Forum Index > Trip Reports > Part 4 NZ North Island Taranaki, Ruapehu, Mt Doom, Tongariro
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Gimpilator
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PostSun Mar 20, 2016 7:46 am 
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Mount Taranaki on the west coast of the north island is one of the most symmetrical volcanic cones in the world.  It was also named Mount Egmont by Captain Cook in 1770 and is known by both names.  After Heather concluded her obligations in Wellington we drove to Taranaki National Park.  We were glad to be back on the north island.  We actually prefer it over the south island.

Taranaki
Taranaki
stairs
stairs

The trail starts out in the form of access road and crosses several large folds/gullies in the slope.  The road terminates near a large antenna facility and private climbers lodge.  Above that we gained elevation steeply.  I was surprised when we came to long flights of wooden stairs that went up a dryfall and then steep scree.  We passed the level of mossy ground cover and above that it was bare rock and scree.

on The Lizard
on The Lizard
ledge above
ledge above

We came to the base of a rocky rib known as The Lizard.  Here the route leaves the scree to scramble up the nice blocky class 2 rib with large steps.  Historically Māori would not climb to the peak of Taranaki because they feared a giant lizard lived at the summit.  We kept on alert but didn't see anything unusual.  Near the top of The Lizard we came to a nice exposed ledge which rounded a corner and let out into a partially collapsed and snow filled crater with a higher cone rising from the center.

snow in the collapsed crater
snow in the collapsed crater
summit rock
summit rock
summit leap
summit leap

We  crossed the snow patch and went up the loose rock of the higher cone to reach the summit.  A low cloud deck was obscuring most of our view of the Tasman Sea, but we could still see it to the north.  It was a lovely morning and we spent a long time speaking to a German girl who was in the middle of a 6 month stay.  This was her first summit ever and her excitement was contagious.  It was a powerful reminder of why we climb and hike.

Taranaki summit
Taranaki summit

We descended the route and now there were a lot of people coming up.  Part of the way down we entered the clouds and a full white-out.  Now there were more people descending than going up.  Apparently a lot of people turned around in the white-out.  I was thankful for our early start.  Back at the visitor center we refilled our water jugs and then began the drive to Ruapehu, the highest peak on the north island.

encroaching clouds
encroaching clouds
white out
white out

The following day we departed the ski area on the south side of the mountain.  Ruapehu is massive active stratovolcano with frequent minor eruptions.  At 9177 feet it is the highest peak on New Zealand's north island.  The last major eruption was in 1996.  The top is so broad that there are 10 named summits.  The highest is called Tahurangi and is best accessed from the south.  Yet for some reason, this side of the mountain apparently sees a lot less hikers than the north side plateau.

Ruapehu lifts
Ruapehu lifts

The crater is a third of a mile at the widest point.  After each eruption it fills with water and turns into a lake.  Brave souls used to swim in the hot water until the early 1950's when scientists discovered that the lake was becoming more and more acidic.  Then on Christmas Eve in 1953 the acid weakened a sediment dam and burst out, creating a small lahar.  The lahar traveled downslope and damaged the railway bridge over Whangaehu River.  Shortly thereafter, the bridge collapsed under the weight of a passenger train carrying 285 people. 151 of them were killed, more than half.  This is known as the Tangiwai Disaster.

steaming rocks
steaming rocks

We followed the lift access road to the highest lift.  Traversing over to Skyline Ridge proved to be problematic.  A deep hidden gully filled with icy snow blocked our progress.  Crampons and ice axes were down in the van.  I tested the snow, but could not cross it safely.  We had to descend a hundred feet to a less steep area and then still had to work across it by sliding on our butts.

edge of the glacier
edge of the glacier
Mangaehuehu Glacier
Mangaehuehu Glacier

The ridge above us looked kind of exciting with all the fresh steam coming off wet rocks in the morning sun and wispy clouds swirling about.  I followed the crest after a little bit of scrambling and Heather worked around the easier left side.  To my right was the Mangaehuehu Glacier which had a few crevasses and above it was Girdlestone Peak, one of the 10 named summits.

Girdlestone Peak
Girdlestone Peak
summit visible
summit visible
Ruapehu summit block
Ruapehu summit block

There was one band of rock about about 20 feet high we had to work through befor we came to the upper caldera ridge crest.  We turned left and the summit was visible in the mist.  When we came to it I was ecstatic that the crater lake was visible below us.  Huge plumes of steam were coming off it and a giant outlet waterfall was putting up yellow gases.  Heather said it was the best summit view she had ever had.  At least the most amazing.

summit plateau
summit plateau
crater lake
crater lake
yellow waterfall steam
yellow waterfall steam
lake steam
lake steam

I also noticed that something along the west shore of the lake was quickly being dissolved in the acidic waters and leaving a dark streak across the surface of the lake as it drifted towards the outlet waterfall.  Once again we were reluctant to leave this summit and spent a good amount of time there.

descending
descending

During the descent we were unable to safely cross the icy snow gully, so we went a long way down beside the edge of it, until the bottom of the snow.  From that point we were able to rejoin the lift access road.

