Mission in Mordor

Trip Start Oct 03, 2007
Trip End Mar 19, 2008

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Friday, October 19, 2007

Snow on Mount Doom! They didn't tell you anything about this in the Lord of the Rings... Maybe Frodo and Sam should have waited until winter/spring to destroy The One Ring? Would have saved them from a lot of heat. But hey: only if they had crampons!

The shuttle bus driver decided that Mordor was too dangerous and dropped us off at the Waihohonu Traverse. Never mind, it was a nice walk, and I found good company in Anne, Yvonne and Matthias (who is a bit of Legolas look-a-like), but the path was mostly flat, not challenging and very muddy because too many orcs had trampeded on it before. Looking at Mount Doom, a crazy idea started to possess me (well, nothing unusual there!). I could clearly see that the conditions were not as bad as everyone said. Had they actually been up in Mordor recently?

I started to speed-walk to get to Whakapapa village to pick up an updated weather forecast: clear until midday tomorrow, with winds dying down further. Good! I started to walk/run to Mangatepopo (1:45h instead of 3-5h) to assess the conditions of my first col. Only a few pockets of snow, so off I was! There was still 50cm of snow in some of the craters, loads (too much without crampons) on Mount Doom, and nearly none in Red Crater (due to geothermal activity). Wow! how glad I was to do this walk!

Awesome and fast changing views of a barren and cratered plateau, mixed with total tranquility (only one person had walked the track before me that day) and beautiful vistas. The crossing took me 4:30h instead of 7h (I only stopped to take pictures) and I managed to get back to a road at dusk. No luck with the hitchhiking (well, not unexpected at night) meant that I had another 5hrs of power walking on an almost deserted road.

Some thoughts:
- Don't trust the visitor centre's judgement, make your own assessment
- Kiwis seem to do "extreme activities" only in groups
- At which point would I have needed crampons?
- At which point was the snow hip high?
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