If the Beatles lived here…

snow snow snow

Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
And I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold rainy winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
And I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
And I say it’s all right

Snow, snow, snow, here it comes
Snow, snow, snow, here it comes
Snow, snow, snow, here it comes
Snow, snow, snow, here it comes
Snow, snow, snow, here it comes

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear

Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
And I say it’s all right
Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
It’s all right, it’s all right

And with the snow, come the Darwinists, people who are just too dumb to be allowed outside on their own…

jul 16 emerald lakes rescue

Finally…

severe 31 Jul 16

…with more to come…

…winter is here…

Woke up to snow at home this morning…mainly windblown but nice to see it making the effort…slushy snow on Raurimu Bridge and then increasingly realer snow into National Park Village and then down SH47/48 to Whakapapa…

All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

Even though the plough and grit trucks are out, temperatuires are still below zero in most places…with the ski fields and ski field roads being closed, I’d really suggest people want to stay off the roads unless they really need to be somewhere…

Today’s post as been brought to you by the number 4 and the letters W and D…

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All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

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All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

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All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

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All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

Clouds | The Daily Post

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt: Clouds.

Source: Clouds | The Daily Post

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As the sun climbs, dew on the slopes evaporates and cloud form beneath you. From the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe.

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Early morning cloud rests in the low lands around Raurimu.

Tongariro Apr 04 - 1

Mount Ruapehu from the Desert Road

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Mounts Ngauruhoe and Tongariro taken from the beginning of the Taranaki Falls track in Whakapapa Village.

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Mount Ngauruhoe from the Chateau golf course.

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Cloud forms off the slopes of Mount Ngauruhoe. This is taken from the summit of Mount Tongariro: 15-20 minutes later we were greyed out.

Disaster | The Daily Post

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.

Source: Disaster | The Daily Post

…sometimes the measure of success is how well you respond…

That was my parting shot in The magnificent seven ride again…, the tale of a 2011 pub crawl against a backdrop of NATO’s Libyan ‘intervention’ and the  lone wolf terrorist attacks by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway in July 2011.

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Five years later, those are still true words although I see response from a different perspective now…once, response was force projection, rapid deployment, targeting; now response is something we manage every day…

Today’s prompt is disaster…the biggest disaster to hit this region in the last 2000 years was the Taupo eruption around 182-300AD, depending on whose book you read. Of course, if disaster strikes and there is no one there to suffer from it, is it really a disaster or just a large scale natural event..? I mean, we’re talking seriously large scale here: the biggest explosion that the world has experienced in the last two, possibly more, millenia.

When we talk eruptions here, it is always in the context of when, not if: we know that the three volcanoes – Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro – will erupt again. The iffy bits are when exactly and how much…questions that can only be answered after the fact. Predicting eruptions is much like predicting earthquakes: often we can see a shift from what’s considered normal, maybe an increase (or decrease) in gas emissions, a cooling (or warming) of a crater lake, more (or less) volcanic tremors: but what it means is very difficult to determine.

Because prediction is problematic, a lot of resource goes into response. The timelines are pretty tight. A lahar (big volcanic mudslidey thing) coming down the western side of Ruapehu will hit Whakapapa ski field in about 90 seconds…that’s not enough time to check your phone  for directions, call a friend or update your Facebook page about the big black shadow coming down the mountain…part of the disaster response on the ski field is to ensure that people know what to do beforehand…

Further down the the hill, residents of Whakapapa Village have a whole twenty minutes to evacuate everyone from the danger area along the Whakapapanui Stream, essentially the Holiday Park and the housing area across State Highway 48 from the Chateau. Twenty minutes doesn’t sound like much time but after a fortuitous (probably didn’t seem like it at the time) series of false alarms in 2015, Whakapapa residents know they can do this at nine at night, in winter, after dinner and maybe a few beers.

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There may be no warning. An eruption may occur on a beautiful blue sky day, or in the middle of a black, freezing, sleeting, icy night. Luck ran twice when the Te Maare craters erupted in August 2012. Lucky once because an eruption at 11-30PM meant there were no walkers on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing as rocks hammered down onto the track. The biggest of these weighed three tonnes, enough to hurt if it landed on your toes. Lucky twice because, even though it was night, the bunk room at Ketetahi Hut was unoccupied as a rock slammed through the roof.

