Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wellington Anniversay Weekend 2012

With the opportunity of a long weekend to have some fun on, we headed up to Kuratau on the Friday night after work. We had spent days looking at the weather forecast and it looked like Saturday was the best weather day so that day was chosen for completing the Tongariro Crossing (with the kids). We drove to the end of the track and caught a shuttle to the start of the track. It was an early start (after a late night) as we were meeting the shuttle at 7am. Bleary-eyed we were dropped off at the Mangatepopo car park at 7:45 and were quickly underway (with hundreds of other people).

This walk is one of the most popular in New Zealand and it is normal for over 1000 people to walk the track each day during the summer months. The walk itself is 19.4kms long and it's estimated to take 6-8 hours to complete. It's not a difficult walk for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. One positive is that you tend to complete all the uphill parts in the morning and the rest of the day is spent descending. The walk starts off with quite a flat walk and then you climb the Devil's Staircase. That name made it sound daunting but it was simply a series of steps and climbs to reach a plateau.

Once on the plateau we made the choice to deviate from the main walk and climb to the summit of Mt Ngauruhoe. This is a steep climb and there is a lot of scree. Plenty of people were making hard work of the climb going up the scree slopes but we made the choice to traverse across to a rock ridge which took us the majority of the way.

Once up the main climb the majority of people headed straight for the crater. We had carried out some research and realised the crater isn't actually the summit so we initially ignored the crater and walked to the summit itself - past an active steam vent. Here I am at the summit (it was a little windy and quite cold!).

The view from the summit was awesome. We had a clear view across to Mt Ruapehu as well as a stunning view of Mt Tongariro and the Blue Lake itself.

After the obligatory photo session at the summit, we descended a bit before climbing up to the crater. The volcano itself is considered to be one of the most active in New Zealand and it has tended to erupt every 9 years or so historically - although the last time there was any significant activity was in 1976.

The cold wind was getting annoying so we descended back down to the main Crossing track and found a sunny spot for a lunch break. The descent was a lot of fun as we ran straight down the scree slope. It only took 20 minutes to get back down. Here is the view looking back at Ngauruhoe with Ruapehu in the distance.

After lunch we carried on walking to the Red Crater then the Emerald Lakes.

After another quick break at the lakes we continued with the descent back down to the carpark.

All up, the walk took about 10 hours including the diversion up to Mt Ngauruhoe. That was pretty good time considering we had a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old along for the trip.

You definitely need to pick your day to do this walk. Even if it seems to be a perfect day you should still go fully prepared with food, water and plenty of warm clothing (and sunscreen). It's common for the weather to change in this area.

Also, there are plenty of transport operators in the area who can provide a shuttle to assist with transportation. We chose Alpine Hot Bus who met us at the carpark at the end of the track, where we left our vehicle, and dropped us off at the start point. Other operators will drop you off at the start and pick you up at the end - we decided against this as we didn't want to have time constraints to adhere to.

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