In early September it looked like the snow was melting away, winter had gone and spring had arrived. That all quickly changed as multiple storms passed through and covered the mountains in snow. I ended up waiting 3 days to hike. The day before and the morning of they said we would only get halfway because of possible avalanche danger. But as quickly as the snow fell it melted away and we were able to hike straight through!
We started the hike layering up as much as possible. They were concerned with the high winds that were expected but about 20 minutes in I wanted to shed all my layers and the strong winds never came. It was
a wee bit nippy at the summit but nowhere near what was expected. In NZ the sun beats down strong and it was quickly warming us up. I regretted the thermals I had chose to wear earlier this morning. The start of the hike was all dirt and then about 20 minutes in we hit snow. We carried crampons the entire way but ended up not needed them. It was a bit slippery at times but we were able to get by with boots and an ice axe. We happened upon a young family carrying a baby. While we were perched along the mountainside ice axes firmly planted in snow they shuffled below us with no ice axes or trekking poles. I began to wonder are we over doing it or are they just crazy?
The area we were hiking is still considered an active volcano so there are areas that are closed off. The hut on the mountain is closed to overnight guests since the last volcano eruption. The mountain is covered in black. You can also see steam rising and as you get closer you get a strong whiff of that geothermal activity.
After hiking up I was a bit worried about going down since it was slippery on the way up but we had crampons and maybe those would help. I was at the back of the group so I missed the first part of what the guide said and the next thing I knew the guide slid down the mountain! I thought he was instructing us how to walk down the steep section of the mountain. Instead we were planning to slide down the mountain! The kid in me jumped for joy. I quickly rearranged my clothing and backpack to turn myself into a human sled. I whipped out my gopro and got read to take some epic footage. We were able to get in a few runs and then there was no snow left to slide down so we had to return to using our legs to walk.
The hike is not a return hike so out shuttle met us at the end. I thought since it was not a return hike it would be more interesting but it’s not. At that point I just wanted to get down and not stop so my muscles wouldn’t cramp up. We still had another hour to go and we hurried down as quickly as possible. We were rewarded at the end with beverages and a grassy lawn to lie on. I noticed they also have outdoor lounging benches built at the ends of the Great Walks.
In the image they use for the end of the Routeburn hike there’s people lounging everywhere, relaxing after a long hike. When we did the Routeburn it was deserted because it’s still winter and not prime hiking season. This time since I was with a large group it looked just like the image I had seen. I took off my boots, dried my wet socks in the sun and drank my can of sprite as if it was a ice cold glass of water.
The best part of the hike is reaching the summit the second best part is reaching the car park.