The Only Way is Up.
As always, an early start is best for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on New Zealand’s North Island. Here’s a website with info and a Map. Signposts indicate distances and times and help to track your progress. Are we there yet? We covered the first three and a half stages and returned the same way as the track was still partly closed at the time.
Mangatepopo Car Park to Soda Springs Grade: Easy, allow 1 to 1.5 hours
This first section is fairly flat with boardwalks over the wet areas which enable you to gather some pace and keep warm until the sun gets higher.
Soda Springs to South Crater Grade: Difficult, allow 4o mins to 1 hour.
The Devil’s staircase is steep but on such a lovely clear day there’s plenty of opportunity to rest and catch a glimpse of Mt Taranaki in the distance. It seems to float above the earth on a cloud. Just couldn’t quite catch the magic of Taranaki with my camera so I later hoped to find a picture along our travels. The landscapes of Diana Adams usually capture the sense of these places well but nothing was quite what I had envisaged.
South Crater to Red Crater Grade: Moderate to Difficult, allow 1 hour.
Quite a relief to cross the flat South Crater but there’s still the risk of loose rocks although the most difficult ascent was still ahead of us, up to the Red Crater. The rocks and scoria were loose and it took time and concentration to remain vertical so there aren’t any photos of this section. Our guide from Walking Legends was a great help in traversing the most difficult loose sections.
Red Crater to Blue Lake Grade Moderate, allow 30 mins.
Such a relief to get to the top, catch your breath and marvel at the Red Crater and the valleys below. Still more loose rocks and with a few more slips and slides we managed to reach a rocky outcrop with the marvellous Emerald Lakes below and rest our bones, briefly.
After a quick lunch and a rest perched at a safe distance from the edge, it was time to descend back through all the rubble. I did not venture down to the Emerald Lake as it was too loose for me and even harder work to get back up! Regardless, it was a glorious day and quite spectacular!