Moving time  4 hours 37 minutes

Time  5 hours 44 minutes

Coordinates 3613

Uploaded February 19, 2018

Recorded February 2018

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6,182 ft
2,571 ft
0
3.2
6.4
12.8 mi

Viewed 2703 times, downloaded 221 times

near Whakapapa Village, Manawatu-Wanganui (New Zealand)

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Expect the unexpected.
(Posters on New Zealand roads).

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered the best day trip in New Zealand. We could hardly disagree after what we have seen and the pictures show a good deal. The number of visitors is incredible (they say that they pass about 70,000 a year), and the lines of walkers along the trail are endless; from before dawn buses from reputable companies begin to release people eager to contemplate one of the most beautiful volcanic landscapes on Earth. Seven and a half hours later they are picked up at the end of the tour, with the warning that if they arrive late the bus will not be there and the replacement will be expensive: although the tour can be done in less than 5 hours, the requirement for the untrained walker It is not trivial.
But let me warn you at first that if you had forgotten what you had seen hundreds of times in photography, you could hardly have imagined what we were going to find. Having seen them, I wondered where the landscape was going to suddenly change and would go on to find what I knew there was; and past that place how the type maintains the untrained walker in an 11 km descent. not comfortable at all. Tongariro is a beautiful pearl, enclosed within a large shell that does not show the exterior what it contains.
And with the low clouds that were, the poor visibility sowed the doubt in our minds of what we would get to see. Wise, on the other hand, the bus driver who transferred us, who told us that the wind, blowing from the west, would clear the clouds above; he did it so slowly that he hardly ever did it.
Our guide (Lonely Planet) says that "This route must be done in good weather. If the conditions are bad, it is nothing more than a constant and arduous climb and descent, and you only see the orange tip sticks that are on the road. If strong winds blow at the summit, you will have to crawl along the crest of the Red Crater, the maximum height of the route. " Our fears had a bibliography to lean on.
The route begins in the Mangatepopo Rd car park, from where a moderate slope up through the Mangatepopo valley places us in the vicinity of Mount Ngauruhoe, at the foot of the ascent to the first crater, in a place known as Soda Springss, where there were several small waterfalls. In the cited guide it is said that the climb (about 2 hours) to Mount Ngauruhoe is highly recommended, although the loose rocks that roll down the slope are a constant danger; Locally we were informed that the ascent is closed: apparently there are several Maori burials in the area, so it is recommended to avoid going through it as a sign of respect for this ethnic group. It is also theoretically possible to go up to the Ruapehu crater lake, which requires about 7 hours, although it can be shortened by about 3 hours by taking the chairlift from the Whakapapa ski station; the route is steep and unmarked.
So, with this baggage, in Soda Springs, already in clearly volcanic terrain and of relatively recent activity, we arrived determined to do the traditional route of the Alpine Crossing and avoid very attractive adventures but with possibly uncertain results. It was not easy, but not very difficult either, to go up to the first crater, known as South Crater and of very large dimensions, similar to a desert with a small lake, with very little water, in the final part. Here begins a new ascent, this one in earnest to the Red Crater, with a steep slope and a gale that gets stronger as we ascend. Reaching the top was not very difficult, but the clouds covered everything and we could see very little; minutes later the clouds opened and we could first see the Red Crater, and then the lakes at the foot of the Tongariro. At first it was like a blow of beauty, with our mouths open and a gesture of disbelief we used to say phrases like ¡Que marvel !, or ¡Qué bonito !. A little later we began to worry about how to get down from there: the slope is very steep, and the ground a layer of small stone and sand with little grip, in which many of the walkers suffered more than they had suffered when climbing. This is where you really notice the difference from excellent footwear, poles and ... practice.
Arrived at the level of the small lakes, known as Emerald Lakes, we take out our lunch and dedicate ourselves to regain strength by the side of the green lake. Finished, and after collecting the leftovers, we started again to reach the Blue Lake, after crossing the Central Crater, and from here start the descent towards the Hut of Ketetahi. Upon arriving at this refuge we decided to stay for a while, as it seemed clear that we would arrive at the end at least two hours before the pick up time. An hour later we resumed our march, although our pace was fast and when we reached the Ketetahi car park, where we were to be picked up, we still had another hour and a half of waiting time. See the faces of those who arrived, the expressions of fatigue and contentment, the enthusiastic comments of those who arrived, and also to some people destroyed, almost dragging themselves, some of whom had lost their connection to the bus, ... It was a course fast, but very effective, on why it is necessary to be well equipped in the mountains, never underestimate its risks, or overestimate our capabilities.
In normal conditions, with good weather and not exaggerated wind, the route can be considered as of moderate difficulty for anyone with medium training; in rain or strong wind it is preferable to consider it difficult. Although there are no dangerous steps (technically it can be considered even easy) and the trail is very well laid out, the length and elevation may require a significant, and exhaustive, effort from people not used to this type of route.
Of course, we ended up happy enough of the route, but after a good shower we went to The Station, the restaurant installed on the premises of the old National Park train station, and which is undoubtedly the best restaurant in the area, with a reasonable price for its quality. Our dinner was enormously satisfying. So, for the same price, we recommend both: the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and The Station restaurant.
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15 comments

  • Photo of manuelruizapatero

    manuelruizapatero Feb 19, 2018

    Ruta increíble por los volcanes, lava, fumarolas, picos y lagos de agua esmeralda y azul, para acabar bajando a una selva subtropical. Hecha la travesía a buen ritmo y completando los 20 kmts con 2000 mts de desnivel en un día precioso. Una de las grandes rutas mundiales que completan 1500 personas de media al día y que haces sin agobios. Un diez.

