Dome Shelter on Ruapehu is to be closed within the next year. Administered jointly by the Department of Conservation and GNS Science (formerly the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences) the shelter is officially a volcanic monitoring station and the equipment it houses will be moved to a nearby monitoring site and the hut dismantled.
Traditionally a small area of the station has been open for emergency use but there are no plans to maintain this facility. DOC argues there are no emergency shelters on Aoraki/Mt Cook or Mt Everest. However, in August this year a group of three climbers were stranded at the shelter as weather conditions changed rapidly on the plateau.
The shelter has also seen tragedy. In 2007 William Pike lost his leg whilst staying at the shelter when the volcano erupted and in 1990 six army servicemen died whilst trying to reach the shelter in a blizzard. Whilst emergency shelters can save lives, they can also act as beacons for the unwary.
In future, with no replacement shelter, climbers will have to approach the North Island’s highest summit with even greater caution.
– Fraser Crichton