up and over

[ed. i’ll be adding more commentary, but for now i’ll let the photos do the talking]

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today we did the tongariro alpine crossing.

the crossing is a 18.5km (11.5 mile) tramp through the tongariro national park that travels up and over the tongariro range. the park has dual world heritage for its natural features and cultural importance to the maori. the land for the park was donated to the nation in 1887 by Te Heuheu, paramount chief of the Ngati Tuiwharetoa people.

“Behold, beyond are the fires of these mountains and the lands we have held in trust for you. Take them in your care and cherish them, they are your heritage and the heritage of your children.”

the summits were all formed by volcanic eruptions. at several points along the trek you pass through areas where the mountains are still venting.

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after the alarm went off at 0530 we scrambled to get ready and met the 0630 shuttle bus to take us to trailhead.

what happened next is now referred to as the “key incident” and after today will never be spoken of again. at 0630 it is still pitch black out as we walk from our cabin to the main lodge to met the bus. we’re the last to arrive and the driver goes through the checklist: food? check, water? check, jackets? check, sunscreen? doh!. i say i will run back to the room and get ours. he says we’re out of time so jackie needs to hop on the the bus and then he will drive the bus down to our cabin to pick us up. i get back to the room, get the sunscreen out of the car and as i’m putting the car key back in my pocket notice that i can’t find the key to the cabin. i’m looking everywhere, on my hands and knees outside the door. after a few minutes the driver shouts out that we have to go. so i run back to the bus and ask jackie to get off since we can’t leave for the day without knowing where our cabin key is. we grab out stuff on the bus and step outside just as one of us finds the key. so back on the bus and off we go. we’re not out of the parking lot when i realize in the panic i have not re-locked the car. our car with my laptop in the hatch. 0638 and i’ve already had a full day. nothing to do about it now so off we head to the trailhead.

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it was still dark when we arrived at the start of the trail.

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this was the view looking back from our first summit at soda springs

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the second climb up to the south crater is ahead of us. hey – how did they know about jackie’s gas problem? mt ngauruhoe is on the right. for lord of the rings fans this is mount doom in the peter jackson movies.

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the walk across the south crater was a bit surreal.

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we stopped at the red crater for lunch even though it was only 1030. after getting this far we definitely needed some fuel.

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the photo that just shouldn’t be.

we out on a perfect day on one of the most spectacular walks in the world and i’m on my mobile.

so in my defense i’m not talking work. or to my broker. i’m asking the folks at the lodge to get my laptop out of the unlocked car for safe keeping. hopefully that’s not as bad.

in the we-live-in-amazing-times category, pretty wild that you can make a phone call on top of a volcano, no?

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after we crossed the summit at red crater we began the descent down to emerald lake. this was the most treacherous part of the tramp with a steep decent down the scree. a bit of challenge for those not equipped properly. not too hard with hiking boots and tramping poles – a different story if you’re in jeans and sneakers.

along this part of your trail if your hat blows off you buy a new hat.

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here we are at the central crater looking back at red crater and mt ngauruhoe.

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as we started our descent we could see lake taupo in the distance. ketetahi hut is in the distance in the photo on the right. the tramp that we did was just a small piece of a larger walk that takes several days. there are doc staffed huts with bunks and cooking facilities every 1/2 days journey along the trek. for us it was just a brief stop to use the loo and we’re off.

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the trail is so remote that all the trail maintenance supplies have to be brought in my helicopter. you can see a drop zone in the first photo.

we reached the trail end at a bit after 2 pm and we were back at the lodge with beers in hand by 3.

we were quite proud of ourselves for the completing the crossing and through we kept up a fine pace. that said all day we were frequently passed by kiwis that seemed to be just casually strolling along. it is becoming clear that the average level of fitness in nz is a bit above that in the states and that we need to take the estimated travel times quite seriously. we’ve yet to finish a walk in under the time estimated.

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