Pukeonake
Pukeonake

We had some time in the afternoon so we hiked up Pukeonake, a small eroded crater west of Mount Ngauruhoe.  The brush was thick and not much remained of the original trail visible on our maps.  There were some interesting raised moss mounds near the summit with various plants growing in the microcosm.  During the descent Heather had a visitor in the form of a fearless green cicada.

moss mounds
moss mounds
microcosm
microcosm
cicada visitor
cicada visitor

The following morning we prepared for Togariro.  Tongariro crossing is one of the 9 famous Great Walks.  We had been warned about the crowds in this area, but failed to heed the advice to start really really early.  We got to the trailhead around 7am and there were already crowds of people milling about.  I was dismayed to see buses arriving 2 or 3 at a time and unloading scores of people.

Mount Doom
Mount Doom
aka Ngauruhoe
aka Ngauruhoe

We hurried to get ready and then hit the trail.  Fortunately it was wide enough to easily pass slower groups for much of the way.  Our first objective was Mount Ngauruhoe and I had been warned about the rock fall danger on the north face if a lot of people are on the route.  For this reason we rushed to reach the pass and must have passed nearly 200 people in the first half hour.   You might know Ngauruhoe by it's other name, Mount Doom.  This is where Frodo disposed of the eternally problematic One Ring.

north face
north face
red band ahead
red band ahead
steam vent
steam vent

From the pass we hiked up loose scree until we came to somewhat firmer rock with occasional big loose chunks.  A couple of early risers were ahead of us, but thankfully not many.  We climbed past a red band and then entered the space between the inner crater and a partial outer ring.  Consulting the map we realized that the true summit was part of the out ring, but other hikers appeared to only be scaling the inner ring.

outer rim
outer rim
inner crater rim seen from outer rim
inner crater rim seen from outer rim
more steam vents
more steam vents
Ruapehu and Tama Lakes
Ruapehu and Tama Lakes
Ngauruhoe summit
Ngauruhoe summit
distant Rotopaunga and Blue Lake
distant Rotopaunga and Blue Lake

We hiked up past some steam vents and then found the true summit.  Ruapehu was visible to the south beyond the Tama Lakes.  After copiuos photographs we went over to the inner crater rim.  It was a perfect circle.  We traced the lower rim and noted that large crowds were forming nearby.  I was anxious to get off the peak before they started descending and knocking rocks loose.  We ran down the scree chutes which was fun except for when we came to a few harder sections which were worn a bit thin on scree.

inner caldera
inner caldera
crowds forming
crowds forming

At the base we stopped for a snack.  As we were eating I heard someone yelling back up on the mountain and then a lot of people yelling.  A large rock had been dislodged near the top of the slope and was bouncing and gaining speed as at careened towards two people half way up the slope.  The rock was big, at least several feet wide and I feared for the people below it, but they lunged out of the way and everyone was alright.  Several minutes later a conga line of 40 people started up the slope.  What's wrong with this picture?

conga line (view full size)
conga line (view full size)
conga line (view full size)
conga line (view full size)
bolted chain
bolted chain

We hiked across South Crater and up to the top of Red Crater going past a bolted chain on the ridge.  Looking down into Red Crater we were amused by an unusual rock formation there.  We could also see Rotopaunga above Blue Lake which was our next objective.  There were now about a hundred people between us and the Emerald Lakes.  It all looked so surreal.  They were moving at a snails pace, unsure of their footing in the loose volcanic scree.  One woman was clearly alarmed, “Why is there steam coming out of this rock?  I don't like this!”  I decided to run past them.  Crowds stress me out.  Heather and I ran down to Emerald Lakes in about 2 minutes while everyone else stared at us in disbelief.

Red Crater summit
Red Crater summit
inside Red Crater
inside Red Crater
It's a girl!  :lol:
It's a girl!  lol.gif
the hordes of Mordor
the hordes of Mordor
crowds in a surreal setting
crowds in a surreal setting
Emerald Lakes
Emerald Lakes

We continued across Central Crater over to Blue Lake and were happy to leave the trail and the hordes of Mordor behind us.  It was nice to be alone again.  We hiked around the west shore up to the top of Rotopaunga and then had another break on the far side of the lake.  Here we were close to the north trailhead, the other side of the famous alpine crossing.  But we would not be descending that way for we had one more peak to bag.  Mount Tongariro.

