Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Tongariro Crossing

A fantastic run over New Zealand’s most popular one day hike. It is easy to see why when you are presented with clear blue skies and views that stretch as far away as Mt Taranaki.

We started the run at the Mangatepopo carpark, the first 30 minutes of running where across a mixture of coarse volcanic rock and well kept boardwalks. After Sulphur Springs the track climbed steadily on the lower slopes of Mt Ngauruhoe before emerging in the South Crater and a scene that resembled something from Mars. From here Mt Ngauruhoe towers high above; sadly we didn’t have time to attempt the summit.

After crossing the crater it is a short sharp climb to the highest point of the track and to some sublime views. The emerald and blue lakes shimmer below, Mt Ngauruhoe dominates to the South, Lake Taupo is in the distance to the north, the Kaimanawa Ranges to the East and we were able to make out Mt Taranaki to the west. A scree slope drops away past the Emerald Lakes and into the Central Crater before rising to the aptly named Blue Lake.

From here the climbing is over and the descent begins. After winding around the side of Mt Tongariro the track Zigzags to the Ketetahi Hut and then gently winds down into the tree line with the final few kilometres alongside a stream and through some very tranquil bush.

Waipakihi Hut Trek, Kaimanawa Ranges

A fantastic couple of days spent in some of the most spectacular scenery in the North Island. A two-day loop in the Kaimanawa Ranges, which was thankfully bathed in sunshine and had little wind.

We entered the hike from a small carpark at the Umukarikari end of the track. It was a pretty steady climb through some fern clad bush for just over an hour before we emerged out of the trees at around 1000 metres. The views didn’t disappoint with Lake Taupo to our left and Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe on the right. The track then continued to climb along the Umukarikari Ridge heading east and peaking on Sharp Cone at 1500 metres. It was then a gradual descent along the ridge high above the Waipakihi River and the sprawling Kaimanawa Ranges on our right. After four hours walking we descended steeply back into the bush with the Waipakihi Hut in the distance below. A good 45 minutes later we crossed the Waipakihi River and camped for the night.

We had a early start the following day and after some porridge started down the Waipakihi River. For the first 15 minutes we bush bashed along the banks before realizing the quickest and most direct route was in the river itself. Five hours later after countless crossings and soaking wet feet we hit the Waipakihi Campsite and climbed the track to Urchin at 1300 metres. The climb was incredibly steep but thankfully short and after 45 minutes we again cleared the tree line and were once again towering over the Waipakihi River. The track then rose to give superb views of Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe, this time we were walking straight at them. Once we took in the views from Urchin summit the long descent to the Urchin carpark began. Sadly when we reached the road we had to finish the loop by walking an additional 5 kilometers to the Umukarikari car park.