  • Whaledancer May 22, 2018

    I have followed this trail  View more

    probably the best track i've ever done!

  • Photo of eoc

    eoc May 22, 2018

    I entirely agree with you, but try the second day (Pompolona to Quintin) of the Milford Track and see the closest competitor.

  • César Argilés Aug 11, 2018

    I have followed this trail  View more

    Larga, ascenso duro por traviesas de madera,entorno de monte bajo con vientos, vista inmejorable desde la cumbre, largo descenso....se hace en mas tiempo que el indicado, requiere buena forma

  • Photo of JPM58

    JPM58 Sep 22, 2018

    I have followed this trail  View more

    wonderfull views from the top. the long descend was difficult for my knees! Take tour walking sticks!

  • Photo of eoc

    eoc Sep 22, 2018

    Yes. Quite impressive country, with the red of the volcano, the blue and green of the lakes, and the brown of the land. Adequate boots are essential!.

  • Photo of eoc

    eoc Sep 23, 2018

    And, of course, walking poles are very important in complex pathways, like the volcanic slopes of Tongariro.

  • javeadeverano Oct 22, 2018

    Gran ruta!. Envidia gordísima!.

  • Cesk12 Dec 3, 2018

    Buenos días Eoc,

    Me gustaría realizar la ruta corriendo desde el parking de Mangatepopo, ir y volver, mi pregunta es hasta donde me recomiendas llegar. Es decir, a lo mejor no es necesario llegar hasta el aparcamiento de Ketetahi y me puedo ahorrar unos cuantos km, ya que sino en ir y volver me salen 40km.

    Muchas gracias.

  • Photo of eoc

    eoc Dec 4, 2018

    Hola Cesk12. La última parte de la ruta, desde el refugio de Ketetahi hasta el aparcamiento está llena de pequeñas escaleras y es una bajada muy bonita, pero que no añade gran cosa a lo que ves desde arriba. Yo escogería como final bien el Blue Lake, o bien el Hut de Ketetahi, con lo que te quedarás por debajo de los 30 km. totales y con tal vez un 25% menos de desnivel acumulado. Que lo disfrutes!

  • luis.perecruz Mar 21, 2019

    Impresionante ruta. Uno de los grandes tracks del mundo.

  • deliasummers Apr 9, 2019

    I have followed this trail  View more

    This trail is only moderately difficult and can be done (in Summer) by almost anyone wearing sneakers. When I did it with my teenage children and their friends there were a number of younger children doing the trail with their parents. It does require some effort, especially the stair climb and everyone should take a warm jacket and hat just in case the weather turns cold suddenly but there is nothing technically difficult about this trail. It is done by hundreds of people each day. People doing this trail in Winter, however, need Alpine clothing and need to watch the weather carefully. There is now no longer any parking at the trail-head at each end so please catch one of the special buses if you want to do this trail.

  • Photo of eoc

    eoc Apr 9, 2019

    Difficulty is usually a matter of personal judgement. I agree that for trained, experienced people this route is not that difficult. Certainly, for an old person without experience it will be a hard day. I have seen people arriving at the end in disarray, extenuated and three hours late over the allowed time; for them, I am sure, it was a difficult trail. Personally, I would agree with you, we used little over 4 and a half hours for the whole distance, and could easily have continued for some miles more, but not all people are similar. Regarding sneakers for this trail, I would think people doing so are looking for trouble; you would be far more safe with mountain boots. I wholeheartedly agree with all other comments. Thanks for all of them.

  • Photo of Nacho Gonzalez

    Nacho Gonzalez Dec 1, 2019

    I have followed this trail  View more

    COn entrenamiento previo no es dificil excepto por la longitud, que no por el desnivel

  • Photo of eoc

    eoc Dec 1, 2019

    Muy pocas rutas de senderismo plantean dificultades para senderistas expertos y entrenados, pero muchas de las personas que vimos en Tongariro iban en familia o con amigos, y en muchos casos no parecía que estuviesen muy entrenados o tuviesen experiencia previa. He visto gente que pretendía hacer la ruta con chanclas, o que la hicieron con un mal calzado deportivo y acabaron con los pies realmente dañados, y otros que parecían no haber pensado en beber o comer algo durante la caminata, así que el equipo es otro aspecto importante a considerar además del entrenamiento. Estoy de acuerdo en que la longitud es importante aquí,, tal vez más que el desnivel, pero el suelo y el efecto del mal tiempo o del viento en algunas partes también son muy de valorar. Gracias por tu comentario y valoración.

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