After weeks of rain and snow, finally we had a clear day to attempt what has been called New Zealand’s best day hike, The Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Not only were we picked up after only 30 seconds with our thumbs out; we beat the tourist buses. In high spirits, we began.
The first few kilometres were an easy meandering track through jagged lava foothills to the base of Mt Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. With the sun shining down full blast, we rounded a corner and the first large hill came into view. After mentally preparing ourselves, we set off into the mountains.
After a breathtaking climb, we reached the crater that separates the peaks of Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe. The 60-degree weather and snow-covered landscape were in stark contrast to each other as we crossed the kilometre wide crater in T-shirts.
This summer weather didn’t last long, soon reminding us that we were indeed climbing a mountain in the dead of winter. Our progress was stopped by an ice encrusted slope.
Hikers who passed were now on hands and knees trying to make it to the top. I was grateful for the crampons, which were now making what could have been a frightening climb an enjoyable and safer one.
Reaching the top we were rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains.
We never stopped long, as the trail beckoned us past active volcanic vents, and the aptly named Emerald Lakes before arriving at a sign warning that we were entering an active volcanic zone.
Descending downward through a tussock-covered hillside, we continually encountered signs warning us not to approach the steam-belching vent off in the distance.
Upon reaching one of New Zealand’s many back country huts, we learned the reason for the numerous warnings. In 2012 the vent exploded, hurtling boulders 1.5 kilometres through the air, crashing into the hut and along the trail we were travelling along. Active indeed.
The remainder of the trail guided us down through a forest as we reflected on how easily accessible yet extreme the alpine crossing was.
In 8 short hours the Tongariro Crossing had taken us up among snow-covered peaks, past alpine lakes and steaming vents, then down through an active volcanic zone.
Luckily we came prepared, and while the suggested ice axe and guide were unnecessary the crampons really did make our day a whole lot more enjoyable.
Written by Mackenzie Bruns. Photos by Andrew Janeski.
Andrew and Mackenzie strive to find adventure wherever they are. They created liveitbeforeyoudie to capture moments from their travels in the hopes of inspiring others to get out there and live their lives to the fullest. See more of Mackenzie and Andrew's adventures on Instagram: @liveitbeforeyoudie