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Dome Shelter’s days are numbered

Dome Equipment Shed was frequently caked in snow and ice during winter. Photo: DOC

Dome Shelter, near the summit of Mt Ruapehu, is being removed this month as DOC says the building is no longer needed.

The shed was originally built as a shelter, but has been destroyed, rebuilt and damaged in volcanic eruptions. Since the 1995-96 eruptions, it has stored equipment used to monitor volcanic activity and was renamed Dome Equipment Shed. But the equipment has been stored at a purpose-built facility at Glacier Knob since 2011.
DOC Tongariro District operations manager Bhrent Guy said the shed was hard to find in a blizzard and it was often coated in a thick layer of snow and ice in winter.

However, the shed was a lifesaver for William Pike, who sheltered there during the 2007 Ruapehu eruption. Pike and his friend James Christie were sleeping in the shed on the night of the eruption and the sturdy structure may have saved their lives. When the volcano erupted, a pressure wave blew the hut’s door open and rocks flowed in, trapping Pike and crushing his leg, which was later amputated.

Pike said it would be a shame to see the building go.

“But I understand the complexities involved with upkeep and support the decision DOC has made to remove it,” he said. “On the bright side, we will all be able to enjoy the pristine mountainscape free of any buildings.”

The shed was also associated with an earlier tragedy. In 1990, a group of army soldiers on a survival course were looking for Dome Shelter in a blizzard, hoping to get out of the extreme weather. Conditions were so difficult they never got there and six of them died.

Guy said removing the shed would also acknowledge the cultural significance of Mt Ruapehu’s sacred summit plateau.

The NZ Army is working with DOC to remove the structure.