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August 2013 Issue
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A family first

First rays of sun on Lupton Hut looking back from the track up to Blyth. Photo: Marilla Swift
Lupton Hut (free, 8 bunks)
Ohakune Mountain Road, Round the Mountain Track

Lupton Hut, Tongariro National Park

For a family outing in Tongariro National park, the privately-owned Lupton Hut is a good option. Owned by Wanganui High School, the hut can be used by the general public if arranged in advance.

As former employees of the school, my husband Graeme and I chose the hut for a trip with our four children because it is only 3km from the road end and the nearby Blyth Hut offered an alternative option for trampers who might arrive and find they didn’t want to share a hut with children.

From the road, we meandered upwards, past the junction with the Blyth Track, to the top of a spur and into a big clearing. With fantastic views of the upper mountain, it’s a beautiful place to take photos before descending to Waitonga Falls Lookout.

Downhill a combination of excitement, “I want to be at the front” rivalry and child-sized steps shifted our focus from encouragement to restraint but we were soon down at the river enjoying a well-earned “halfway” rest in the sun. We paddled in the frigid water, ate snacks and readied ourselves for the final push up to the hut.

From the river, we followed the Round The Mountain Track as it leaves the relative motorway that guides tourists to the falls lookout. The climb from the river was steeper and much more hands-on from us with many roots and some very high steps for the kids to climb. After about 200m we left the RTM Track for another which took us up to the huts.

This final kilometer of uphill was the point at which potential tiredness and decreased novelty factor could have made everyone more irritable. We reminded ourselves that the focus for now was on “the journey” rather than “getting there”. Our fears proved unfounded though and we experienced growing excitement with the positive attitude of the children and their enjoyment of the walk. Before we knew it we were out of the bush, minutes from our destination.

On arrival at the hut, our ecstatic children ran inside, dumped their bags and leapt onto the bunks.

The night was warm and sleep came easily. Had we shared the hut, no one would have been disturbed. After breakfast, we wandered up to Blyth Hut. Ruapehu looked stunning in the early morning light and a temperature inversion cloaked the lower mountain in cloud – a beautiful start to another stunning day.

The walk back to the falls, where we enjoyed another extended rest break, was uneventful but tiredness from the previous day started to show whilst climbing the big steps up to the clearing. Leaving the river, our pace slowed considerably and the children’s tolerance levels for irritating sibling behaviors disappeared almost entirely.

Despite this, the atmosphere was happy and the numerous people we passed praised and encouraged us all.

From the clearing it was all downhill giving us time to dwell on the joy of what we had accomplished as a family.

– Marilla Swift