Traveling Nancy

Traveling around the world as far as I can go.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing 12/3


The people at the Chateau were able to get my poles which were water-logged when I crossed the estuary on the Abel Tasman hike to at least temporarily open for the hike today.

By the way, Bruce sent me this photo of us crossing the estuary when we hit the deeper parts. It isn’t the clearest photo, but it shows how deep we were in the water.  I think I am the one in the middle of the group of 3.


I took this photo of Tongarino from the porch near our room in the chatteau.


The shuttle picked us up at 7;00 to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  The crossing is a trek over steep volcanic terrain.  I couldn’t get an exact number, but I think there were literally hundreds and hundreds of people doing this

Here is a brief description of the hike. It was a 19.4 km hike with 2 challenging climbs.  It was definitely not a still in the park.  It was a serious hike over a mountain.  We began at Mangatepopo Valley and followed what is called a gentle  gradient (1100 meters to 1300 meters) to Soda Springs (4.4 km). Then we had a steep climb up to 1600 meters in 2 km to South Crater.  The  section from South Crater to Red Crater is known as Devil’s Staircase and has over 350 steps.  On one part of the hike we had to use a chain to help pull ourselves up the steep incline. We were trekking over layers of ancient and modern lava flows and other volcanic deposits and the tracks surface was anything but smooth.

Actually on parts of the trail we were climbing up the loosest scree I have ever traversed.  The path takes descents and ascents into and back out of two different craters, passing the Emerald Lakes and along the edge of the Blue Lake.  Hiking down to Emerald Lakes was amazing.  I had to side step most of the way. Of course  there were the young people who would just run down and not worry about the slipping they were doing.

The last two hours of the walk involve a long descent down the northern flank of the volcano,.

Here are some photos I took of this incredible day.  There are many of me because I needed to document this adventure with me actually experiencing it.

The hike began with long shadows.


I love the red on the rocks.


Here are some plants that were on the beginning of the trail.


We were still on a flat part of the track.


There was a stream nearby…


…and even a little waterfall.


We had a great view of Tongariro.


At the only toilet facility there were people lined up.


Now it was time to begin the harder part of the trek and I came to this sign.


The trail was beginning to get a bit steep.


If you look very closely you can see the people coming up the trail.


I made it to an overlook.  I took photos of a couple of guys from Brazil their and they took one of me.

We walked along the piles of lava.


Here I am by the lava.


There were many more people coming up behind me on the trail.


This photo is just a tiny example of the many, many stairs we had to climb.


Every time somebody asked me to take a photo of them, they also took one of me.


There were a group of women from all over South America and they wanted to take a photo of me with their cameras.  That seems to happen frequently even though I am not the oldest one on the trail.  Anyway, later on they asked me to take a photo of them on a rock.  Then they took one of me.


Of course we had to have photos taken of all of us.20-south-american-woman-and-nancy

Here is a panoramic view of some of the lava.


I made it to South Crater (1660 meters high).  There was fog all around us and it was pretty windy.



When I sat down for a bit to eat, I saw this marriage proposal below me.


On the next portion the wind really started blowing. I had to get out a jacket, head scarf, and gloves.  My jacket almost blew away when I was trying to put it on.


I found one lone flower slightly behind this rock.


Another panorama with a cool rock structure.


We all used a railing to pull ourselves up this portion.


I started to take my camera out to get a photo of red crater when the wind really picked up and we were engulfed in fog.  So now it is more difficult to even see the people coming up over the hill.


I had already seen a glimpse of the view and I was convinced that if I waited for a while, the fog would lift.   I didn’t want to miss taking time to really enjoy this site.  I was right.


What a sight.



There was still a lot more climbing to do.

Then I reached the sign that said we had 11.3 km to go.


We had to go down the scree.  It was really difficult.


