Tongariro Alpine Crossing

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Here’s any outdoor enthusiast/any Lord of the Rings fan would enjoy: Tongariro Alpine Crossing! It’s a 19.4 km uphill hike that takes you around Mount Tongariro (which also starred as Mordor in the LOTR films,) passes a few craters, brings you to the base of an active volcano called Mount Ngauruhoe aka Mount Doom, and spoils you with three lovely emerald lakes –though I should mention that they smell like rotten eggs or like Yellowstone!

Quick Facts

Length:12 miles (19.4 km) round-trip
Trail Conditions: A mix of boardwalk and rugged alpine terrain (and snowy in Nov.)
Elevation: 6187.66 ft (1886 m)
Misc: Bring lots of water (I took 2.5L), sun protection, and warming layers

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To start the hike you leave your car at the carpark or get dropped off there via backpacker bus. There a shuttle picks up (assuming you made reservations beforehand) and takes you to the trailhead.

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I boarded a 6:00am shuttle to get an early start on this 8-9 hour hike. New Zealand was in its late Spring season at the time of the hike. To my surprise we ended up running into snow on the trail. I suppose that’s the nice thing about New Zealand, you get to experience every combination of landscape and weather all in one place. I’d recommend bringing a warming layer, gloves, and a windbreaker.

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Even as the sun was rising the ground of the trailhead was frosted over. I wore just my base layers for the beginning portion of the trail. Although it was a tad chilly I heated up pretty quickly due to a giant uphill trek up a section known as “Devil’s Staircase.”

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Morning frost on nearby plants
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Looking down at a section of the literal pain in the @$$ known as “Devil’s Staircase”

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Right after reaching the top of “Devil’s Staircase” I needed to layer up again ASAP. Turns out there’s still snow up on top of the mountain in late Spring. First there were frosted plants, then I ran into spiky, iced rocks.

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Eventually the entire floor becomes shrouded in a white carpet of snow.

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Mordor and Mount Doom

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Since this is the place where the One Ring was forged and destroyed it attracts a multiple of visitors from all over. On this particular day I ran into mostly Germans and Austrians. If you have a chance to do this hike get ready to run into another person every 5-10 minutes.

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There are three emerald lakes adjacent to Mount Ngauruhoe. They’re actually craters filled with water and are colored by sulfur creeping in from adjoining thermal areas. And no you may not swim in them. The Emerald Lakes are very acidic with a pH level between 3-5.

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Equipment

Camera:

Sony A7r II
GoPro HERO 4 Black Edition + Blackout Housing + JOBY GPod Mini Magnetic Stand (full review)

Lens: 
Sony 28mm f/2 FE

Accessories:
Peak Design Slide Strap
Blackout Housing
JOBY GPod Mini Magnetic Stand (full review)
Quick Clip

 

Links:

Tongariro Alpine Crossing – tongarirocrossing.org.nz

 


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