Thank you to TRM inmate Peter for his photos to tell the story better than we can, but we will explain anyway…
Last week TRM had two anglers staying for trout fishing local rivers. Usual stuff… But for his last day Peter decided he would walk the Tongariro Crossing. He had walked the crossing before so knew what he was in for. He was 64 years young and after a week wading the Tongariro River pools, he was in good shape to easily manage the physical demands.
The weather was favourable but we warned him that Easter Sunday would be one of the busiest times of the year. Apologies to all the shuttle bus operators (Hi Colin) but we try to give TRM inmates any other options that would not be so crowded such as the combination of a waterfall walk, a lake walk and a river walk – i.e. Taranaki Falls loop track -2 hours, Lake Rotopounamu loop – 2 hours, Tongariro River Trail – 2 hours. Other options included the Kaimanawa tracks – Urchin Track or Umukarikari Track but this was the start of “the roar” – deer shooting season – so we did not encourage those. But of course on Easter Sunday they would be crowded too and anglers deserve somewhere more secluded.
So after considering the options we showed him TRM’s brief video of the climb to the crater lake on Mt. Ruapehu. He was sold! The cost of the ride up on the Sky Waka gondola replaced what he would have needed for the shuttle bus. Our main worry was the weather conditions at altitude – was it too cold by April 4th, or too windy, or involved frozen ice-covered glaciers needing crampons?
Note Peter’s walking poles – old ski poles usually allocated at TRM as wading poles for Tongariro anglers. These are strongly recommended to improve stability in case the wind picks up.
Peter arrived at the Whakapapa village about an hour before the start time of 10 am and was delighted to see the gondola was operating earlier so that gave him additional time. Normally the ascent/descent has to be completed in a six-hour window as the gondolas operate between 10 am and the last one finishes at 4 pm.
We were so relieved Peter easily completed the climb in that time frame and was back recovering his thirst and providing his update plus the photos to tell the story. He was chuffed at the experience. There were some others also climbing the mountain but they did not detract from the whole rewarding mountaineering experience. He was certain it had to be a lot better than coping with about 3000 tourists queuing on the Tongariro Crossing.
Any other keen trampers should consider this option, particularly on busy weekends. We need to add we would not recommend it for everyone – Peter is a very seasoned world traveller who recognises the value of a good tourist experience more than most. We were pleased to hear his enthusiasm and he awarded it top marks!
But a critical word of warning – it is only recommended for those tourists with a mature sensible attitude to assess any risk factors and need to be fit and healthy. i.e. It is not for the foolhardy – not that we would ever suggest that on the Tongariro Crossing – see photo below!
TRM’s six year old video (filmed before the gondola ride replaced the old chair lifts): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3vfYLq1G50