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 f
2,571 f
0
3.2
6.4
12.8 mi

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near Whakapapa Village, Manawatu-Wanganui (New Zealand)

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

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered to be the best day trip in New Zealand. We could hardly disagree after what we have seen and the photographs show to a large extent. The number of visitors is incredible (they say they spend around 70,000 a year), and the ranks of walkers along the trail are endless; from before dawn buses of accredited companies begin to loosen people eager to contemplate one of the most beautiful volcanic landscapes on Earth. Seven and a half hours later they pick them 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 route can be done in less than 5 hours, the requirement for the untrained walker It is not trivial.
But let me first notice that if I had forgotten what I had seen hundreds of times in photography, I could hardly have imagined what we would find. Having seen them, he asked me where the landscape would suddenly change and I would find what I knew there was; and past that place how the type keeps the untrained walker in a descent of 11 km. nothing comfortable. Tongariro is a beautiful pearl, enclosed within a large shell that shows nothing to the outside what it contains.
And with the low clouds that there were, the scarce visibility sowed doubt in our minds of what we would see. Wise, on the other hand, the bus driver who moved us, who told us that the wind, blowing from the west, would clean the clouds above; He did it so slowly that he almost did not do 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 hard up and down, and only the orange-tipped sticks are visible along the way. If strong winds blow on the summit, you will have to crawl along the crest of the Red crater, the highest point of the route. " Our fears had bibliography on which to lean.
The route begins in the Mangatepopo Rd parking lot, from where a moderate slope up the Mangatepopo valley places us near Mount Ngauruhoe, at the foot of the ascent to the first crater, in a place known as Soda Springs, where there were several small waterfalls. In the aforementioned guide it is said that the ascent (about 2 hours) to Mount Ngauruhoe is highly recommended, although the detached rocks that roll down the slope are a constant danger; locally we were informed that the climb is closed: there are apparently 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 possible theoretically to climb up to the crater lake of Ruapehu, which requires about 7 hours, although it can be shortened in 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 volcanic terrain and relatively recent activity, we decided to make the traditional route of Alpine Crossing and avoid very attractive adventures but possibly uncertain outcome. It was not easy, although not very difficult, 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 already in earnest until the Red Crater, with marked slope and gale increasingly stronger as we ascended. Arriving upstairs was not very complicated, but the clouds covered everything and we could see very little; minutes later the clouds opened and we could see first the Red Crater, and then the lakes at the foot of the Tongariro. At first it was like a beauty hit, with an open mouth and a gesture of disbelief, we would say phrases like ¡Que maravilla !, o ¡Que bonito! Somewhat later we started to worry about how to get out of there: the slope is very marked, and the ground a layer of small stone and sand of little grip, in which suffered many of the walkers more than they had suffered when climbing. This is where you really notice the difference of excellent footwear, walking sticks and ... practice.
Arrived at the level of the small lakes, known as Emerald Lakes, we take our lunch and dedicate ourselves to replenish our strength next to the green lake. Finishing, and after collecting the leftovers, we start the march again to reach the Blue Lake, after crossing the Central Crater, and from here start the descent towards the Hut of Ketetahi. When we arrived at this refuge we decided to stay there for a while, since it seemed clear that we would arrive at the end at least two hours before the pick-up time. An hour later we resumed the march, although our pace was fast and when we arrived at the Ketetahi car park, where they had to pick us 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 some people who were destroyed, almost crawling, some of whom had lost their connection to the bus, ... It was a course fast, but very effective, on why it is necessary to go well equipped to the mountain, never underestimate their risks, or overestimate our capabilities.
In normal conditions, with good weather and no exaggerated wind, the route can be considered as of moderate difficulty for any person with medium training; with 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 path is very well laid out, the length and slope can require a significant effort, and exhaustive, of people not used to this type of routes.
Of course, we ended up happy enough from the trek, but after a good shower we went to The Station, the restaurant installed in the premises of the old train station of National Park, and that is without a doubt the best restaurant of the environment, and 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 restaurant The Station.

13 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.

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