It’s been many years since we have had a disaster in Ruapehu – some tragedies, yes – but the last real disaster in terms of loss of life and damage was probably Tangiwai in 1953. Once of the reasons that we haven’t had any real disasters since then is our ability to respond. The March 2007 lahar had potential – it was certainly much larger – to be as deadly as its 1953 predecessor : that potential was mitigated, some might say neutered, by a effective well-planned, well-practised response. In fact, between exercises and false alarms, the disaster response was so well-practised that when the main event event occurred, it all seemed a bit boring…

So, when  you visit our maunga, take a moment to read the signs and be aware of what’s happening, what might happen around you…if you’re here for your fifteen minutes of fame, don’t let it be in 5000 years when some alien archaeologist chips you out of the remnants of the great Whakapapa Lahar…

Ridge Track, Whakapapa Village

The Ridge Track is a nice short – about twenty minutes/1.2km each way – walk right in Whakapapa Village…great for a quick leg stretch at lunchtime…

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It starts here at the public shelter, just up the road from the DOC Visitor Centre, and opposite the Whakapapa Holiday Park. The trail itself is just up from the shelter , where you can see the DOC sign on the right of the picture…

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The trail winds behind the shelter…

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…across the bridge and into the forest…

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…past a nice resting spot about halfway up (the forested part)…

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…before you break out into the open and continue up through the tussock.

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Not all of the trail is in tiptop condition and sections like this can be a little more challenging, especially after a good downpour…

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…and your’re there…

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No one is quite sure why there is a big table here but there is…be nice ofr a picnic, better if there were seats…

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Further up the ridge line, on a clearish day, you can often see the very top of Mount Ruapehu…

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…to the north, there are often great views of Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro…

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…and below, The Chateau and Whakapapa Village, with SH48 winding back down towards SH47 and civilisation…

Wear sunscreen…

 

…and other handy things to know…

Yes, winter has finally hit the Central Plateau…and with it, the usual outbreak of idiots…

Handy tip #1. Snow is wet, hard and cold. Just because it is sunny, does not mean it is warm. Dress appropriately and, yes, that does include wearing sunscreen…

Handy tip #2. Your big 4WD does not make you immune from the laws of physics, or the road.

Sub-tip 1 to #2: when you crest a hill on the ice-covered road and you see the flashers on the Highway Patrol car at a breakdown, don’t hit your brakes. Score SH47 3, 4WD idiots 0.

Sub-tip 2 to #2: Chains are not equal to 4WD, nor do they make you a world-class rally driver. If you are not used to driving on ice, get the bus. If you miss the bus, get out of bed earlier.

Sub-tip 3 to #2: The absence of signs saying ‘slow down’ does not equal a defence when you are in the ditch. Use of the defence may justifiably be taken as provocation by the guy you hit on your way into the ditch.

Handy tip #3. Your quad headlights that can blind a possum at five kilometres will not melt ice on the road. Bridges and shaded corners may be treacherously slippery all day – drive appropriately.

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DSCF8580 DSCF8579 Cautionary tales and idiots aside, heavy snow fall often sucks all the moisture out of the air and makes for beautiful days…The lower level tracks in the Park are all accessible and walkable but the higher levels of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing remain restricted to those with equipment AND experience above the snow line – those without should seriously consider signing up with one of the guided tours because a. it is safer, b. the Crossing in winter is a totally different experience to the Crossing in summer, and c. it is an experience not to be missed.DSCF8583DSCF8584DSCF8585 DSCF8586

Chilly…

…and I don’t mean the magic spice that overcomes all food preparation shortcomings…

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I was driving back from town yesterday and could not help but notice that both Ngauruhoe and Tongariro had had some decent dumps of snow over the last two days…couldn’t tell you about Ruapehu because that is under that big mass of cloud where the fence line meets the skyline…DSCF8391

Compare Ngauruhoe with the shot I took of it at sunset a couple of posts ago...

