Snow Cave WeekendOctober 20-23 2000
Tell someone you're going to Mt Ruapehu to sleep in a snow cave and the first thing they'll say is "That will be cold!". Wow, there're some pretty switched-on people out there! Actually the theory is that a snow cave is just as warm or even warmer than a tent (that's a tent on the snow of course - I'm sure a tent pitched beside the beach is much warmer than a snow cave). This theory was put to the test by 4 Waitakere Rovers, 1 from Bays, 1 from Roskill, 2 from MOB (Kapiti) and 1 from Switzerland. The results of this little experiment were a bit inconclusive due to everyone freezing their toes off whether they were sleeping in a tent or a snow cave.
We spent our first day of the long weekend pursuing the wonderful pastime of skiing, where you use gravity to your advantage and head downhill, and pay good money to get towed up again. On Sunday we reversed our philosphy - we switched our skis for tramping boots and crampons and fought against gravity to get uphill. This lasted a very long time and was very hard work, but we did make it to the top eventually.
Our work wasn't over though and we started digging into a snow bank on the summit plateau. This was much harder than we thought it would be as the snow was very hard in places (very hard snow is what you'd call ice). In fact the digging was still going on at 8pm when it was very close to being dark, and even at 9pm there were some still lying around in the snow with shovels in their hands in soaking wet clothes, oblivious to the chilling sub zero temperatures. The persistence of those people paid off though because the caves were just big enough to sleep in by then.
Those brave enough to spend the night in these tiny, cold caverns shifted in and jumped into dry clothes and their sleeping bags as quickly as possible (which is not very quick when your fingers are numb). Although it was still early, there was little else to do but sleep, if you could. Some slept soundly, others tossed and turned as they struggled to bring a bit of warmth into their feet.
Everyone was glad when the sun came out at 7am, probably the earliest I have ever willingly got out of bed! Another clear skied day meant the sun didn't take long to warm us up (and thaw out the shoe laces on our tramping boots), especially during a before-breakfast walk to view the crater lake.
After a nice warm cooked breakfast we packed up and took an after-breakfast stroll up to dome shelter before heading down the mountain. A trip that took 4 hours up took only 45 minutes down as we sat on our bums and let gravity do the work (gravity is my friend). By lunch time we were warmly sitting outside Knoll Ridge cafe.
By 4pm we were sitting at the Tokaanu Hot Pools, but in typical irony it was by then far too hot to take much enjoyment from the thing we had fantasized about the night before.