Index The Leaving Do Living in Wellington Cricket Excursions Other 2 Weeks in A Leaky Van Australia Indoor Blogs Interviews Updates Guestbook

Saturday 15th April 2006

6.30am: An early start saw us have a cooked breakfast at 6:45am, ready for departure by coach to the start of the Tongariro Crossing at 7.30am.

Tongariro Crossing Map
After making one other stop at accomodation in National Park, we wended our way slowly to the start of the crossing at Mangatepopo Road. We were straight on the track at 8.10am, making a very quick pace to get ahead of as many of the other walkers as possible. The trouble with the Crossing is that its busy at the best of times, and on the Easter weekend, there was a constant stream of walkers across the whole Crossing, most of whom start at the same sort of time, dropped off by bus from either National Park, or the larger city of Taupo. The track was pretty easy going for the first hour or so, and at the pace we were walking we made excellent progress. We made it to the Soda Springs (which I had an unfortunate habit of calling the Soda Streams, presumably in honour of the machines that made the lowest quality coke in the history of human existence) in very quick time. Most people decided to stop for a while here to make use of the last opportunity for a toilet stop until the other side of the mountains. However, we pressed on to start the very steep ascent to the South Crater.
Quite a barren, foreboding landscape on the Tongariro Crossing A Doctor Who set?
Jen's been windswept Jen has a quick break

This section of the walk was very hard going, and despite being a relatively short part, took us about an hour and twenty minutes. We have to say that its not called the Devil's Staircase for nothing! The difficulty of the ascent was not aided by the unevenness of the path and the frequent straggling trampers stopping for a breather at inopportune moments. However, it didn't take a vast amount of time to reach the first plateau at the South Crater, where a very flat poled path led straight across the steaming, dusty plain of the crater. At this point, the adventurous can opt to take the very steep, scree climb of Mount Ngauruhoe. We didn't take this option, but pressed on across the South Crater. The far side of the crater saw another steep climb towards the Red Crater, and the usual high point of the walk. At the Red Crater, another optional path takes off towards the summit of Mount Tongariro (1967m). This, being significantly easier tramping than the Mount Ngauruhoe (2287m) was chosen by us as a side track that we could cope with, and we started the ascent to the summit of Tongariro. Up until this point, the weather had been fantastic with clear blue skies following us all the way to the Red Crater. However, as we started our ascent, the clouds seemed to appear from nowhere and smother the top of the mountain. The walk to the top was quite deceptive as new high points kept appearing out of the cloud, only to be superceded by an even higher point once we'd reach it! However, by 11:10am we'd reached the summit, which we supposed to be the high point. However, as the cloud cleared, we could see that the poled path led on to a slightly higher point on the same peak. A quick study of the map showed this point to be 6 metres higher, though the lower peak was the supposed summit of Tongariro. Still, we chose to climb the extra 6 metres before the mists returned to shroud the peak once again. We didn't stick around too long before we started the descent back to the main track at the Red Crater.

Jen and I at the top of Mount Tongariro Foggy Dewhurst
I can see for miles & miles The view from Mount Tongariro

Keen to press on, we started the rapid descent from the Red Crater down a very steep, ashen path towards the Emerald Lakes.

The Emerald Lakes from a distance Lakes - quite a distance away
Lakes upclose Emerald Lakes up close. Busy, innit!
At this point, everyone who's anyone decided to stop for lunch. So we continued onwards to stop for lunch at the less common lunch stop of the Central Crater. This seemed to slightly confuse anyone who walked past us while we sat on an uncomfortable rock eating the oranges we'd brought along. However, the stop was fairly short and it wasn't long before we pressed on towards the climb towards the Blue Lake. By this time, the sun was out again and as the rays shone down, the lake looked very inviting and refreshing. Past this point, the descent took us off of the bleak, ashen desert plains onto golden tussock covered slopes towards the Ketetahi Hut, which marked us having passed the halfway point. The difference between this side of the mountain and that which we had started on was stark. The Western slopes were barren, volcanic and extremely bleak whilst the Eastern slopes were green and grass covered with forest hugging the lower slopes in the distance.
Ketetahi Hut. Also busy! Hit the Hut!
Dihydrogen Sulphide Some steam flumes. This area is highly volcanic, if we needed a reminder!
A nice view, not just because I'm in the picture, but for the stunning backdrop Ooh, hello!

1.30pm: Having had a quick stop at the Hut, we left the crowds behind to complete the final descent to the Ketatahi Road. The way wasn't as easy going as you might expect with some very sharp steps jarring the knees. The atmosphere started to get more humid as we reached the forest covered lower slopes. The walking was not helped by the narrowness of the track combined with the volume of walkers meaning that our natural pace was often held up by slow walkers blocking the path ahead. It was at one such point that trying to overtake some slow walkers saw Jenny trip and turn her ankle. This made the last kilometre quite painful for her. Fortunately, it wasn't too far to the end. We reached Ketatahi Road at just past 3pm, where we met up with one of the first buses back to the Lodge. Just after we arrived at the car park, a pair of Koreans who were staying at the same Lodge and who'd attempted Ngauruhoe in flat soled trainers arrived. They'd managed it pretty quickly due to the fact that they were both quite accomplished skiers, used to walking such steep slopes, but even they admitted that the shoes they'd chosen to walk in were not ideal! We were back at the Lodge by about 4.30pm where we jumped into the warm spa baths for a while before we were made a fantastic meal of chargrilled chicken. After dinner, we sat down in front of the fire with the Koreans and a group of people down from Auckland who were into their adventure sports. We chatted about ironman competitions and sporting injuries until about 10pm, when we went to bed. Early to bed for our drive onto New Plymouth on the Sunday.

To read about the next day, Click Here!