Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tongariro Crossing

I'd spent a couple extra days in Wellington waiting for the weather to clear to do the Tongariro Northern Circuit - a 4 day tramp around Tonogariro National Park. Eventually I headed to Taupo to be that much closer to good weather, but the park rangers and hostel staff kept trying to scare me off with "who knows what the weather will do" and "it's getting into winter." No one seemed to have actual boots on the ground knowledge though (apparently all the volunteer hut wardens are slacking off). So given that I had been unable to convince anyone else to attempt the full circuit with me, I resigned myself to just doing the single day Tongariro Crossing.

Billed as the greatest one day walk in New Zealand, the Tongariro Crossing has a lot going for it -high alpine splendor, brilliant colors, snowy peaks, and a convenient (6:15am) bus from my hostel in Taupo. Also, smack in the middle, Mt. Ngauruhoe, better known as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings.

Oh yeah, it's also an active volcano
Fortunately, life thrives on the sunny northern slope. Gold and silver lichen dot the red and black volcanic rocks
But there is some foul smelling smoke coming out of this vent on the eastern false summit (left hand side of the photo)
After a quick run up the snow and scree - the snow was still frozen hard and quite a pleasure to walk on - I'd made the summit and met a Czech guy who was kind enough to take my photo.
Then the best part of the day, a standing glissade almost the entire way down from 2300m to 1600m! Just like skiing, but without having to lug up the stupid skis.
We'd been discouraged from taking side trips due to the weather and the average inexperience level of the group. But as I rejoined the main trail, I discovered the stragglers were just now making it to the saddle by the warning sign which I'd left 2 hours earlier. Since the bus was going to wait for them anyways, it allowed me to dawdle through the rest of the hike, waiting half an hour for the mists to clear and get a good shot of Emerald Lake
And Blue Lake with a half melted/half frozen grass tussock to provide foreground.
There was a bunch of melting from the previous days' snowfall still in evidence as this poor drain pipe seems not quite up to his job
And this lovely waterfall a little further down the trail.
Definitely the highlight of the North Island so far! Not sure where to next - maybe Rotorua for more thermal action. Or the coast for spectacular scenery. Both are apparently better with a car and those are cheapest in Auckland...


b mathew said...

Great pics! So you went alone? And saw just this one lone czech guy out there? Interesting factoid from wikipedia..

"Until 2007 the crossing was called "Tongariro Crossing", but this was changed to "Tongariro Alpine Crossing" to better reflect the terrain. The Department of Conservation resorted to this to warn the many poorly equipped visitors of potential hazards. As of 2006, two people of an estimated 65,000 users had died on the track"

dlott said...

The Czech guy's girlfriend was about 3/4 of the way up when I got to the top. They were doing day hikes. I went with a big bus and was the only one on the bus to do the climb. I had been debating doing the full 3 day circuit, but that seemed like a bad idea to solo if it was icy.

foegler said...

I love the 'frozen grass in thhe foreground' and the standing glissade pics! My standing glissades always have a bunch of butt marks :( Looks like a great time!