The temperature dumped as soon as the sun disappeared…it was a beautifully clear and starry night…so still and so bloody cold…down to 0 at midnight and -2 at first light with a good frost…

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The sun is dealing to the frost already and it will be a ripper day til the sun goes down…I think we will get snow here as soon as we have a cloudy night…it’s been trying the last couple of days…

It’s safe to say that winter is here so if you are visiting up this way, think about putting some warm clothes, maybe even a sleeping back in the car, with some sensible footwear, gloves and a warm hat…just on case…it’s this time of year when drivers are still in summer daze and don’t think of shady corners and the risks therein. No matter how good a driver you may be, it might be the other guy that makes the mistake that gets YOU…take care out there…

Tongariro by air

 

One of the really great things about working for DOC on Mount Ruapehu is that opportunities arise to participate in some of the activities available around the Park. Last month, my planned trip to the rim of the crater lake on Mt Ruapehu was foiled by poor weather so when Mountain Air called to say they had a spare seat if anyone was interested, I was on the road immediately…DSCF7897

Even by midday this bank of cloud was still sitting just short of the base of the Mountain and more importantly for the day’s unplanned activity, just short of the end of the Chateau Airport runway.
DSCF7899Our destination…DSCF7900

Our chariot…

DSCF7903 The Mangatepopo car park in the lower right, the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing…DSCF7909

The other side of the Alpine Crossing on the long descent from the Blue Lake to the Ketetahi Carpark which is the finish point of the Crossing…DSCF7907

A small patch of cloud mingling with steam from one of the volcanic vents on the north side of Mt Tongariro…DSCF7911

A closer look down on those steam vents…

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Looking west over the Blue Lake which is a bout the halfway point on the Crossing walk…DSCF7932

The Blue Lake with the Emerald Lakes on the lower left and the majestic bulk of Mt Tongariro in the background…DSCF7926

Looking closer at the Emerald Lakes with the Crossing track running from top right to lower left…DSCF7928Looking over the Emerald lakes and Red Crater towards Mt Ngauruhoe (aka Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy). Just to the right of Red Crater, you can just make out the Crossing track: Red Crater marks the highest point on the Crossing at around 1780 metres, a good half kilometre above the 1200 metre start point at Mangetepopo…

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Mt Ngauruhoe …you can’t see them but on a good day like this, there were dozens of ambitious visitors clambering their way to the summit – they said that they waved but I didn’t see them. The journey to the summit of Mt Ngauruhoe is probably the most challenging of the three peaks in summer as the slopes are very steep (a constant 30 degrees), covered in loose material so that you may spend as much time sliding back as you do pushing forward, and there is always a risk of getting clocked by a rock or stone dislodged by climbers ahead of you….DSCF7968

Between Mts Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu lies Whakapapa Village, home of the Chateau Tongariro the main DOC base for administering the Park. The light coloured roofs on this side of the Village are the Skotel accommodation complex, and the tracks to the north of it run to Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls…DSCF7993

Last but not least the splendour of Mt Ruapehu, with a glimpse of the Crater Lake. In a few months this will be covered in metres of snow but at the moment it is still relatively easy to trek up to the crater rim as a day trip form the Village.

Just after taking this picture, i switch my camera to video mode and recorded the remainder of the flight back around all three mountains and back to the airfield. I meant to convert it to MP$ and upload it to Youtube before I came away this week but I am afraid that you will have to wait until the weekend for me to get that down…

I’d really like to thank the lads at Mountain Air for taking me up. I’ve been in and out of aircraft of all sizes over the last three decades and i would have to say that their presentation and performance was as good as any other top-line aviation activity that I have been involved with. If you visit us on a nice day (and most of them are), Mountain Air offers a great way to see the Park and its attractions in a way that  a ground based perspective simply cannot match…

 

So who didn’t pay the subscription for summer??

So here we are….only the fourth of March, with only two really summery days all year (a really summery day being one where it feels too hot to do anything), and already we have had our first snow for 2014…I guess the ‘crust’ on the water in the wheelbarrow from yesterday’s rain and the brittle white grass on the lawn should have been a clue at home this morning….

