On the weekend of 26th February 2022 I went for a solo mission to hike up to the Dome summit overlooking the crater lake on Mt Ruapehu.
I had stayed in the lovely Skotel the night before and was greeted in the morning by a gorgeous view of the second most prominent mountain in the central plateau, Mt Ngauruhoe (2291m).
It was a refreshing change to set out on a mountain adventure by myself, although not without some niggling trepidation.
The route to the summit is unmarked, but it is hard to go wrong as there are many routes up to the summit crater rim. What is more troublesome is the very loose nature of the rocks on the slopes, leading to potential hazards of rocks moving suddenly while moving over and through them.
Obviously poor visibility is also a major hazard, but the cloud around the summit had cleared by the time I made it to the crater rim.
I set out at a good pace from the top of the Sky Waka gondola at about 10am. I passed a party as I hiked up the Knoll Ridge and then dropped into the valley to follow the cairns in a more or less southerly direction.
I didn’t know any better, so when the cairns seems to peter out I headed straight up the slope due south until I reached the beginning of a long low cliff face running down the main slope which I decided to scramble on to the top of and follow up the slope to the summit plateau crater rim.
At the crater rim I got my first view of the summit plateau and the northern peaks of Tukino and Te Heuheu.
I had seen another party traversing the crater rim south west towards Dome peak, and I followed them until I caught up and passed them just after the next peak.
I arrived at Dome peak alone and had it to myself for 5-10 minutes. The view was beautiful but there seemed to be a lot less snow than I remembered there being on my last February visit to the peak nearly 20(!) years earlier.
I toyed with the idea of continuing up to the true summit (Tahurangi) but there seemed to be some glacial ice to traverse and I remember being told that crampons were advisable.
Eventually as more parties arrived the Dome peak became a little crowded. I enjoyed the view and the company for about an hour before heading back down to the gondola.
My elapsed time from gondola to gondola was 3h30m, with about 2h20m moving time. It was a wonderful day and I felt quite fit and not very tired from the effort. I resolved to purchase some microspikes for my Merrell hiking shoes and return for an ascent of the true summit in the coming weeks :)