Mud Snowboards and Crampons

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I hadn’t  been to Egmont National Park for 30 years. I can still remember the dramatic landscapes and the steep rough terrain.

Planning this trip I was inspired by the Sunday Big run crew who ran it last year and after reading about Symes hut in Wildernesses magazine I thought this would make a great combo.  Overnighting in a mountain Hut before going round the mountain.

One of the things we miss out on with fast trips in these magical area’s is the Hut experience. After my first fast pack trip on the Old Ghost Road I’m keen to add Hut stays to these adventures.

In typical fashion the plan expanded to climbing to the summit and then Snowboarding down. As I shared these plans with those in the know it was becoming clear I had super sized the plan.

After talking to the experts at Bivouac they said I would need crampons and an axe to get to Symes hut safely so I rented some gear. I was also told about a recent death on the mountain. Someone had slipped and fallen for 500m. This gave me a few nightmares.

I found out Symes hut had no heating and saw a bunch of photos of it covered in ice. It was looking like a wild winter experience.

Talking to the team at the DOC visitor centre to check conditions, they recommended only experienced climbers head up to Symes hut and beyond. They also recommend carrying crampons and axes for the round the mountain track. Bassel told me how to get a key for Kapuni lodge which sits below Symes hut at 1400m and has heating. This looked like the best option. Flag Symes, the Summit and Snowboarding, stay at Kapuni and go round the mountain.

We picked up the key and got to Dawson Falls just as it was getting dark, it was less than an hour with torches to the Hut.  Wow this was no normal Hut, even flasher than a great walk Hut. Anthony cooked a fine steak and we sat as close to the fire as possible, it was cold at 1400m thank goodness we weren’t at 1900m with no heating!

The cloud cleared and we got great views of the mountain towering above us, wow it was seriously steep.

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The next morning was beautiful, we watched the sunrise over Ruapehu as we ate breakfast, baked beans, sausages and weetbix. We hit the track just after 7 and headed south round the mountain. It was amazing, the pink light in the cloud that sat at 1000m below us and the mountain above was breathtaking.

There was a small amount of snow and ice around but it didn’t slow us down. Soon we got to the gorges and the cliffs. Wild Country that makes these trips. Then we had the big climb / slide down the muddy ridge to the gorge. This is when I got the first scare about how hard and long the trip was going to be, in an hour and a half we had covered 7.5 km! The western side was bog after bog, it was a full on obstacle course complete with steel ladders to climb out of the streams.

We finally got to Bells falls and out of the cloud and rain. We saw the mountain again as we got back above the bushline, the magic country.

Wow this is a big circuit that just keeps going.  Lots of steps and good tracks on this side. We saw a few people out enjoying the sunny clear conditions. The last section from the summit track to the ski field had quite a bit of snow but it was soft and easy to run on.

After getting to Dawson Falls we had the last climb back to Kapuni lodge to get our packs and tramp out with our torches.

It was a tough magic day with all the adventure we could hope for perfectly ending with cold beer and roast lamb at the Edmonds in Wanganui.  Thanks Diana and Peter.

2min video

Full 7 min video

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