Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tongariro Northern Circuit

After months of planning and replanning after the recent Te Maari eruptions on Tongariro, we headed up to the centre of the north island to do this great walk for several of the rangers Silver Duke of Edinburgh practise expedition. I had been monitoring the weather all week and the weather forecast was looking good. We started at Whakapapa and headed up the Taranaki Falls track, then the Tama Lakes track, then continued over to Waihohunu Hut for the first night. It was hot, with no shade.... the girls were complaining, the last few tramps they have done, were cool and damp. We were slapping on the sunscreen, but we all managed to miss little spots and get sunburn - not great on the first day. It was nice to reach the hut and head down to the river to cool off. After dinner, sitting out on the deck, we set up the radio and checked the weather forecast - hot and dry for the next day.

Bryony, Kerry (Jess's mum and the driver for the weekend), Jess, Jo, Marina

Lower Tama Lake with Ngarahoe in the background

The new and rather fancy Waihohunu Hut

Cooling off in the river

The second day was relatively short, so we had a relaxed morning and set off for Oturere Hut around 10am. On the eastern side of the mountains you can tell you are in the rain shadow, it was very dry and you felt like you were walking in a desert. The smell of sulphur regularly wafted over us from the active vents on the volcanoes. It was quite potent at times. Then we climbed up on to a large, blocky, lava flow and arrived at the hut.   The hut was close to a waterfall and I walked down to the water to cool off. After dinner and a radio call,  warning us that the weather would close in late the next day, we had an amazing sunset. 

Walking across the desert

Oturere Hut

Waterfall just below Oturere Hut

Sunset behind Mt Ruapheu

The next morning we woke up early and got going, in the hope we would finish the tramp at Mangetepopo  car park before the weather closed in. It was significantly cooler, which made the climb up to Emerald lakes and then on to Red Crater much more bearable. The Red Crater climb was up a scree slope, which was quite energy sapping with two steps forward, one step back. It was very windy on the top and trying to rain, so we had a quick snack and continued down. This part of the Tongariro Crossing is open to day walkers and was very busy with tourists. Because it was cool we stopped a lot less and finished the tramp a little earlier than expected. Only a few blisters, but otherwise very happy, tired girls.
Kerry at the bottom of the scree climb up to Red Crater - the edge of the Volcanic Flying Rock Zone

Looking back down on the Emerald Lakes

Red Crater

The end.... Marina, Jess, Jo and Bryony - still smiling

They must have had fun - they were already planning their Silver Final Expedition in the car on the way home. They want to do the Abel Tasman in the South Island. 

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