I got lucky on New Zealand's biggest volcano

13 Apr

I GOT LUCKY ON NEW ZEALAND’S BIGGEST VOLCANO Climbing a volcano is just like going to a wild party. It requires a carefully planned outfit, plenty of fluids, caution if you decide to get high and, in the end, it either turns bad without warning or you get lucky.

I used to go overseas to party. Nowadays, I venture abroad to explore the world’s greatest natural wonders and my favourites to date have been volcanoes. The most recent volcano I climbed was New Zealand’s biggest: Mt Ruapehu. It’s still active and lies next to two other volcanoes, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro. The region is called Tongariro National Park which is around 45 minutes south of Taupo.

The best thing about this national park is that the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed on parts of both Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe and when you watch dark clouds circle the top of Mt Ngauruhoe’s summit, it feels as if you are really standing in Tolkien’s Mordor.

Because I was slightly pressed for time (I had to get to the Hobbiton at Tauranga by the end of the day), I completed the Skyline Route which is an unmarked climb that starts from the top of the chairlift in Mt Ruapehu’s ski area and only takes around one to one and-a-half hours. You can only walk this track during summer.

The track is unformed so it involves scrambling over large boulders, slipping up loose scree and persisting through sandy slopes. It gets colder with every step on the ascent. There is an unusual rock formation at the top of the track and, if you’re daring (this is not recommended), you can jump across a fragile gap and onto a track that reaches the top of the formation for an incredible photograph (pictured right).

I reached the top of the track to see a glacier on Mt Raupehu and an amazing view of Mt Ngauruhoe as dark clouds approached and consumed its summit. I quickly started the descent and reached shelter at base camp just as rain started to pour. I was reminded of the time I descended Mt Fuji in three and-a-half hours of exhausting heavy rain and was relieved that I managed to avoid harsh weather on Mt Ruapehu.

When I woke up the next morning I realised another thing climbing and partying have in common: they both make you feel terrible the next day.

There are a number of walks and tramps in the Tongariro National Park that progress from beginner to advanced.

Meads Wall Route is a common track which runs just ten minutes off the main road that leads to Mt Ruapehu’s ski area. Meads Wall is a rocky outcrop with stunning views of the valley below Mt Ngauruhoe. It was one of the filming locations for Lord of the Rings.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is another popular option which takes a full day. The 18.5 kilometre walk crosses Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe, craters, lakes and hot springs. Click the following link for more information: http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/national-parks/tongariro/

By Marissa Toohey

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