We anticipated this hike in New Zealand for several years as it is listed in National Geographic’s Worlds Best Day Hikes. Weather is a big determiner and we were thrilled with a forecast of 75 degrees and sunny. A pre-dawn departure was necessary to beat the heat so headlamps were helpful on the trail until the sun peeked over the mountain. The Tongariro Alpine crossing is a twelve-mile trek through ancient lava fields and active volcanos.
Steam rises from vents all across the mountain which adds to the beauty and eeriness of this stark area. After an hour of easy hiking a steep climb aptly named The Devils Staircase has numerous posted warning signs before the ascent. Are you really prepared for this hike?
Stephen and I trained for months in anticipation but the signs were a reminder that this is no walk in the park!
The climb was difficult but the view made up for our pounding chests and shortness of breath. Our first photo opportunity was in front of Mount Ngauruhoe (also named Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings). We continued slowly across loose falling rock and I watched as young and old alike lost their footing and tumbled down the scree.
As we continued the trek we got our first glimpse of Emerald Lake.
It was stunning and a perfect place to picnic.
The food and the rest were both delicious but we still had another four hours of hiking. By hour six my toes were smashed and screaming for relief. The constant downhill motion was taking its toll on my feet and knees. My only option was to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving. And then just before the end of the hike when I was at my lowest, a lush green waterfall appeared. I tore off my shoes and set my feet in the cool water and soaked for an hour.
There are no words to describe this moment but I hope the photo embraces my relief and pleasure.
Stephen and I both agree this hike is worthy of its many accolades. It’s a tough climb with striking beautiful scenery.