Treking Mount Tongariro’s Red Crater
Some spend weeks planning a trip to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, but I hate planning so it was a spur of the moment decision for me.
I’d been wanting to do the crossing, which is little over an hour’s drive from Taupo, for years. With my younger brother Dane back from Perth for the Christmas break, it seemed like the perfect chance.
‘‘Why don’t we do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?’’ I asked him, my elder brother Adam, and my younger sister Bryar.
A couple of days later, after dropping a car off at the Ketetahi end, we found ourselves at the Mangatepopo end loaded with backpacks full of snacks for the 19.4km hike. Shuttles were available but alas that would be planning wouldn’t it?
Due to the holidays the car park was packed so we walked up to the beginning of the track. Blankets of dust filled our lungs from passing campers and buses.
The first part is done along a boardwalk to protect the native vegetation surrounding the Mangatepopo stream under the shadow of Mount Ngauruhoe. It was back-to-back with dawdling visitors so I watched for every opportunity to squeeze passed.
We made a small detour to view the picturesque Soda Springs and had a snack before venturing to the Devil’s Staircase.
A sign warned about the pending challenge of the climb, which sees you reach 1600 metres above sea level. Some turned back.
‘‘My Asics were put to the test a couple of times.’’ Luke Kirkeby
Besides a bit of heavy breathing I soon found myself at the top.
From there we made the journey across the vast South Crater which, due to its barrenness, called for a few Starship Troopers and The Martian jokes.
The ascent to the Red Crater and summit was a little more challenging due to the unstable ground. My Asics were put to the test a couple of times. At the summit we stopped for lunch.
We then made the descent.the ground was extremely unstable and while many were trying hard to control their speed we dug our heels in and let gravity take us. It’s probably not advised but man it was fun.
Once we’d passed the Blue Lake the mountain descent began.
At the Ketetahi Hut we picked up the pace and ran the last 5km back to the car to the shock of many. All up it took us six hours and we were buzzing. I know I said I don’t like planning but bring on the next hike.
Reporter Luke Kirkeby by the Tongariro Alpine Crossing’s Emerald Lakes.