Taking on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

It was a crisp Sunday morning at Tongariro National Park.  I was up early to catch my transfer bus to the carpark at the start of the one day tramp across the Tongariro Pass.

Before I hopped on the bus I started a conversation with a fellow countryman from Cork.  Sean was now living in New Plymouth and had been looking forward to doing this crossing for a while.

We talked on the bus on the 20 minute drive to the foot of the mountain range.  And agreed that we would cross together.  I advised him that I was a bit blind, but it didn’t seem to bother him.

For the first hour or so it was a gentle stroll, then suddenly the climb got steep.  It was now starting to get brighter and it was getting a bit tougher to climb the many steps to the top of our first peak.

We made it and celebrated with a look at the amazing vistas and a few Ginger Nut biscuits.  We set off again and descended into a large volcanic crater and crossed it.  It was then another climb up some slippery scree to reach the next great view.  It’s there that I bumped into a girl called Louise who was from Derry.  We had a brief chat and continued further up the scrag reaching a path with a large drop on the right side of us which you can see in the picture below.
Volcano crater to the right of me with a large drop and red walls on the other sideThe view from here was spectacular, but a bit scary for me as I suffer from a bit of vertigo.  This was one of the times when not being able to see as much as others was a bonus, in my case anyway.

It was colder up here for sure, but still warm enough to enjoy it.  We reached the next plateau and had a short rest.  The view from here included the Emerald lakes below a long path of very loose scree.

I didn’t so much walk – but slide down the hill trying to avoid falling over the edge into the Emerald lakes to the right of the path.  I made it down and one piece and crossed another volcanic crater.

A view of the emerald lakes from aboveAnother climb up and hill and we were treated to the amazing view of the Blue lake.  This would serve as our lunch stop for 30 minutes on the trek.  We had tried to time it so that we would cross faster than the recommended 7 to 8 hours, and we were on track to do this.

The amazing scene around the blue lakeLunch was a simple affair of Ginger Nut biscuits, chocolate, a Square Meal bar and some water.  Then it was time to head on up the path and follow the markers to the next section of the walk.  After about an hour or so we reached a gap in the mountain range which give us a pretty great view of the landscape below.

This section of the walk was a bit risky, there was a large drop to our right and lose rocks we had to dodge as we creeped along the path.  We stopped a few times to allow people to pass who seemed to be in a rush to get down.  We had noticed a warning sign just before entering the area advising us that this was an active volcanic area.  There were some lights on the sign that stated that you must turn around and go back if they were flashing.  Luckily they were not.

Volcanic activity can be seen here on the side of the mountain

It was a long windy path after getting off the rocky one.  After another 2 hours we reached the rest hut where we had water and a few more biscuits.

It was a bit deceiving towards the end of the walk.  We got to a forest and though that it would be only a brief walk to the carpark where we would meet our bus to get back to the YHA hostel.  It turned out to be another 90 minutes of walking.  In the end we completed the tramp is just over six hours.

Later that evening we celebrated completing the walk with a few pints at the pub next door to the hostel.  An excellent experience that was well worth the effort.

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