Tongariro Crossing in REAL WEATHER!

Trip Start Dec 01, 2009
Trip End Jan 23, 2010

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Where I stayed
Kip's OPC!

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mark writing this time!
It's kind of a home coming for me--a return to National Park and my brudda Kip takes me way back to 1986. I was an exchange student then, Kip my host and Mt. Ruapehu the place I first learned to ski.

We met up with Kip at the local backpackers hostel in National Park for a hearty egg breakfast to fuel us for our intended outing: the "must do" Tongariro Crossing. The weather looked questionable but was forecasted to improve so we went for it.

Kip was the largely the same as I remember, although taller, deeper voiced and with a smoother head. He still is energetic, fun-silly, and a bloody good host.

After dropping our car at his place (Sir Ed Hillary's Outdoor Pursuit Center: another spot of fond memories for me), we drove up to Mangatepopo trail head intent on climbing the saddle between Mts. Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. Our climb went up trail amidst alpine tuft grass and mosses interspersed with newer, old and older-still lava flows. The most recent flow from Ngauruhoe was in the 1970's, while neighboring Mt. Ruapehu had a significant eruption in 2006. The clouds swirled around us and seemed to be lifting as we ascended--a good sign. But not really.  At the saddle the wind grew fierce: actually lifting Wynne off her feet--time to add more rocks to her pack!

We dropped down to a small crater lake and out of the wind for a cuppa coffee: freshly brewed by Kip!  Also enjoyed some chocolate, good cheese and sausage. Then we dropped further to the Emerald Lakes and Blue Lake. The wind's constant shifting allowed us different but brief views. The landscape of "red crater" was quite desolate except for a few flowers, reminding us of Death Valley but with more weather.

As we started to descend the other side of Mt. Tongariro the weather got worse (maybe just different). Can't say we really suffered.  I think we smiled through all of it. We increased our pace and sped down the mountain trying not to slip in the down-pouring rain. The end of the hike was in a sweet bit of wet "bush". Sunlight sparkled through the canopy, leaving glistening droplets on ferns in every shade of green imaginable. Kip gave us a quick botany tour then his friend, "B," picked us up to return to the OPC.

Kip put us up in the communal staff building back at the Center after serving a huge tray of appetizers followed by an excellent curry chicken and kumara dinner. We enjoyed catching up and showing each other photos. 

Congrats to Kip on his very recent promotion to OPC manager!
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Heather on

Wow, look at the emerald lake and foggy craggy terrain. Superb.

jason on

great pics, I think I am going to have to get up there and see for myself.

Ruby on

Wow! I think we may have stopped in exactly the same place for lunch next to the Emerald Lake;-) I suspect we had slightly better weather, however--I didn't go flying into the air at any point!

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