The View of Mount Doom from Mount Tongariro

The Road to Mount Tongariro

There are some things we never had the time or inclination to do back in England – taking a seven hour hike up the side of a mountain was one of them. Only weeks after leaving the UK, however, we found ourselves battling up steep slopes and slipping over loose volcanic rock on our epic journey up Mount Tongariro in New Zealand.

Mount Tongariro, New Zealand

Taking on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Even though I’ve never been good with early mornings there’s something secret and special about getting up before sunrise and whizzing down dark roads towards a new adventure – it reminds me of childhood holidays in Devon or Cornwall. On this particular day we were up at 5am for the drive to Tongariro National Park to beat the sunrise and start hiking the Tongariro Crossing.

The enormity of what lay ahead hit me as we stepped out of the car into the frigid air; I looked up at Mount Ngauruhoe, which featured as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings film, and took a deep breath – this was going to be a tough climb.

Mount Doom, New Zealand

Mount Doom

We had decided to walk the popular Alpine Crossing, which leads you up Mount Tongariro giving a great view of Mount Ngauruhoe and the Emerald Lakes. This is supposed to be one of the best one-day hikes in New Zealand, but it’s not without its dangers: Tongariro and Ngauruhoe are active volcanoes; in fact half of the crossing is shut because Mount Tongariro has been spewing smoke and chucking out red-hot lumps of rock recently.

 The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand

Although the climb starts off relatively easy, about an hour in you reach steep flights of stairs which give way to rough paths littered with boulders, loose pebbles and blocks of black volcanic rock – at times I felt the road ahead was almost vertical. Clinging to the edge of the mountain, my chest heaving as I fought to catch my breath I could focus only on the physical effort of setting one foot in front of the next, feeling my calves screech and my thighs contract. The wind whipped at my face as I concentrated on picking over rocks and continuing to breathe.

Andrew on Mount Tongariro

Conquering Mount Tongariro

The View of Mount Doom from Mount Tongariro

It’s so rare for me to be completely in the moment, for my mind not to be racing ahead, cycling through never-ending lists of tasks to be done, deadlines to meet, places to get to and from. But walking up that mountain I felt my mind finally fall still and my brain start to unclog. When we finally got to the top and took in the view of the volcano, the red, black and brown rocks contrasting with the emerald lakes I stood triumphantly, taking everything in.  I couldn’t imagine my old self doing something like this. That’s the thing with being here, of having changed things so radically – it’s changing me too.

Emerald Lakes, Tongariro

The Emerald Lakes

Back home my feet walk the same paths, my eyes fixed rigidly ahead. Now that I’m travelling I see the road widen and split off in all directions; feeling starts to flood back into me like blood finally pumping into constricted limbs; the blinkers fall from my eyes and I see finally what I’ve been chasing: that feeling of being really amazed by the world around me – of standing on a mountain under a clear blue sky on the other side of the planet.

On Top of Mount Tongariro, New Zealand

Amy on Mount Tongariro, New Zealand

We set off on a seven hour journey up Mount Tongariro when we hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand - here's the story and pictures

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16 Comments
  • Beast
    Posted at 16:35h, 31 March Reply

    What a view, well done for trekking up there, looks like it was worth the pain! X

    • Amy
      Posted at 00:45h, 01 April Reply

      Thanks Beast – it was definitely worth it. I fell asleep as soon as we got back in the car afterwards; it was exhausting!

  • Heather
    Posted at 17:32h, 01 April Reply

    Well done that is a major effort!!!
    PS love the pose!

    • Amy
      Posted at 23:19h, 02 April Reply

      Thanks Heather, I felt as triumphant as I looked! Hope all’s well in London; I miss city life and can’t wait to get to Melbourne and Sydney now.

  • Jo
    Posted at 21:53h, 01 April Reply

    What an achievement! Those mountains look pretty menacing with their volcanic inclinations. I guess all the trekking/climbing you’ve done so far has been useful training. How long did it take?

    • Amy
      Posted at 23:17h, 02 April Reply

      Hi Jo, it took about 7 hours and was absolutely exhausting – we both had to have a nap afterwards. I’m pretty sure I’m already a lot fitter than I was before we left the UK!

  • Ann
    Posted at 11:18h, 05 April Reply

    Well done both of you! A climb up Snowdon would be pretty tame after that!

    • Andrew
      Posted at 12:12h, 05 April Reply

      Yeah, there’s no café at the top of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing either, you have to wait till you get home for tea!

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