Once we got back to Whakapapa Village, Ogre suggested that, instead of continuing the day with repacking and another two hour hike to the Alpine Club hut on Ruapehu (the second mountain we were to climb), we might stay in a backpackers (hostel) for the evening. The group readily took up his suggestion. I was less than keen, since I felt very strong and had tons of energy. In the end, I slept in a tent on the grass next to the backpackers as a compromise.
Day 5: We woke up late and spent a while discussing whether it was worth it to make a summit attempt on Ruapehu, since it didn't look like the weather was going to cooperate. Clouds were forming around the summit, threatening not only to kill the views, but also to make the climbing pretty miserable. In the end, five of the seven of us decided to head up to the Alpine Club hut, halfway up the mountain, and wait to see if the weather would break.
The hut was really sweet. It had running water, electricity, a full kitchen, and even heaters that worked on a timer!
We had lunch and hung around, waiting for the weather to clear up or get worse. As we were waiting, my stomach started bothering me. When Ogre gave the signal that we were going to leave, I decided at the very last minute that it would be unwise to head out onto a mountain knowing beforehand that my body might not be up to the challenge.
Huge bummer--in the end, the group ended up getting above the clouds and made it to the top (although not the true summit, which was another two hours round trip from their top-out point). Apparently the views were stunning. I was super bummed when they got back to the hut, cheeks rosy, smiles huge.
Day 6: On the last day, we packed out and picked up the rest of our group at the backpackers. I still wasn't feeling great, but I felt better as the day went along. We stopped at a "kiwi house," where birds are reared in captivity and/or rescued, injured, from the wild. We also stopped at Burger Fuel, which might have the best restaurant veggie burger I've ever had, period. We got home around 8:00 p.m. and enjoyed a spa bath in our backyard to celebrate the great adventure.
In conclusion, it was a good trip. The first half was definitely better than the second. I felt really strong; even though the hike was challenging, there were never any moments when I wondered if I was going to make it. In some ways, it was easier and more enjoyable than some of the Adirondacks weekends I've had! The second half was definitely a bummer... but I'll be back for Ruapehu, for sure!