Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tongariro Crossing, Winter Style

The Tongariro Crossing is one of the premier single day walks on the North Island. It's about 19k, and it's a point to point event, going between active volcanoes, across craters, and past strangely colored sulfur lakes before dropping back onto the central plateau. In the summer, it can attract about 800 people per day.

Back in August, Shannon and I decided that we wanted to do it in the winter, which is widely done, but it's high enough that it's buried in snow and ice. It's a bit out of our depth, so we opted to go with a guide company. Bonus - they loan you crampons and ice axes.

We booked the day before, for some reason hell bent on going on a Saturday, and knowing there was a risk of weather, but we went for it anyway. It wound up being rainy at lower elevations and sleeting at the peak with winds in the 45kph range. It was a pretty epic way to slog across the crossing on the ice. On a sunny day, you can see for miles. We got this.

We never saw the volcanoes (including Ngaurahoe, which features as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies), never saw the lakes, only knew we were in craters when it was flat. And yet, it was still a hell of a good time. Totally different than we expected, but sweet.

And about 5k from the end, we descend out of the clouds and gets some views to the north. You can kind of tell that some people were pretty shattered by the whole thing...

Naturally, Sunday was the day that postcards are made of. You may recall a previous stop in the central plateau where we didn't see the mountains either. Sunday was the opposite.

Ruapehu is the wide one, Mt. Doom is the classic cone. Tongariro isn't pictured because it's surprisingly hard to photograph from the Desert Road.

Obviously, and with foreshadowing, this means we have to return...

No comments: