On Easter Sunday, one of the busiest days on Mount Tongariro, we joined approximately 1,500 others and walked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It is the third time I have done it and while it is ‘no walk in the park’ the 19.4 km walk is manageable with a moderate level of fitness.
Starting in the Mangatepopo car park the walk up the valley is gentle before a steep ascent called ‘The Devil’s Staircase.’ It is hard going but there is a great view down the valley and up to Mount Ngauruhoe before passing the South Crater.
The terrain levels out before another short ascent along an exposed ridge but the ropes make the climb safe.
Then the Red Crater comes into view followed by the spectacular Emerald Lakes with the intense opaque colours, caused by minerals leaching from the rocks.
The descent from the Red Crater down to the Emerald Lakes requires care as it is steep with loose scoria but the view remains captivating with the remains of a huge lava flow to the right. Steam vents surrounding the lakes puff out a strong sulphurous smell.
The track zig-zags down the side of the mountain though brilliant alpine flora, passing the site of the 2012 eruption which is still active and smoldering. DOC (Department of Conservation) have installed a warning system to get people off the mountains should the volcanic activity increase.
The alpine crossing is rated one of the top 10 one-day hike in the world, it’s just got to be done!
For more information –Tongariro Crossing
It is best to walk the crossing in the summer months, November – May. Transport is available to and from the track.