Submitted by Katie Smith
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Front country - easily accessible
Point to Point (one way)
Native bushOpen tussock/grasslandsVolcanic
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This route is part of the Scott Gnarly Collection
Start from the top of the ski field road heading down for 1km on seal to warm up before turning left onto the Around the Mountain DoC track. The track starts through sharp loose scoria rock interspersed with steep muddy chutes. As you are running around the side of Mt Ruapehu there are frequent short steep climbs followed by descents in and out of each side gully, usually with a river crossing at the bottom of each. Be prepared to get very wet and muddy, particularly after rain.
The track is easy to follow in anything but a white-out, and although for the first 10km the surface doesn't change much, the views certainly do! The volcanic landscape is stunning, otherworldly. From around the 12km mark you start descending slightly into native bush, and there are short sections of boardwalk to protect the ground beneath. Lake Surprise does just that as it pops into view, then shortly after you descend steeply to Mangaturuturu Hut (around 15km).
Here the track forks - hang a left to stay on the Around the Mtn track. Enjoy the brief area of nearly-flat terrain before starting to climb again, this time 200m up through tussock and exposed rock by a waterfall. The final kilometre or so provides great views towards Taranaki, before you meet the Turoa ski field road. Stop here or grind up the seal to the car park another 1km up the road.
Features of interest
Stunning views as far as Mt Taranaki on a clear day
Scoria fields and old lava flows
Make Up of Run
Technical Single Track: 60%
Moderate Single Track: 25%
Easy Single Track: 10%
Sealed Road: 5%
Start at the top of the Whakapapa ski field road, the end of SH48
Lots of available parking, busy in winter when the ski field is open. Shuttle buses run through winter too, but there is likely to be snow on the track
While the track is mainly clear there are a few sections of scoria where you pick your own way - in very poor visibility this could be harder. Follow signs for the Around the Mountain track at junctions.
Thermal leggings, Lightweight fleece top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival blanket, Cellphone, Map, Crampons / microspikes (for winter conditions).
Plenty of streams to drink from
This is a fairly high route - the weather changes rapidly and snow can occur year-round. It is very exposed to wind at several points. In winter the waterfall climb would be icy and very slippery, and there is likely to be snow on the track. Rain turns some descents into slides, and whilst most stream crossings are straightforward there are a couple that may become difficult or impassable after heavy rain.
Mt Ruapehu is still an active volcano so heed any warnings! The track is crossed by several lahar flow paths.
Post run indulgence
Mountain Rock Cafe
Good coffee, great muffins and slices
Apres-ski atmosphere with good food, pizzas in particular. Hot plum mulled wine in winter is a must!
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