The plan was to leave P.N. early on Saturday morning, drive to Tukino ski field, walk up to Whangaehu hut and hopefully find some ice in condition for climbing higher on Ruapehu or, at least, go for a walk on about the top of the mountain. The reality was leaving P.N. on Saturday afternoon. Drive to below the normally locked gate on the road up to Tukino ski field.
Walk up to the ski field in growing darkness, with rain starting. Turn back and walk back towards the car (Rangipo hut was the first fall-back plan) after getting a message from Cindy and Graham (who had left at 6 a.m. and parked at the ski field) about bad snow conditions on the mountain. Altercation and negotiation on account of the key for the gate across the Tukino road (Graham and Cindy's car was on the other side of it). Bad weather and lack of functioning headlamps then meant we gave up on the walk to Rangipo hut and instead drove to Turangi and stayed at a backpackers.
The weather on Sunday morning was near perfect so we headind back to the mountain with our freshly negotiated key, unlocked the gate so Graham and Cindy could get down, and went for a walk up the mountain. Lucky we hadn't pushed on to the hut the night before. The snow was fresh and deep all the way up the mountain with no places where things were hard enough to get some crampons on and make some decent progress. It was a nice enough walk in the sun however, even if it was a little frustrating not to be able to do any climbing in the end. There are a couple of photos here.