Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ruapehu , sleeping in the snow

These trips in my photovan all start with the basics , check mileage and put goo in the engine to slow down oil burning . The day before my adventure started I was in Rotorua , I went into a tyre shop and told them the steering wheel was shaking while I drive and they checked the tyres . There was a big lump on the front left tyre and they told me it could be from hitting a pot-hole at high speed on a bad road . I just smiled and said " That is a very distinct possibility " :) .

The morning started with a stop at Taupo and breakfast at subway - the weather is apparent in the background 

I stopped to get some pictures of this forest with the fungus growing on the trees

When you're standing on the roof of a van a passing logging truck makes things rock around a bit 

Approaching Ruapehu and the weather report that suggested things were going to clear up didn't seem too trustworthy

I headed up the hill , slowly , and found an overnight parking place

part 1.) I didn't want to be too far from safety since the rated avalanche risk was 'considerable' so I headed up this valley around the corner from the ski fields

I decided to use this rock to block the wind and flattened out the area and put the tarp down

I thought the scenery was pretty good

At around 2pm it was still raining , the weather forecast had suggested I would have a clear afternoon but everything was getting wet and if I took my boots off it is such a hassle getting them back on again in these conditions that I decided I wasn't going to wait around for 6 hours till dark .

Part 2.) I had passed this old building earlier , broken windows , door jammed open , and decided it would be a good place to do my cooking .

I wondered about staying here for the night , snow and slush all over the floor - would it count ?

I still had some time to kill and wandered towards the ski fields , I could return to this hut if I needed to . 
Part 3.) There were quite a few of the ski lodges not being used - this one had a verandah that I could use as emergency shelter  if the weather got really nasty - there was a 'complex' weather system moving over the north island and there were possibilities of severe gale force winds , one reason I never climbed to the top .
I hung up all my wet gear to drip-dry and set up the bivy bag ready to move into position when it was 'time' - once it was dark I slid it down onto the bare snow next to the building , on top of the tarpaulin .

And got ready for some 'sleep'[?]

Many of my 'stories' involve a list of mistakes to begin with .
An adventure in the snow shouldn't have one of these . It's a good thing conditions weren't right for climbing all the way to the top because I brought the smaller tarpaulin with , not the same one I slept on top of in my last snow-cave adventure .
I thought I had enough insulation under me , with all the movement and effort involved getting into the sleeping bag and bivy bag I was hot and bothered and took my jacket off and used it as a pillow , wondering why I had it on in the first place .
My camera [Casio FH100] was in its case next to me to keep it warm , torch down one side , knife on the left and water bottle outside [ it proved useful in the middle of the night , I had been drinking more water than I thought , but I'll never drink from it again :redface:].

Then it started raining again and I wondered how long it would be before it started dribbling through the opening - the bivy bag has about 4 clips that close it up - it is made of gore-tex but I'm not sure how breathe-able it is if the opening is blocked with snow or something , and what if strong wind is blowing rain the wrong way ?.

The rain lasted about half an hour and I unclipped the opening and lay staring at the stars for an hour or so ....

Then the rain started again , I clipped the opening closed again and pulled the string on my -30 sleeping bag that closes the opening around my face and allows the two cheek-flaps to cover my face leaving only my nose sticking out . About an hour later I started feeling the cold - I never had enough insulation under me - I should have brought the bigger tarp and folded it a few times like the last time in the snow cave .
By now I was shivering and dug the fleece jacket out from under my head and did some amazing contortionist tricks to put it on in that small area .

I felt warm again - for half an hour , until the cold worked its way through again , besides the fact that my legs were feeling it now as well . It's all fine having a sleeping bag that can handle extreme cold but if you don't have proper insulation under you it's all useless .
So I tried turning sideways and it worked for long enough for me to start drifting off to sleep until I woke suddenly while dreaming that someone was suffocating me .
I had to turn on my back again so I could open the front enough to let some fresh air in so I could breathe properly again . That fixed the suffocation problem but as I breathed the cold air in and out I rapidly lost body heat .
By this time it was 1 am and my body started shaking ....
It was time to 'chicken out' , I wormed my way back onto the wooden deck and positioned the mattress under me , falling asleep was easy , I did it about 20 times  .

Lying flat on my back started to hurt , after an hour I wriggled across to my backpack and dragged it into position as a pillow .
That made things better for another half hour until I realized that I was better off sleeping on my side , this got me half an hour's sleep each time until it hurt enough to wake up and change sides .
The snow plows worked all night as well , they had reverse beepers fitted too ....

What a long night ! It was such a relief to see the sky getting brighter , when I sneaked the opening apart each time , and at about 6am it was bright enough to force myself to get up and get all my warm gear on .
The inside of the bivy bag was wet near the opening and the bottom of my sleeping had a layer of ice on it ...

My other water bottle was half frozen as well . My boots were wet the day before , this morning they were frozen solid and it took a while to get my feet in again . My laces made a crunching noise and didn't want to bend ... 

Once I had all my gear on I worked my way back down to the van .Nguaruhoe [ Mount Doom LOTR ] was looking rather gloomy , I haven't slept on top of that one yet !?

The rest of the area was under clouds - Ruapehu has its own weather . In the distance to the left is Mount Egmont/Taranaki , that one was an interesting climb but I wouldn't want to be up there in bad weather .

The photovan had ice on the windows , it started but needed some encouragement to keep running .
I drove back down with the window open , the hot air on the windscreen was too much for me and I needed to cool off .
By this time things were clearing up a bit .....

I had thought of the option of sleeping on the snow one night and building a snow cave the other [ tonight ] but I think this should be enough adventure for at least a week - I wanted a full nights sleep for a change ! 

Things to remember for next time :
1.) Take more insulation , two bedrolls , plus tarp .
2.) Build a snow trench , take an extra tarp for the roof .
3.) Wait till it is almost bedtime before heading out .

1 comment:

  1. All you needed was a four season sleeping mat.