After you take one look at the mountains, you will see why the Tongariro Crossing is deemed to be one of the best day hikes in NZ if not THE best. Mount Ruapehu, which is still considered to be an active volcano, was snow capped, with a 150cm base on its ski runs. Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, which are not as tall as Ruapehu, also showed a dusting of snow.
The trail started with a flat walk up to a crater. Then it was a steep and steady climb up and into the crater itself. At this point, the sun was out and the view of Ruapehu, which was now towering over us, was incredible. We were completely surrounded by Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngauruhoe. As we continued along the trail, now marked with poles, we climbed up and over uneven ground, shaped by the lava flow. Finally, we reached the highest point of the crossing and we were treated to a breathtaking 360 degree view. It felt like we were on top of the world! We started to see steam rising from the ground beneath our feet. The soil was warm to the touch. We stopped here for a quick break and to take in the view.
We then skidded down the scree slope towards the Emerald Lakes, a trio of turquiose coloured pools. The smell of sulphur became more evident and more steam vents could be seen. This was the perfect spot for lunch.
After we got our sugar levels back up, we were ready to hit the trail again. We clambered up the slopes of the Blue Lake, then onto a track covered with snow!!! Yup, we found snow, and quite a lot of it!! As we decended lower and lower, the snow gave way to a track with tall, overgrown grass on either side. We felt like Hobbits as the grass actually reached over our shoulders at times! We reached the Ketetahi Hut in good time, stopped for a quick drink, then headed on down the hill.
The last leg of the track took us past hot streams and large steam vents before winding its way through a thick forest. We were pretty pooped by the time we reached the parking lot!!!! The sight in the parking lot was hillarious! All the other folks on the track that had finished before us were strewn across any and every patch of grass there was, with their gear spread out around them. We happily joined them, of course!!!
It was a great hike and a great day --definately one of the most beautiful hikes we've ever done.