On calm days volcanic gases can build up and cause breathing difficulties for some people
Mount Ruapehu is the highest of the three andesitic volcanoes at the heart of the National Park, standing at 2797 metres. The mountains Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu form the southern limits of the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Volcanic activity in the zone started about 2 million years ago and is on-going today.
Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe are two of the most active composite volcanoes in the world. In 1995 and again in 1996 Ruapehu erupted in spectacular fashion sending clouds of ash and steam skyward and mantling the surrounding snow fields and forest with a thick film of ash. Smaller eruptions are a more common event, and can happen without warning on Mount Ruapehu.
Climbing Mount Ruapehu
Many people have enjoyed the climb to the crater, in both winter and summer seasons, with its panoramic views and volcanic landscape. However, some have met with tragedy because they were either not experienced or were ill equipped to handle the conditions they encountered.
During winter and times of snow, surface conditions vary from day to day. Depending on the time of year some of the following hazards may be encountered on Mount Ruapehu - icy slopes, avalanches, waterfall holes, crevasses, schrunds, ice cliffs.
Mountaineering experience and equipment (such as ice axes and crampons) is required for the crater climb in winter. Icy or 'white out' conditions can make the climb a serious undertaking.
During summer months, chairlifts at Whakapapa Ski Area operate for sightseeing and access to climb to the crater area. If chairlifts are not operating it is a clear indication that the conditions are not suitable for climbing Mount Ruapehu.
See the Track description and Plan and prepare tabs on this page for further details. Check at the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre for current route conditions, volcanic activity and weather before setting out.
Cathedral rocks and summit plateau