For those just joining us, this is the story of the week I spent down South on the shores of Lake Taupo with some friends over New Year’s.
On the day before January 1st, we decided we were going to see 2015 out in style: by climbing mount Ngauruhoe. Perhaps that name, which to those in other hemispheres might look like an attempt to use up a bunch of leftover Scrabble tiles, doesn’t mean much to you. But this is the mountain used by Peter Jackson to portray Orodruin, Mount Doom.
(People climbed Mt. Ngauruhoe before The Lord of the Rings was put to film — after all, this is New Zealand, home to Sir Edmund Hillary and thousands of other climbers for whom “it exists and is somewhat hard to climb” is sufficient motivation to scale something — but its appearance in the movie has certainly bolstered its popularity).
Just getting to the carpark required some driving, and unfortunately some of that driving involved my favorite: gravel roads. I should make my friends chip in to have my car detailed once this is all over ;)
Once parked, getting to the mountain requires walking about 6km along the Tongariro Crossing, a very popular trail on the North Island. The Crossing is part of the larger Tongariro Circuit, which is one of the Great Walks of New Zealand.
The road to the summit involves three stages. From the carpark to the base camp is 4km, about an hour. Then there’s about 2km of steep ascent up a bit of trail colloquially known as the Devil’s Staircase. Finally there’s the climb up the mountain itself. This post will cover the first two parts, leaving the summit to the next post.
The weather for that day was pretty Mordor-ish, as appropriate.
The crew were on point, of course. Rob (yellow hat) and Taylor (faded blue hat) both found their headgear at the bach, but I think we can agree that they were absolutely rocking it. Chloe and Katie brought their own headwear, and I of course was wearing Ol’ Faithful, my battered Virginia Tech hat.
The first bit of hike is fairly level, giving us plenty of time to admire the mountain peaks we were effectively surrounded by.
There’s also a bit of boardwalk fairly early on. As you can see, on this holiday week the trail is quite popular! The further up we got, of course, the more people dropped off. Not, er, literally. You know what I mean.
As you walk along, keep your eye out to the left for this waterfall. Rob made the observation that elsewhere, people would be willing to hike this far just to see that waterfall.
We had a date with Doom, though, so we didn’t go to investigate. I did pause to Zoom and Enhance, though, because it is a quite satisfactory waterfall.
Partway up the Staircase, I took this photo just to show how far up we had climbed. If you enlarge, you can see the Road wandering off toward the trailhead.
Here again you can see bits of the Staircase wandering off out of frame and then back into the picture much further down. In this photo you can even see the very distant carpark just at the base of that far hill.
I tried to Zoom and Enhance on the carpark, but apparently I was too tired to change to the big lens so this is only the small lens at full zoom. It’s far enough away that I doubt even full 200mm zoom would reveal much of interest. That’s ok; this picture is still fantastic.
Once you get to the top of the staircase, the path splits. Don’t get so caught up that you forget to enjoy the view behind you :)
Even just getting up to the base of the mountain is quite an achievement. The trail up is steep. The first 4 or so kilometers went pretty quickly, but I felt every one of those 2 uphill kms.
The view from the crossroads is completely majestic.
We sat down to eat our lunch in the shadow of the summit. No matter how steep the climb we had done, we knew the hardest path was still ahead.
Join us next time as we throw some jewelry in the lava. Or something.