The fury of Mordor...

Trip Start Feb 12, 2011
Trip End Jul 09, 2011

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Where I stayed
Ski Haus

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sunday evening we were dropped in what must be the quietest place we have stopped in yet.  Large looming mountains in the distance and a sprinkling of houses across the plains.  The bus driver said right theres your petrol station, supermarket and tourist info, he was pointing at the same little building...right heres goes seeing the quieter side of things! we walked down the roads passing a few hotels and hostels before we turned and further down found our hostel, the Ski Haus.

A simple but lovely building, all on one level and made of wood.  A matter a fact women signed us in and showed us around.  We spent the evening meeting others here, playing cards and reading infront of a log fire in a lowered part of the common room floor with huge floor cushions, comfy and cosy.  We had our food packed, walking stuff ready and we went to sleep waiting for tomorrow (quick note: my bites are nearly totally gone, antibiotics has worked a treat!).

A 7am bus picked us up, rattled and creaked around to a couple of other hostels and managed to group together a bus load of people from this tiny village and we headed for the mountains.  Now the forecast had been, fine with a few clouds and clear it was complete grey/black cloud cover..hmm.

We were dropped at the hut at the start of the Tongariro Crossing, at 4pm a bus would depart 18.6km away, on the other side of the mountain pass, be there or stay the night.  We set off at quite a speed, wanting to do it in time to do the extra side climb of the summit of mt Ngauruhoe (na-ra-hoe-ee) fondly known as mount doom (lord of the rings).  We started walking through this volcanic landscape, it is so bizzare, very barren.  You go through huge flat plains then suddenly you have to scramble over rocks and up, then you are on boarded walkways across marsh areas, before slowing the path starts to take an upward turn, we passed a sign that said are you sure you should carry on, are you fit enough? have the right equipment? is the weather right? be prepared to turn around! we had caught up with the coach load in front by then so we had many people around us which feels strange, you can see this snakeline of scattered people infront of you on the track but for miles to each side there is nothing living except for the odd shrub, lots of black and red.  The water runs with many colours in it, we were warned there is no drinking water up here due to the high mineral content.

You slowly climb up for a while, all the time the clouds seem to be getting nearer before up ahead we saw the track turn straight up the mountain we were closest to and disappearing into the clouds.  This was the devils staircase.  Steps steps and more steps twisting up into the clouds, its such an odd climate, the temperature started to fall but you're burning up with the work out, people are stopped on every slight corner, resting and burning through their water supplies.  We carried on and before long when we looked down we couldnt see the bottom for the cloud, we were right in the thick of it. You have no idea how far left you have to go up so you just keep going.  Finally you reach the flatter areas, broken occasionally by more steps the track eventually turned flatter.  You knew which way to go due to the poles in the ground with the coloured tops, the cloud just allowed us to see the next one in line, you could see figures before you and behind you appearing through it.  It was freezing and silent, very strange not to have bird song around you in this country, and people werent really talking and had really spread out in this strange atmosphere.  Gutted that we were going to have climbed 1886meters and not be able to see anything.  We reached a sign post (dotted at the major intersections telling you the distances to go behind you and infront of you).  This was the turn off to the summit of mount doom, we decided it just would not be sensible, we had been told don't even think about it if its covered in cloud, our visability was so bad and the slopes are covered in scree and loose rocks and boulders, its very easy to come down the wrong side and its far too demanding to scale it and see nothing from the top. disappointed we carried on the track.  and again it started to climb, before long steep drops appeared on both sides and the wind picked up, you could not see how far down the drops were as cloud was sitting in them, not sure if that was a blessing or not with my giddyness with heights.  We climbed and climbed, scrambling up and holding on flattening our bodies to the rocks when there was a real gust of wind, you could actually see the cloud running past you.

