During the winter season, snow and ice on all or parts of the track makes the Round the Mountain Track more challenging - alpine equipment and route finding skills are often required.
Tramping the Round the Mountain Track in winter should only be attempted by experienced, well equipped people.
Winter conditions and hazards
- Snow and ice often covers all or parts of the track. Snow conditions vary from deep drifts to hard ice. The amount of coverage varies during the season.
- Deep snow can hide the track markers and route finding can be difficult. Deep snow can also make travel much slower - allow extra time.
- Avalanche risk applies to parts of the track during and after heavy snowfalls.
- Cold, wet, snowy and windy weather, and sub zero temperatures, are common. During the day temperatures may only rise a few degrees. Wind chill makes the temperature feel a lot colder.
- River/stream crossings may be unsafe or not possible during or following rainfall, or in spring during snowmelt. This particularly applies to the two wider crossings on the western side of Ruapehu - the Mangaturuturu and Whakapapaiti rivers.
- During winter the daylight hours are shorter - prepare your trip to avoid walking in darkness.
Remember, there are day walk or shorter options, if weather or track conditions are not suitable for the whole trip. Check with the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre for options.
You should be prepared for avalanche risk, and know when it's not safe to go.
Parts of the Round the Mountain Track pass through simple terrain, however the section of track through the Wahianoa Gorge contains challenging terrain.
A large proportion of the Tongariro National Park below 1700 m is classed as simple avalanche terrain; elevations above this altitude are mainly challenging or complex avalanche terrain. The highest altitude on the Round the Mountain Track is just below 1600 m at Rangipo Hut.
During periods when there is snow present you should not venture onto the track without avalanche expertise and equipment, or you should be accompanied by an experienced guide.
Further avalanche information:
- Be avalanche alert - backcountry avalanche advisory and ATES terrain classes
- Avalanche terrain ratings for Tongariro National Park
Your safety is your responsibility - be prepared
If you are considering tramping during the winter, you must be confident that you have the necessary skills, fitness and equipment to hike in snow/ice and be safe on your trip.
- Check conditions before you go with the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre.
- Always leave trip intentions with a trusted contact or use the AdventureSmart outdoor intention form, and fill in hut visitor books as you walk.
- Carry a personal locator beacon in case of emergency.
- Ensure all in your party are suitably fit and experienced in winter tramping, including navigation skills, alpine conditions, safety judgement.
- Be properly equipped: carry the right supplies and gear for alpine and winter conditions.
Huts in winter
- All huts and campsites operate on a first come, first served basis - there are no bookings. This includes Waihohonu Hut, which requires bookings in summer (late October - end April). You need hut tickets or a hut pass to stay - buy them before you leave.
- Hut rangers are not present, although DOC rangers do periodically check facilities and hut tickets.
- Cooking stoves are not provided at any of the huts - you need to bring your own.
- All huts have a firewood supply and a wood burner for heating.
- All huts have rainwater tanks. Sometimes water pipes freeze - you may need to get water directly from the tank. We recommend that you treat all stream water in case of giardia or other bugs.