After almost missing our shuttle and a bit of a hectic morning, Stéphane and I found ourselves in Tongariro National Park at Mangatepopo. Ahead of us was a 19.8 km hike up between Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe through some very cold temperatures. While initially I was pretty concerned about the temperature, the weather for the most part was chilly, but sunny.
It was a great day to climb Mount Ngauruhoe aka Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings. After a stroll by a mountain stream through alpine meadows, we took a steep ascent up, up, up, up the stairs (in Golem’s voice) to the central crater: a vast plain between the two mountains. It was stark and beautiful.
At the top, the air was freezing. It was so cold, that ice had formed on the edge of rocks in the direction of the constant wind. The red crater felt like something out of a movie, menacing and sharp brick crags.
On the descent from the pass between Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro – after the freezing air – we passed the Emerald Lakes. Steam rose from vents beyond the lakes, and the hundreds of hikers who had made it across the path sat down to have lunch.
Across the wide plain near Blue Lake, looking back, we realized that the entire area was one massive lava flow. A stream of volcanic black rock dominated the landscape.
The switchbacks through the Ketetahi area took us along cliff edges and another set of alpine meadows. Steam vents in the distance flowed into the clouds. We were thrilled as we reached flat lands again, and so exhausted. But the Tongariro Alpine Pass was breathtaking, and one of the best hikes I have ever done!