Finally we were at the top, to our right we knew was the red crater, the highest point of the track, to our left another drop, we could see nothing but a narrow pathway out infront of us.  gutted.  The wind was very strong and I was starting to feel rather nervy.  we crept along following what we could see of the path and held onto eachother to keep grounded.  the track started going down at a steep angle and the ground turned to a scree that you slid along, still deep drops we had no idea what was over the edge, it felt like the winds aim was to get us over them, really scary. people were slipping sliding all around us, I could just about hear steve shouting over the wind we've got to get down off the peak to the lower areas that are protected from the wind, suddenly steve was down infront of me. then i was on the ground, my left leg twisted up behind me and pain throbbing up my leg. crap this was not the plan.  tears pouring down my face as people stopped around me and steve crawled back up to me. gusts of wind blowing the gravel and grit into our eyes, mouths everywhere.  all i could think is that we still have 11k to go to the nearest road, we cant see a thing so no one can get to us and my ankle was useless.  (note to parents - the same one that I twisted a week before we left, its had a few twinges everyday so think it was still pretty weak, so the second i went over it just gave out).  Steve shoveled codine into me and people nearby offered bandages (one was a physiotherapist who stayed with us, its amazing who you meet!), we bound up my foot and ankle as tight as it would go and steve picked me up.  as some kind of amazing human crutch he supported the majority of my weight as we slide down the side of the volcano, people were around watching but there isn't much you can do once you're on the move on a scree slope, keep your knees relaxed, steve steered as much as he could on random rocks around and we almost skied down.  the pain, i've felt nothing like it in a long time, feeling sick to the stomach but you just have to have to keep going.

Suddenly the cloud lifted a little and below us was the emerald lakes, we had heard the storyies about their colour, but it was still unbelieably beautiful.  In a land scape so barren they stood out like jewels.

Steve was incredible, i don't know how I would have got off the mountain without him, constantly thinking of ways to support me better, we had many people offering us pain killers and help, one guy even offered to make a chair with steve to carry me down, but i really wanted to do it myself, plus the ground as we found out even when the track started again would have made this nearly impossible.

We continued onto a piece of the track that turned flat as it snaked between the mountains, another bit of climbing before slowly zigzagging down the mountains past the last hut where we had a bit of food we carried (there are many huts across this mountain pass as people can do a huge route which takes several days and sleep in these huts (called the northern circuit), we passed two on our walk) and into the forest.  Its was so dense and beautiful, very steep, lots of steps, but a stream accompanied us along the way, we saw a sign saying 3km to go and we so relieved.  Finally we had finished, in the time frame! an hour before the bus arrived!!!!! we had been walking like this for 5 hours, munching apples and left over sweets i couldnt have been happier to finish!! The bus picked us up and rattled us back to the hostel, most of the people fell asleep due to exhaustion.  We showered and hobbled out to the nearest pub where we treated ourselves to a meal and a glass of wine (me) and a beer (steve).

Yesterday we had been planning to go to a nearby village that had lovely walks but my ankle was puffy and bruised, steve insisted we stay and rest and that he'd like a day to relax too. We spent the day reading curled up infront of the fire, iceing my foot, playing games and eating.

Today we head to our next place, more next time...

Lots of love to everyone as always (hopefully no medical happenings in the next one! all my fingers and toes are crossed.)
P xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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Hazel Genner on

Congratulations to you both for your huge efforts in completing the walk! So sorry that the weather conditions deteriorated & robbed you of the spectacular views, & also that you injured your ankle Pippa. You'll be In New Plymouth by now, so hopefully some more r & r with Geoff & Janet. Maybe climbing Mt Taranaki will have to wait for a later date!. Luv Kiwi-Granny & Poppa xx

Daniele on

Hi Pippa
So glad you managed to get to the top in the clouds....reading your account reminded me of my adventure....I scrambled to the top then went down on my bottom as i was afraid to be pulled over by the wind,. I was very scared too....but, like a person around said: "you will have something to tell"....
Good luck with the continuation....I hope your leg gets better soon, with lots of TLC it should help.
Daniele in Singapore....

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