10 Hours of astonishing sights, temperatures, and burning muscles…
The Tongariro Crossing is known as “New Zealand’s Finest One Day Tramp” (tramping = hiking here). As the summer winds down and weather becomes more unpredictable, they allow fewer and fewer trampers up the crossing, as conditions can go from sleet and hail one moment to sun, rain or snow the next… and the wind is always pretty intense, so some of my friends and I really lucked out in making just about the last beautiful weekend up to the National Park!
Though the track started up above the clouds, it was a flat start up to the volcanos. Our first real challenge was getting up Devil’s Stair Case. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but there are tons and tons of people tramping up the left side of the terrain in the foreground.
Once we made it to the top we took a nice break to recover our legs and keep them from collapsing from the constant uphill tramping… we hadn’t a clue of what was to come…
Mount Ngauruhoe, better known to many as Lord of the Ring’s Mount Doom, was a 1500k straight up climb along loose lava rock. But we did it! We climbed for a solid hour and a half straight up to the top, taking a lunch break at that greater jumble of big rocks just past half way.
The climb up was pretty tough, but it wasn’t hte steepness that was the most challenging, it was having to keep from sliding down with the rocks beneath your feet!
One thing that kept the climb exciting was the spontaneous shout of warning: “Rock!!” from above as a large rock might have escaped its stationary place on the ground, and tumbled down the mountain at high speeds. Yikes!
But all of the climbing made for some pretty fantastic views at every point we stopped at… This picture was where we ate lunch, about half way up Mount Ngauruhoe.
This was what our way up looked like…
…And this our way down. The way down was basically a balancing act going through roller blading type motions… constantly picking up each foot so as not to stop too quickly, and just basically sliding down, hoping that if you fall, you fall backwards rather than forwards! It took us maybe 30 minutes to make the trip down Mount Doom. Though Frodo’s trip might have been more exciting, I think that ours at least provided some pretty sweet as thrills!
From the top of Mount Ngauruhoe! (Shaun looks like he’s about to jump in…)
From the top, we could see people walking around the outside of the ridge on the other side. Because of the high winds and our lack of time, we decided to just watch in awe the size of the people scampering across the volcanic ridge across from us.
…and check out the preview of more tramping that lies ahead of us… we walked along the bluer lake in the back ground eventually.
…And the descent begins.
Although much of the Tramp lacked any kind of foliage- or even anything other than volcanic rock, there were some absolutely brilliant colors and rock formations along the way.
The Emerald lakes along the Crossing are another of nature’s wonders, sacred to the Maori. Despite their state of being Tapu (Sacred), one wouldn’t want to go swimming in them because of the level of acidity in the water (which makes them green…)
This was looking back at one point toward the end of the 10 hour tramp… (well, with maybe 3 hours to go…) You can see Mount Ngauruhoe in the background, and another up/down saddle that we made our way over.
We continued through some grassy trails and down to a hut, leaving us about two hours to finish and get back to our shuttle.
…More adventures soon to come :o)