Blue Lake
Blue Lake
Rotopaunga
Rotopaunga
Rotopaunga summit
Rotopaunga summit
Red Crater above Emerald Lakes
Red Crater above Emerald Lakes

We came back along the east shore of the lake and then went back up to the summit of Red Crater.  From there a side trail goes over to Mount Tongariro.  The clouds were building and obscuring the view of Ngauruhoe and Tongariro.  We followed a ridge and entered a white-out.  I turned on the GPS to confirm that we were on the true summit.  The hike back to the van was uneventful.  The hordes of Mordor had finally dispersed.

pinnacles near Mount Tongariro
pinnacles near Mount Tongariro
Tongariro summit rocks
Tongariro summit rocks
boardwalk
boardwalk

This was our last peak in New Zealand.  It's not likely that I will ever return.  The two most memorable experiences we had, which were non-mountain related were A) stalking and viewing at night, two wild kiwi birds at Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary, and B) viewing glowworms close-up in Waitomo Cave and Ruakuri Cave.  We felt that Waitomo was a bit overcrowded and Ruakuri was a much nicer tour with more value and enjoyment.  Highly recommended!

Part 1 Hawaii - Mauna Kea, Loa, Ulu, lava tubes, petroglyphs

Part 2 - New Zealand South Island, Kaikoura, Edoras and more

Part 3 - NZ South Island, Single Cone, Sebastopol, Torlesse

Part 5 – Fiji after Cyclone Winston

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http://www.summitpost.org/user_page.php?user_id=25744
http://www.peakbagger.com/climber/ClimbListC.aspx?cid=2650&sort=elevft&u=ft&j=-1&y=9999

Keep climbing mountains and don't slip!
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Anish
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Anish
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PostSun Mar 20, 2016 7:46 am 
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Taranaki in the morning light
Taranaki in the morning light
Taranaki Crater
Taranaki Crater
Summit Ridge on Tahurungi
Summit Ridge on Tahurungi
Ruapehu
Ruapehu
Taranaki at sunset from Tongariro
Taranaki at sunset from Tongariro
Starting the Tongariro route
Starting the Tongariro route
Mt. Doom!
Mt. Doom!
Steam Vents on Ngaurahoe
Steam Vents on Ngaurahoe
Mt. Ruapehu from Ngaurahoe
Mt. Ruapehu from Ngaurahoe
"Skiwi" crossing, apparently
"Skiwi" crossing, apparently

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"Our way is not soft grass. It's a mountain path with lots of rocks. But it goes upwards, forward, toward the sun." -Ruth Westheimer
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Fletcher
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PostSun Mar 20, 2016 12:32 pm 
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Nice! The best installment yet, IMO. So glad you're such a LotR nerd like me, love seeing all these locations from the movies.
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Magellan
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Magellan
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PostSun Mar 20, 2016 2:05 pm 
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Lovely report and pictures, you two.  up.gif  up.gif  Very fun interspersing LOtR references.
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Anish
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Anish
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PostSun Mar 20, 2016 5:43 pm 
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Fletcher wrote:
So glad you're such a LotR nerd like me, love seeing all these locations from the movi

I think Adam wishes he had a dollar for every time I said "We're going to climb/have climbed/see Mt. Doom!"

--------------
"Our way is not soft grass. It's a mountain path with lots of rocks. But it goes upwards, forward, toward the sun." -Ruth Westheimer
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Doppelganger
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PostMon Mar 21, 2016 8:03 am 
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Just saw the credit on the PCT guidebook Anish, congrats on that and the TRs!

http://www.yogisbooks.com/pacific-crest-trail/pct-yogis-pacific-crest-trail-handbook
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Anish
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Anish
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PostMon Mar 21, 2016 8:36 pm 
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Doppelganger wrote:
Just saw the credit on the PCT guidebook Anish, congrats on that and the TRs!

Thanks! Yogi does a great job with that guide and it's invaluable to hundreds of people planning their hikes. I am honored to be a part of that.

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"Our way is not soft grass. It's a mountain path with lots of rocks. But it goes upwards, forward, toward the sun." -Ruth Westheimer
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mbravenboer
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PostMon Mar 21, 2016 8:50 pm 
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The view of the acidic crater lake is truly gorgeous! I can imagine Heather's opinion on that view!

Are you allowed to go down to the lake, or is that unwise anyway?
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Frodo Barefoot
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PostWed Mar 30, 2016 6:52 am 
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For some reason I imagined NZ as completely lush all over; that's what I get for believing what I see on tv.  Thanks for clearing that up smile.gif Excellent reports!
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Part 4 NZ North Island Taranaki, Ruapehu, Mt Doom, Tongariro
  Happy Birthday Stefan, PTLateHiker, The Monk, Pikawhisperer!
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