Tongariro Alpine Crossing

We awoke at some ungodly hour (5am) in Whakahoro so that we could drive to National Park to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the best one-day walks in the world according to Lonely Planet. It would be hard to disagree with that statement.

We arrived in National Park Village at around 7.45am, and I hired myself some walking poles as I’d found them invaluable on the Inca Trail last November. After a warming cup of hot chocolate we set off for the start of the crossing at Mangatepopo car park. It was a beautifully clear day and we had 19.4km of hiking ahead of us.

The first hour or so of the hike was relatively flat, but we started to climb in the second hour. The track is well marked out, but the terrain wasn’t always easy to walk on. This is a live volcanic area and there is a lot of loose rock around.

After the first ascent we arrived at the south crater and had a rather glorious view of Mt Ngauruhoe (now-roo-ho-ey), probably better known these days as Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings films.

The volcano has such a wonderful, conical shape. It’s really something to behold.

We then walked through the south crater:


There was the option, if you were particularly fit and a speedy walker, to climb Mt Ngauruhoe, but that was never an option for me in the timeframe that we had.

There was then another ascent to the Red Crater:


Then there was a final ascent to view the Emerald Lakes before what I can only describe as a terrifying descent down a narrow path with lots of very loose volcanic sand and rocks.


This next picture doesn’t really capture the magnitude or scariness of the descent. It makes it look like a gentle walk downhill, but I assure you it wasn’t!


We stopped at the Emerald Lakes for lunch. We’d been walking for about 3hrs and 45 minutes at this point.

After lunch we headed on to the Blue Lake


And after this, we continued the long descent to the finish point at Ketetahi car park. There were some glorious view of Lake Taupo in the distance (behind the hills) on the way down:

As well as a reminder that this is an active volcanic zone with steam coming out of the mountain:


In the end it took me 7 hours and 15 minutes including breaks. We were given 8 hours to complete it (that’s when the bus would pick us up from the finishing point). Big thanks to my walking buddy Tamsin for keeping me going despite numerous breaks.

After coming here with G Adventures in November 2014 and not being able to attempt the crossing due to the poor weather, I’m so glad I was able to complete it this time round. I highly recommend doing this if you are ever in New Zealand, but don’t take it lightly. This was a tough walk and if you don’t have some level of fitness, it will be a massive challenge.


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