We had made it to Emerald Lakes. I walked out to the edge.  There were 3 young women there who wanted their photos taken.  Then they took off their shirts and stood in the cold while I took a photo of them.  Poor Emily from Canada had slipped on the scree and really scrapped her leg.


I used their camera to take several photos of them (no – not with my camera).  They had their backs to me for most of the photos and then covered themselves with their hands as I took one more front view. It was really cold out.  These young people can take the cold much better than I can.

The also took a photo of me all bundled in clothing.


And another.


The views were breathtaking.


It was absolutely amazing to see the steam rising from the rocks.






I just couldn’t get over the steam rising from the center of this crater.


The people trying to get down the hill on the scree look like ants.


The views sure made it worth the climbing and the struggle coming down.


Finally we came to Blue Lake.


I was pretty tired by now and still had quite a way to go.  At least it was going to be downhill for the most part.

When I came to the little patch of snow, I had to have a photo taken again.43-nancy-at-snow

This small patch of flowers was like the one single flower I had seen earlier.


We had some beautiful views of the valley below.


Here are more steaming rocks. I was told that if I could get close to them, the rocks would feel hot.


I thought I could make it down in time for the 4:30 bus but when I came to the sign that said 45 more minutes, and I only had 35 left, I decided to just slow down for the walk through the woods.  My feet were hurting quite a bit so stepping lightly was a good idea.

Going slowly paid off because I saw a Kererū which is an endemic New Zealand pigeon.  One of the guys on the trail said that they were not afraid of humans.

47-kereru - NZ Pigeon

I was noticing more as I walked slowly.  This is a pretty plant.


When I was pretty close to the end, I saw this sign.


I had no idea what a Lahar was.  I thought it maybe meant something about the rushing water in the streams I was passing.  I moved pretty quickly through that section.


I finally made it to the car park and waited for the 5:30 shuttle.  I did some stretches as I waited.

The shuttle driver told me that a Lahar is a type of mudflow or debris flow composed of a slurry of pyroclastic material, rocky debris, and water. The material flows down from a volcano, typically along a river valley.  One had just recently occurred during a recent eruption when a whole lake was formed.

When I got back to the Chateau, I went to the sauna for a while.  Then Jan and I went to the pub and shared a fish plate dinner.  It was very good.

Jan and I have determined that this was likely one of the most difficult hikes we had ever done.  It is certainly one of the most beautiful. As I write this post, I am remembering the one in Patagonia that took me 11 hours.  My muscles are telling me that I must be a bit crazy.  And my brain is telling me that writing 3 posts in one night and staying up until 3:00 am is definitely crazy.  Tomorrow I plan to sleep-in a bit, pack my bag, and take the train the rest of the way across the north island.

Author: Nancy Panitch

Traveling has been a passion of Nancy Panitch's life and she loves seeing how people in other cultures live. Her travels have taken her to many places within the United States, Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa. Being around people inspires her and she has much gratitude for the kindred Souls that are joining together with her in body, mind, and heart. She moved from Chicago to Portland, Oregon in 1982. It was one of the best decisions of her life. While in Portland she stays very, VERY busy. She volunteers (Inter-Religious Action Network, Human Rights Council, & ushering for various theaters); attends a Unitarian Universalist church; goes hiking with groups (Cascade Prime Timers & Trails Club of Oregon) and also with individual friends. Book groups, movie group, and bridge groups occupy her time as well. Her quiet activities include yoga, knitting, Sudoku, and reading. She enjoys all of these activities, but making time to see her wonderful 4 grandchildren takes priority over it all. She is happy to share this blog and hopes to encourage others to travel.

4 thoughts on “Tongariro Alpine Crossing 12/3

  1. I am so happy for you that you got to do the crossing. Eric, Cher and JJ did it but I couldn’t with my knees. My job was to pick them up with ice cold beer. I do my job well.


  2. You are intrepid!


  3. You go girl! Ann


  4. Wow, Nancy so fantastic you are doing this trek. >


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.