It’s only taken me more than over a year to getting writing about this awesome adventure but here it is!
The Tongariro crossing has been a walk that I’ve been hanging out to do for some time. Thankfully I got the opportunity to complete it last year and have been wanting to share my experience with you all ever since.
If you’re not familiar with the Tongariro crossing let me fill you in!
It’s a popular day hike in the North Island, New Zealand, which attracts thousands of visitors every year. It is approximately 19.4 km and can be completed within one day. The walk is on an active volcano, its that active that the last time it erupted was back in 2012. Crazy right?!
A friend and I decided that we wanted to complete the crossing, we set out to do it in late March. It was Autumn and the weather was still nice and mild. We knew that the mountain would be busy with lots of other walkers during that time of year, so we decided that we needed to get an early start.
I can’t say for sure how early our start was, all I know is that it was dark when we got started! We arrived at the Mangatepopa carpark ( 1130 m ), which is the foot of the track. Conditions at the bottom of the mountain were fairly mild, but we both had our wind breakers on. As they say conditions can change rapidly when you’re on the mountain.
We were glad to have made an early start, there was only one other drop off being made. We got moving and wanted to get a head start, it was only a matter of time before the bus loads of walkers would arrive.
As we started to walk, we could still see the moon shinning bright and the morning light was starting to make its way up. It was so lovely and peaceful, for a while there we felt like we had the mountain to ourselves.
We reached soda springs and took a moment to recover before heading up the long devils staircase. Mt Ngauruohoe loomed ahead but was hidden by the cloud. Devils stair case felt like forever and slowed us down and eventually other walkers caught up to us. Once we got to the top of devils stair case, there was an eerie feeling, all you could see was low cloud rushing by. People that had been in sight were no longer visible and had disappeared into the cloud.
We had made it past the South crater and were on our way up to the Red crater. The temperature changed dramatically and we were feeling very exposed to the elements. Once we made it to the top of the red crater summit (which is the summit of the track, 1886 m) we could see a beautiful view of the Emerald lakes. It was also a lot calmer once we had slightly moved to the other side of the mountain.
I was told the trick to getting down the from the top was to move fast, as there is a lot of loose rock and falling is pretty much guaranteed if you don’t move quickly. Well I took the slow and be careful approach and my friend took the move fast approach, guess who bailed a few times? Not my friend! Needless to say I had a few bruises and I saw quite a few others falling on their way down.
A well earned rest was needed, we had hiked to the peak of the track and now it was time to enjoy the beautiful lakes and their surroundings. You could almost forget that you were on top of a volcano, although the vents puffing out steam were a reminder that you were.
From the Emerald lakes we hiked through the central crater to Blue lake. We admired Blue lake for a bit but were quite keen to start our descent down to Ketetahi hut.
The views on the way down were gorgeous, you could see the track zigzagging down, although I couldn’t see the end! There were little vents of steam scattered all around. We could also see lake Taupo and the ranges surrounding it in the distance. During the hike down we started to feel the temperature rise, it was such a difference to what we felt at the top of the mountain.
A bit after we got to the Ketetahi hut, the track went into dense bush. This part was the last leg of the hike, we had been in this part for around 40 minutes and it wasn’t until the last 500 meters of the walk that we came across another hiker. It was lovely and peaceful with native birds singing in the background. I couldn’t help but reflect on where we had just climbed down from.
After 7.5 hours of hiking we made to Ketetahi carpark (760 m), which was the end of the track! Whoohooo!!! I’m not going to tell you it was easy, it was bloody hard yakka at some stages, but totally worth it!
I can see why the Tongariro crossing is classed as one of the great walks of New Zealand, it really is a GREAT walk! I highly recommend it if you feel up for the challenge!
I’m hanging out to complete a good walk this year, I would love to hear any suggestions! Feel free to drop me a line and share them with me.
Bye for now,