Ton­gariro Alpine Cross­ing

Story and Pho­tos by TIM ROCK

Adventure - - Fast Nourishing Food For Adventurer­s -

The sun was set­ting as I drove along State High­way 47 with the mighty vol­ca­noes of the Ton­gariro Na­tional Park sil­hou­et­ted against the ever red­den­ing evening sky. As I pulled over to the side of the road for a quick photo op­por­tu­nity I could just make out the Man­gatepopo Sad­dle and the des­ti­na­tion of my next hik­ing ad­ven­ture. The Ton­gariro Alpine Cross­ing is New Zealand’s premier one-day hike and is even recog­nised as one of the best one day hikes in the world. It has been on my list of things to do for quite some time now and is only one sleep away from be­ing crossed off the list.

On my ap­proach to Na­tional Park Vil­lage I start to get goose­bumps as my ex­cite­ment builds with to­mor­row’s hike draw­ing ever so closer. As I pull in to Plateau Lodge where I will be bas­ing my­self for the next cou­ple of days I can feel a buzz of an­tic­i­pa­tion with the thought of other like­minded peo­ple con­gre­gat­ing and dis­cussing their own per­sonal tri­umphs and ad­ven­tures.

The lodge is very nice and while I am check­ing in I also book a seat on their shut­tle for the cross­ing the next morn­ing. Cy, the owner of Plateau Lodge, takes me through the weather fore­cast for the next day and we check off the gear list to make sure that I have ev­ery­thing that I need. Cy shows me to my room and around the lodge and I set­tle in for the evening.

I’m out of bed at 6:00am af­ter a fan­tas­tic sleep. I take a peek out­side to see a beau­ti­ful blue sky morn­ing and it’s straight in for a hot shower. Af­ter a good solid break­fast I pre­pare my lunch and snacks, fin­ish pack­ing my day pack and sit down for a chat with a few of the other early bird hik­ers.

My plan is to hike to the sum­mit of Mt Ngau­ruhoe as well, so the early start will al­low me a bit more time. Oth­ers are start­ing ear­lier just to beat the crowds and to give them­selves plenty of time to take it slowly. Just be­fore 7am I head out­side burst­ing with ex­cite­ment and see the shut­tle wait­ing there, quickly fill­ing up with happy hik­ers. The driver ticks me off the list and I climb in find­ing a seat at the back. The doors close and we’re off; twenty five mins away from the start of my next ad­ven­ture.

Within sec­onds of pulling out of Plateau Lodge the two mighty vol­ca­noes, Mt Ton­gariro and Mt Ngau­ruhoe, ap­pear in the dis­tant morn­ing sky. Spec­tac­u­lar! Even the drive to the start of the Cross­ing track is beau­ti­ful as we pass by the dom­i­nat­ing Mt Ruapehu, and the flat sparse low­lands of the Ton­gariro Na­tional Park. In no time we are mak­ing our way up the dusty gravel Man­gatepopo Rd tak­ing in ev­ery­thing that we need for the day as safety and in­for­ma­tion mes­sages play through the shut­tle’s sound sys­tem. Just be­fore 7:30am we reach the point where driv­ing ends and hik­ing be­gins.

I feel a smile beginning to en­gulf my face as the driver gives us all a few fi­nal mes­sages and sends us on our way. As I jump out of the shut­tle the cool moun­tain air hits me and I suck a deep breath full into my lungs. I take a look up high to to­day’s des­ti­na­tion and I’m off. I start out pretty quickly to en­sure that I have time to make the Mt Ngau­ruhoe sum­mit and be­fore long find that I am away from the rest of the group who left with me. The first hour of the track through the Man­gatepopo Val­ley and up to the Soda Springs is fairly easy go­ing and is a nice warm-up for the climb ahead. The land­scape so far has been quite di­verse with rugged vol­canic de­bris left be­hind from an­cient lava flows dom­i­nat­ing the higher ar­eas of the Man­gatepopo Val­ley. As I step over a crys­tal clear moun­tain stream I re­al­ize how quickly the sur­round­ings have changed from veg­e­tated grassy and low shrub ar­eas to sparse noth­ing­ness.

I reach the Soda Springs in good time and take a mo­ment to catch my breath and have a quick snack. As I’m suck­ing back some much needed flu­ids I scan my harsh sur­round­ings and peer up at the for­mi­da­ble climb ahead. The Man­gatepopo Sad­dle, AKA The Devil’s Stair­case! A quick stretch and I’m off again. There seems to be no­body in front of me as I be­gin my climb and I’m glad that I de­cided to take the early shut­tle. The rocks un­der foot are loose and rugged and there is an ob­vi­ous trail formed by the many equally ex­cited hik­ers who have passed here be­fore me. As the climb be­comes a lit­tle steeper I take an op­por­tu­nity to have a quick sip on my wa­ter and look back over the beau­ti­ful vista of the Man­gatepopo Val­ley.

The views are in­cred­i­ble and I can see a steady stream of hik­ers work­ing their way along the lower track. Glanc­ing to my right I no­tice that there seems to be a new trail un­der constructi­on, zig-zag­ging its way up the moun­tain side. I’m glad I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to hike the old trail, soon to be­come a part of Ton­gariro Alpine Cross­ing his­tory. As I ap­proach the top of the Devil’s Stair­case, my heart pump­ing and sweat drip­ping, I sight my next daunt­ing chal­lenge: Mt Ngau­ruhoe stands proud and strong at 2287m above sea level. I quickly move off the main track and over to the base of this per­fect cone-shaped vol­cano where I stand in awe of its mag­nif­i­cence.

The shut­tle driver had warmed me of the dif­fi­cul­ties of scal­ing this scree vol­cano and

sug­gested the eas­i­est route which I eyed in

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