Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The first big walk I did in New Zealand, years before I properly got into tramping (hiking), the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is deservedly regarded as one of the greatest one day walks in the world.dsc_0089

As the name of the track suggests it’s an alpine crossing, and should only be attempted in winter or bad weather by those well equipped and experienced. There is no water or food available on the track and the weather can (and often does) change quickly. There is little shelter and your are walking through an active volcanic area.

It’s quite amazing how poorly prepared most people are for what is a reasonable tough 19.4km walk. I’ve seen people on the track in t-shirt and shorts, wearing jandels (flip flops), without any water or food. Every year people get caught out, make sure you’re not one of them.

Most people walk from the Mangatepopo road end to the Ketetahi road end as there is less ascent required, and this is the order shuttle buses from local accommodation will drop you off in the morning and pick you up from in the afternoon.dsc_0024-tongariro-alpine-crossing

From the Mangatepopo road end you’ll soon come across the Mangatepopo Hut, part of the Northern Circuit Great Walk.dsc_0034

Nearby are the Soda Springs, worth a quick side trip.dsc_0046

You head through Mordor, or at least where parts of it was filmed, before tackling the aptly named Devil’s Staircase.dsc_0035 dsc_0049

The South Crater is one of my favourite parts of the walk, particularly on this trip when the atmospheric if vision reducing mist cleared as I crossed the crater.dsc_0064Which was perfectly time to see the three most famous parts of the walk – Mount Ngauruhoe, the Red Crater, and the Emerald Lakes.

Despite walking past it three times now (doing the crossing, and the Northern Circuit twice) I’ve yet to scramble up Mount Ngauruhoe (near impossible to pronounce unless you have heard it spoken). From speaking to others and seeing photos the views are more of the same and it’s a hard ascent and descent, but for many it’s a highlight of the walk.dsc_0080

The Red Crater lives up to it’s name.dsc_0082

The descent pass the Emerald Lakes is one of the most scenic parts of the track, if also the trickiest as you come down loose scree. Expect to fill your shoes with stones and fall over at least once.dsc_0084 dsc_0116 dsc_0125 dsc_0128 dsc_0130 dsc_0149 dsc_0156

In the distance is Blue Lake, a sacred place.dsc_0092

You then head across more diverse landscape, and pass by some interestingly coloured streams (not suitable for drinking from!) before heading down through some typical New Zealand bush to the Ketetahi road end.dsc_0163 dsc_0206 dsc_0228 dsc_0247 dsc_0257 dsc_0276 dsc_0288

The track is very popular so expect to share the track with up to thousands of people during peak periods (over holidays and weekends). For those looking to escape the crowds and spend more time in this amazing place there is the fabulous Northern Circuit Great Walk, a 43km 3-4 day loop circuit from Whakapapa.IMG_7067For those with more experience and time it is hard to beat the Round the Mountain track, a hard 66km, 4-6 days loop circuit from Whakapapa.DSC07943

Author: jontycrane

8 thoughts on “Tongariro Alpine Crossing

  1. Loved this one; we had great weather and it ended up being one of my very favorite hikes in NZ 🙂

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