Tongariro Northern Circuit and Around the Mountain – Blyth Hut to Whakapapa

The final couple of days of an epic six day hike around Tongariro National Park, an 87km loop covering the Great Walk Northern Circuit and the Around the Mountain Track. The hike from Blyth Hut to Whakapapaiti Hut was one of the longest I’ve ever done, starting at sunrise, and finishing a couple of hours after sunset.

It was a clear if cold start at Rangipo Hut, as I left at sunrise for a long day walking to Blyth Hut via Mangaehuehu Hut. I followed a pole marked route behind the hut heading up the side of Mt Ruapehu toward the Turoa skifield.

The views across the landscape below were a good way to start the day.

The poles ended at the South East Basin, but from here it was a straightforward walk up to the ski field infrastructure.

I walked around the sizeable man-made pool, before heading down toward the main ski field buildings.

From here it was a short descent along Ohakune Mountain Road with big views over the landscape I’d spend the rest of the day hiking.

The trickiest part of the hike was to come, descending the Cascades, a rocky, waterfall filled section which I found super scary in 2015. It was marginally easier now with experience and poles, but in the wet this section would be incredibly dangerous.

From here it was a short and easy walk to Mangaturuturu Hut.

This was the second time I’ve had lunch at this hut, it’s a lovely spot with views of Mt Ruapehu ahead.

From here the track is straightforward and scenic, particularly passing by Lake Surprise, which does make a surprising appearance as you turn a corner on the boardwalk.

There was amazing colour in the landscape, contrasting with the rocky volcanic summit of Mt Ruapehu above.

In early autumn there were plenty of colourful flowers in bloom.

It’s a pretty epic and varied landscape to walk through.

Though heavily eroded in many places, requiring some deft foot placement.

There was an impressive waterfall in the distance.

The light started to fade with clouds and the end of the day.

As dusk fell I spotted Whakapapaiti Hut in the distance, which from previous experience takes a lot longer to reach than hoped. Particularly in the darkness which soon enveloped me (though thankfully it was a near full moon). This next section, even in daylight, was one of the trickiest of the whole hike, with loose rocks, streams to cross, and endless up and down hill, all while searching out with my head torch for the next pole… I was a bit of a wreck by the time I reached the hut after 8pm…

The next and final day was thankfully far easier, other than an unbridged crossing of the Whakapapaiti River, which can be impossible in heavy flow but was manageable today.

From here there was plenty of boardwalk and easy bush walking, which made a welcome change from most of the terrain over the past six days.

I reached Whakapapa at about lunchtime, looking forward to non-dehydrated food and not carrying a heavy pack, but filled with memories from an incredible near week in the wilderness.

Author: jontycrane

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