Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Mount Ngauruhoe as seen from the edge of the red crater

Tongariro National Park is the home of Mount Ngauruhoe (more popularly known as Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings) along with several brilliantly coloured lakes and deep red craters that are constantly emitting hissing sulfurous fumes.  There are several walks of varying lengths to be done in the park but none more worthwhile than the Tongariro crossing.  This 19.4 km hike would usually wind up through the pass between Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro but after an eruption last November we were told the second half of the crossing has yet to be cleared and is still not open to visitors.  The first half of the crossing however is more than worth the 6-8 hour hike and brings you to all the major sights including the Emerald lakes, the red crater, the blue lake and the option of climbing – for three extra strenuous hours – to the peak of Mount Ngauruhoe and/or 1.5 hours to the peak of Mount Tongariro.

This walk is in the top two highlights of our entire trip to New Zealand and the views are worth the painful uphill trek.  We were fortunate to have fantastic weather which was mostly clear with dramatic clouds looming in the distance and only occasionally covering the peaks.  Although I was happy just to see the lakes and craters, Nat decided to climb the appropriately named Mount Doom on our way back from the sulfur pools.  As I meandered back along the path he battled loose, sandy scree and 50 degree inclines eventually to decide that the incoming clouds were probably going to obscure the view by the time he reached the top and that we hadn’t brought enough food or water to be attempting such a climb.

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There were many unusual rock formations along the moonscape of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

The red crater and steam ventsThe red crater has a stunning pallet of colours including deep wine red, rust, brown, black and maroon soils.  The volcanoes along the crossing are active and this crater is constantly steaming.

Orange river coming down from the volcanoesSeveral rivers flowed along the valley between Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe.  They all had a strong orange colour created by minerals carried downstream from the volcanoes and deposited on the river bed.

Hikers and Mount DoomA tired pair of hikers preparing for the long descent through the Mangatepopo Valley.

Reflection in the sulfur poolMountains reflected in the largest of the Emerald Lakes

Emerald lakesThe Emerald lakes get their distinct colours from sulfur and other mineral deposits.

Looking up at Mount DoomThis is the view of Mount Ngauruhoe from the pass.  It was early morning and we were lucky to have no clouds for the first half of the hike.