A Tramp through Tongariro

Waking to White-Out
  |  Gorp.com

It wasn't so funny the next morning. Ngauruhoe was covered, neck to ankle, in snow. Icy, slippery snow, smothering the sharply angled slopes, hiding the paths, crowning the crater—which was the route out.

"Ooooh," groaned a sleepy-eyed hiker as he peered out of the hut window. "You guys won't be going anywhere today."

But hey! We walk in Scotland in winter! We've skied in Colorado in a snowstorm! We climbed out of our sleeping bags, boiled the kettle, packed our rucksacks and were off. For some time the path stayed close to the Mangatepopo Stream and we slid and skidded and kidded ourselves that it was a great idea to be gaining height, creeping into the cloud base, when everyone else was battening down the hatches and waiting for the weather to clear.

The angle of the glacial valley increased, and the steep climb to the saddle between Mount Ngauruhoe and its sister Mount Tongariro began in earnest. After an hour of scrambling over sharp lava blocks, we popped out onto the lip of South Crater. It was like peering into porridge. Cloying, leaden, gray oatmeal. Undaunted, we consulted map and compass and edged into the mass's midst—but before we'd made any distance a figure loomed out of the gloom.

This bloke was picking ice out of his eyebrows and running his tongue over his lips to defrost them. His name was Steve and he strongly recommended that we forget about tackling the crater, which was neck-deep in meltwater, and join him on the return trip to Mangatepopo Hut. We briefly discussed our dilemma—to go on, to retreat—but Steve didn't take long to convince us that there was no point coming all this way to miss some of the best views in New Zealand.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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