Ngauruhoe, 2287m, New Zealand

November 8, 2007/ just a hike

After a bit of tourism in Napier, we drive to Tongariro National Park where we hope to do a couple of conditioning hikes and climb Ruapehu, the highest mountain in the North Island. We first drive to the Mangatepopo trailhead to hike up Ngauruhoe. This trailhead is also the starting point of the much advertised Tongariro Crossing, one of the most popular hikes in the North Island.

The next day we wake up at 5AM. It's not the blue sky we were hoping for, so (foolishly) we get back to sleep. It's late when we wake up again and the volcanoes are in the clouds. We get a small pack together and we hike to the hut and a minor crag nearby. Looks pretty crappy (could be nice but the cracks are really dirty and bushy). We come back to the truck and of course, the weather turns beautiful. Both Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu are cloudless. We hesitate whether we should go - it's only 1:30PM - but we decide against it, expecting good weather the next day (based on the forecast broadcasted by the national Radio). Big mistake…

The next morning, the weather is again very cloudy when we get up, but we're tired of waiting and decide at the very least to go hike up Ngauruhoe. The weather does not improve much as we start hiking up the trail (a real highway). Fog and clouds keep the views to a minimum. A few holes of clear sky when we reach the saddle, at the base of Ngauruhoe, convince us to give it a shot.

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The classic volcanic shape of Ngauruhoe from the Mangatepopo carpark.
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Boardwalks keep the delicate vegetation from being damaged, but contributes to the highway feel of the trail.
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Hiking up the steep trail to the Ngauruhoe saddle.
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From the saddle, a poled route ascends scoria slopes and gentle snow slopes to the crater.
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Ngauruhoe is still an active volcanoe.

It's a straight up slog on scree and volcanic cinder, finishing on a rocky rib, to the crater rim. Total whiteout at the top. After a few minutes, a brief clearing shows us that there is a slightly higher ridge of snow a short distance away, so we quickly hike there. Whiteout again. Never saw the crater. We ski down scree slopes on the way down.

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Glimbing up the steep scoria slopes.
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Looking back down the valley.
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Summit shot in total whiteout.
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Going down the snow slopes below the crater...
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...and skiing down the scree slopes (click for movie).

We then continue toward Emerald Lakes, past Red Crater, the high point of the crossing (1,886m), and down almost to Blue Lake, before turning around.

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Hiking the Tongariro Crossing toward the Emerald Lakes.
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Delicate vegetation.
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Posing near the Red Crater.
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The Emerald Lakes.
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This is as far as we'll go on the Tongariro Crossing today.

It's very windy and humid. We hike back out in pouring rain.

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Hiking back up toward the Mangatepopo Trailhead.
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Better view of the Red Crater on our way out.
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Tussock makes for a comfortable seat!
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On the mostly flat trail to the car after we got drenched to the bone.