The Tongoriro CrossingApril 3, 2004
The ride to the Mangatepopo trailhead took only about 20 minutes. The driver warned us to not miss the pick-up at the other end of the trail (Ketetahi car park) at 5:00pm.
The track starts out very flat and heads east up the Mangatepopo Valley towards the imposing cone of Mt. Ngauruhoe. The first hour is mostly easy walking with a few short sections up or across some rugged volcanic rocky outcroppings.
After an hour or so, we reached the side trail to Soda Springs. There is also a toilet here, just prior to the steep and rocky slog to the saddle begins. We labored uphill for about an hour or so, stopping occasionally for a rest or to take photos. At some points along the incline there were steep and narrow sections that caused a few traffic jams among the many trampers on the trail that day.
Mt. Taranaki was plainly visible on the western horizon when we reached the Mangatepopo Saddle between Mt. Ngauruhoe (2287m) and Mt. Tongoriro (1967m). We decided not to make the side trips up either one of the volcanoes, they are each popular side-trips (Ngauruhoe:2 hours, Tongiriro: 90 minutes).
The trail crosses the broad, flat South Crater and up another steep slope to the highest point along the trail, the Red Crater (1886m). The views all around are amazing:
After marvelling for a moment, Eileen, Hels & I ran down the scree slope past all the hikers taking careful steps. Jake stayed on the top for a little while and took some photos before joining is for lunch right next to one of the Emerald Lakes.
Refreshed by a long rest and a great lunch, we crossed the Central Crater and over to the Blue Lake (Te Wai-Whakaata-o-te Rangihiroa). The trail starts the long downhill section of the day. At first, it was a welcomed relief, but the hours of downhill did become a bit hard on my knees.
We took a long and wonderful rest at the Ketetahi Hut. Apparently, there is water at the hut that you can fill up your water bottles with, but the German guy in line in front of us got a lot of sediment and crud in his bottle, so we ended up not filling our bottles. The view from the deck was wonderful, and soon after we arrived, there were 20 or 30 people resting in the sun and looking out to the east and to Lake Taupo.
To the north, steam was rising off of the thermal pools that are now off-limits to hikers. The Ketetahi Springs are on private land and access is not granted by the owners. After leaving the hut, the trail goes really close to the springs, but they remain just out of sight. A bit farther down the hill the trail crosses the warm stream.
The trail continued down for the next 90 minutes. I was amazed by the thousands and thousands of steps that had been built on the trail. As the trail flattened out once more, it ran through some beautiful bush and along a roaring stream until we reached the Ketetahi car park and the end of the Crossing.
National Park Village