Since we finished canoeing a day earlier than originally planned Katie and I had a day off before we would start the Tongario part of the trail. So we decided to climb New Zealand’s highest volcano on the North Island, Mt. Ruapehu. It is bedded in the Tongario National Park and we will also walk around it the next days but the top was not planned within this tour. The volcano is supposed to have a spectacular crater lake. When we got up in the morning it was still raining and the clouds were hanging low. We started with a big breakfast and decided to still give it a go. The weather was supposed to get better during the day before the next rain band would hit in the afternoon.When we arrived the entire mountain was covered in clouds and more clouds were constantly pushing in. The guys in the visitor centre said that they would not recommend a climb in these conditions since the views are usually very limited and you can’t even see the crater lake from the crater. But more over there is no marked track to the summit and in case of an white out it would be difficult to find the way back without experience in the area. But we still wanted to go and give it at least a try. So we got very clear instructions for the way up and down, I mad sure I had a good idea on where to go in case we would get stuck in the clouds and which points to aim for with the GPS on the way down.

So up we went. We wanted to make it to the cafe first and have another check on he clouds from up there. When we arrived we could always see clear parts and even blue sky in between. The clouds were on many different levels today. So we decided to give it a go. Beautiful views from the beginning!

   
   
On the way up we were also lucky since we most of the time had a decent view on the top and the clouds were below us.
  

When we came to the final ascent to the crater rim the clouds moved in and it was a fantastic play of light and clouds, covering us partly or fully and the mountain as well. But you can also see how quickly you are covered in a white out and there is basically no view and chance to orientate anymore.

   

    
 
Once the clouds moved in also the temperature instantly dropped and it was good that we had taken our thermals, wind jackets and gloves which we put on. From the rim we had to follow a small ridge to the Dome which would give us a view on the crater lake.
   

   
And then finally we could see the crater lake and we had good views on top!
   

   
With a little filter on top you can tell why this area was used to facilitate for Middle Earth in Lord of the rings:
  

On the way down we had a constant on and off from the clouds giving us no visibility to amazing views. This is the dome in the back and behind the first rim lies the crater lake. Shot of the day!
  

And a few minutes later…
  

We made it back safely to the visitor centre and treated ourselves with a large flat white ? Now I desperately need new shoes. This was the last big journey for my Speedcross 3. Hopefully they will be delivered tomorrow…
What a perfect day! I just love the mountains!

After that we went back, got a sewing kit to fix my pants which are starting to fall apart. And then Katie took me out to the RSA for dinner. The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association is a voluntary welfare organisation which takes care of the returned as well as family and friends. And it is also a place where you can go out for dinner. Very interesting experience. Katie and I were definitely the youngest of all and we felt a little bit misplaced between all the medals, pictures and drawings especially from WW2. But the place was crowded on a Monday night and many of the elderly people were sitting in big groups enjoying a meal together. What a great idea and place!