Trapped in lodges - hundreds 'trying to survive' at Mt Ruapehu

Dealing with the conditions on Mt Ruapehu.
MARTIJN VERHOEVEN/SUPPLIED

Dealing with the conditions on Mt Ruapehu.

Over 400 people are trapped in lodges around Mt Ruapehu due to bad weather.

"We are just trying to survive" says Skotel Alpine Resort general manager Rebecca Dalgarno at Whakapapa Village.

There are 120 people trapped at that resort. Nearby Chateau Tongariro has 250 guests on Friday, with no one able to leave until State Highway 47 reopened, hotel manager Brad McGlynn said.

At least food is no longer a problem after two large trucks reached Whakapapa Village during the morning under police escort. They brought in supplies for the Chateau, Skotel Alpine Resort and other operations on Mt Ruapehu.

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"The big trucks with big chains on them, they can cut through most things," McGlynn said.

Mt Ruapehu - winter wonderland.
MARTIJN VERHOEVEN/SUPPLIED

Mt Ruapehu - winter wonderland.

"We carry about two to three days of supplies here. Another day and it would be getting interesting."

The trucks had a lot of support around them, including a snow plough.

At the Skotel Alpine Resort, Dalgarno said they were "trying to get through the day. Taking it hour by hour".

Snowed in on Mt Ruapehu.
MARTIJN VERHOEVEN

Snowed in on Mt Ruapehu.

"It's horrendous weather. Absolutely nuts up here." She said they had landlines and power but a surge overnight had "fried" their Eftpos and internet.

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She said guests had been pretty good, and they understood there was nothing that could be done about it, but some were worried about international flights they are meant to be catching today and tomorrow.

The mountain itself was closed. "It's stopped snowing but it's blowing a gale. There's lots of blue sky," McGlynn said. "Some people have gone out for some fresh air and a bit of a walk around."

At the Takapuna Ski Club above the Whakapapa ski area, the eight occupants are hoping the storm will be over in time for some good skiing, at least by Saturday.

"There are patches of blue sky but the winds are pretty much gale force, whipping up the snow," club member Sharon Carthew said around midday Friday.

"We're looking at blue sky coming over the top of the mountain, and thinking 'maybe that's our afternoon'."

Sun shining now.
MARTIJN VERHOEVEN

Sun shining now.

She was at the lodge with her husband and two children, and there was another family of four there. A further 21 people were booked in for the weekend, filling the place up.

"We're all just hunkered down, basically looking out the windows. It's beautiful to watch, very noisy."

Her family arrived at Wednesday lunchtime just as the storm was starting, Carthew said. Electricity went off at times on Thursday but seemed OK on Friday.

"We came up to get extra food to the club. My kids and husband climbed up through waist deep snow up to the clubhouse with backpacks full of food." They made two trips on Wednesday and one on Thursday.

In any case, the lodge had plenty of food. "We've got freezers full of meat, tinned food, UHT milk."

One group who are refusing to let the conditions get them down is the Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering Club lodge up Mt Ruapehu.

Martijn Verhoeven said they were really enjoying themselves.

"Pantry with food for a month, we're playing games and really having a lot of fun. We've just had a cooked breakfast and are going out for a walk later this morning.

"We've run out of cheesecake though."

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts marketing manager Matt McIvor said there were also people staying in other ski club lodges on the mountain but he was unsure how many. However he said they are well equipped for staying on the mountain.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts staff have been busy working on the mountain - they are equipped with skidoos and were busy pushing snow into the right places so they can groom trails for when the skifield reopens.

Whakapapa has had 40cm of snow in the past 24 hours. Turoa Skifield has had 50cm of snow in the past 24 hours. 

It is hoped the ski area will be back in operation on Saturday.

 - Stuff

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