Title courtesy of John
We had first seen the pictures of the Tongariro Crossing on Facebook earlier in the week. Our first thoughts? That’s a lot of snow. We’re not hugely prepared for snow.
In fact, we weren’t anywhere near prepared for the crossing at all. In summer, it is a popular tramping walk and takes about six hours. In the winter, it requires guides, pick axes, crampons, and, on a good day, takes about eight hours.
We had a very early start. At five in the morning we packed up for National Park. On arrival the sun was just rising allowing the most beautiful views of the mountain and volcanoes we would be climbing.
Fitted with boots and crampons we boarded the bus. Tori and I were split up. Nope. We would not allow this. We were going to complete this together and so executed an immaculate reunion and both joined the ‘All Blues’ team.
Our guide told us that we would wonder down the track a little way from the group to put on a crampons. Forty-five minutes later we actually stopped and put them on.
Then we began the walk. The day before had been tricky we were told as fresh snow had fallen and so the tracks had to be made and an extra hour and a half had been added to the day. Still, for us, the track was good but still mainly narrow and either side was deep, deep snow.
We trundled on taking in the gorgeous scenery.
Then the first hill commenced. Walking uphill in snow is nothing to walking on the dry ground. It’s slow and arduous work. Our guide Jonno, from Leicester, kept us distracted on the hour long climb by getting us to name films/songs that included colours or numbers. Something so simple really is effective.
The main problem, however, is the breaks. You get about 30 seconds and they are few and far between. They were worried we wouldn’t get back before dark like the previous group.
The sun shone intensely.
Before the final ‘big’ climb we regrouped with everyone and learnt how to deal with sliding down the slopes should it happen. Just remember to pick up your feet, put your ice axe over your body with the small bit into your shoulders and then turn. It probably wasn’t in that order and I couldn’t help thinking that I would just flail around if it happened to me.
That final hill was the worst. Almost vertical and slippery, it required all our strength and a lot of ice axe work. But at the top we were promised a lunch break and a stunning view. We definitely got one of the two. The view over lake Taupo, the volcanoes and the other mountains was incredibly inspiring. The lunch break was barely ten minute. After three hours solid walking? Yes we thought it was a joke too.
Quickly we were back on our feet and going down hill into powdery snow.
Still we got some pretty spectacular views.
The next section was…surreal. They told us to remove our crampons and that we could slide down the rest of the mountain. It would be fun, they said. But if we didn’t want to ruin our waterproof trousers we could walk down. Honestly, walking wasn’t even an option. Seeing the first few go before us made Tori and I eager to give sliding a go. Our slippery trousers ensured we zoomed down the slope, crashing into each other. SO much fun. Time to walk. NO. It is impossible to even try and stand. You manage it and within five seconds you are on your bum again. This went on for twenty minutes. The slope wasn’t even smooth but full of rocks and bumps. At one point I attempted to walk on the snow and my foot went down to my hip into snow, totally stuck. Tori slid on and left me to be dug out by some poor stranger. This was also the point that at some moment I slid onto, and then with, my crampon resulting in the most horrific bruising I have seen. Finally we reached the hut. Bruised, wet feet and shredded trousers.
Only two hours to go. Oh why.
The ‘slide’ should really have been the finale because the next two hours was on, pretty much, the same terrain as before but without crampons and with the determination to KEEP STANDING. But we bonded with others. Tori with Sam. Me with John, Abby, Mike, some Dutch people and a lovely Irish lady. Pretty much anyone who wanted to listen.
We finally reached the end, eight hours later and was welcomed with a beer. Although at that point food and to have dry feet might have been better.
National Park is minuscule. We were staying in Park Lodge. Just before we arrived I had received a message from an old friend who I hasn’t seen for eight years saying that, on the off chance I was in National Park, I needed to let her know. It’s so fantastic to meet up with someone in such a remote and bizarre place. I loved catching up with you Jules and hopefully with see you on the way up!