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May 2012 Issue
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About this time of the year I start thinking about which winter trips I might be able to do. For the last few years I’ve managed to get away to Tongariro National Park. Last year was particularly memorable as I snowshoed my way up Mt Tongariro a few days after heavy snowfall.

That trip, following on from a few other winter excursions in the area, cemented my love for Tongariro as a winter destination. On a fine winter’s day I really can’t think of anywhere else in the outdoors I’d rather be. I think it’s because of the contrast between summer and winter, which is probably as extreme as you can get in a New Zealand national park.

In summer, thousands upon thousands of day trippers clog the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and other tracks, making it a particularly unenjoyable time to go tramping there. But more than that, I find the dry, barren summertime scenery uninspiring and even a little depressing. The hues of volcanic rock and soil can be fascinating, but with such massive mountains as Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu virtually bare of snow to my eye it actually looks a little ugly.

Well, compared to winter at least when you will find yourself in a pristine alpine environment that truly shows off the stunning beauty of the park. The scale of the park seems to change, becoming bigger, brighter and altogether more challenging and interesting.

Nothing boosts your confidence in the outdoors like a winter alpine trip. As we point out in our feature beginning on p41, it might be bit more difficult, but with the right planning it doesn’t have to be more dangerous to explore the outdoors in winter.

So this year, my thoughts are turning towards another visit to the park. This time I plan on building a snow cave on the flanks of Ngauruhoe and over-nighting there after, hopefully, climbing Ngauruhoe.

We’ll see what the winter brings – hopefully a good amount of snow to the Central Plateau is on the forecast.