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Well, that wasn’t there when I went home last night…

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Not as low as the office yet but it was hailing when I left this evening which doesn’t bode well for this summer thing…

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…and a good dusting on Ngauruhoe and its offsider, Tongariro…

OK, so, yes, perhaps we were a little spoilt last year with a three month summer aka drought but SNOW IN MARCH! REALLY?

At a guess, this dusting won’t last long – although more is forecast for tonight – and normal summer services may be resumed but if you’re planning on visiting the Park, pack an extra layer of woollies, some really warm sox, good gloves and a decent beanie and take a few deep breathes before opening the door to step outside…

The Road to Pipiriki

One of the reasons that I was interested in my current part-time role at the Whakapapa Visitors Centre was that I wanted to learn more about the area in which I’ve lived for the last decade. Just how unaware on my local area I was, was made clear last year when I was the census collector for the northern part of Mt Ruapehu. What kept going through my mind was that old Tourism NZ advertisement “Don’t Leave Home til You’ve Seen the Country”

So I have set a new category “Around and About” to capture my explorations but don’t be surprised if they deviate off into other (geographic) areas as well…

I attended a farewell dinner for a friend at RNZAF Ohakea on Thursday night and woke on Friday morning to a bright sunny day (I may have appreciated the brightness and the Vampire jet buzzing the airbase if the previous night hadn’t been quite so good!). After brunching at Wendy’s and doing a little shopping in the big smoke, I set off home up SH4.

About 30km north of Wanganui, there is a signposted turn-off to Pipiriki (didn’t think to take a photo at this point). I was quite keen to drive this road as a tourist on the Visitor Centre had asked about it in my first week and I had said that I didn’t think that there was a road along the Whanganui River besides the last few kilometres of SH4 and had to be set straight by another staff member.

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View of the Whanganui River from the lookout at the top of the first hill after you turn off SH4

I found it to be a nice drive that follows the river for 60 km to Pipiriki where it turns inland for another 30 km to pop out on SH4 again at Raetahi. It is quite narrow (down to single lanes at some points) and winding but surprisingly busy so it is essential that a driver assumes that there is oncoming traffic around every corner and is prepared to stop in half the visible road.

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Obstacles…

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…and more obstacles…

There are many single lane bridges and drivers need to be aware of who has the right of way and rural road etiquette e.g. the traffic coming up a hill generally has the right of way…

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The road is always at least ten metres above the river so I think it unlikely that it gets closed often by flooding…DSCF7512DSCF7516One of those single land bridges will bring you into the historic settlement of Jerusalem…

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There is quite a long stretch of unsealed gravel road between Jerusalem and Pipiriki…

DSCF7519It is drivable in 2WD but the surface in some parts is quite loose so I popped the mighty Ssangyong into 4WD for better control and a smoother ride…

I couldn’t resist the TipTop icecream sign so popped into the Pipiriki store for a Trumpet…

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Pipiriki is a nice spot…

DSCF7523 DSCF7521 DSCF7522And then it was back on the road heading inland towards Raetihi…this road is probably more travelled and, while still narrow and winding at the river end, is certainly in better condition than the road south of Pipiriki…Halfway to Raetahi, the road breaks out onto the Central Plateau…

DSCF7529This is a drive that I would recommend to anyone looking to head south from the Ruapehu district with a little time to spare. I found it a nice change from SH4 direct to Wanganui or heading through Ohakune to pick up SH1 south to Wellington.

It is drivable by car i.e. 2WD but care has to be taken for other road users around the any many blind corners and single lane bridges. Small campervans i.e. those of people mover/SUV chassis would be OK but I would not be that keen on driving it in a large van-like campervan even though there are numerous small laybys where such vehicles can pull over to allow other vehicles to pass…

The scenery is nice and this drive provides and opportunity to see more of the Whanganui River than you can see from SH4 without actually having to get onto/into the river itself. If you want to get on to the river, there are opportunities to do this at Pipiriki with various canoeing, rafting and jetboating temptations…