As of yesterday, the 25th February the Mangatepopo Road is open to the public. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing remains partially open from the Mangatepopo Road end to the Emerald Lakes. The track between Emerald Lakes and Ketetahi Road end remains closed. So at present the hike is an "out and back" route, starting and finishing at the Mangatepopo Road end.
Discovery will not be operating it's shuttle service to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing until the track is fully open or Department of Conservation decides to close the Mangatepopo Road to the public once again.
Discovery has operated the earliest daily shuttle service to the start of the Crossing for the last 10 years. We have convinced thousands of Kiwi's and travelers to wake up early and board our bus at 5.35am. Some have been very reluctant, some have been grumpy. But at the end of the hike almost all have been thrilled to experience the Crossing in relative peace and quiet without the crowds and to have completed almost all of the ascent during the cooler part of the day.
We believe going early is the best way to experience the Crossing. We will continue to convince our guests to go early. And now the Mangatepopo Road is open our guests can drive themselves to the start. Please note, there are only about 60 car parks at the Mangatepopo Road end so another good reason to go early. Once the car park is full Department of Conservation will close the road to the public.
We are hoping Department of Conservation will reopen the full Crossing very soon. If you are booking accommodation sometime into the future with Discovery and wish to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing please also book our shuttle service to guarantee a seat on our early bus just in case Department of Conservation reopens the full track.
On Wednesday, 19th
December the Department of Conservation closed the Mangatepopo Road to the public. The Mangatepopo Road end is the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and is about 7km long.
The closure is due to congestion on the road and at the car park following the partial reopening of the Crossing earlier this month, from the Mangatepopo Road end to the Emerald Lakes.
People wishing to hike the Crossing will need to take a DOC approved shuttle service, such as the Discovery shuttle
. Shuttles are also operating from National Park Village and Whakapapa Village.
At approximately 1.30pm this afternoon a small amount of ash and volcanic gas erupted from the Te Maari Crater on the North East side of Mt Tongariro. Hikers on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing viewed the eruption with some of our guests commenting just how lucky they felt witnessing such a spectacle produced by nature. Ash erupted about 2km into the air above the vent. There was no threat to life and there have been no further eruptions. I am lucky enough to enjoy a full view of Mt Tongariro from our kitchen table, and as I write there is no visual activity from the volcano.
Department of Conservation has closed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing until further notice. The first review will be held on the 24th November, in a few days time.
How do I feel about the eruption? I have been in the region all of my life, so fully accept volcanos erupt from time to time. I have two small children and do not fear for their safety at all. To be honest I would be worried if the volcanos did not let off pressure from time to time. Would this eruption stop me from enjoying the tracks and nature around Tongariro, absolutely not!
For those hikers wanting to get into the National Park for a day hike I highly recommend the Tama Lakes hike as the No. 1 alternative to the Alpine Crossing. This track travels from Dessert Road through to Whakapapa Village via the historic and the new Waihohonu Huts. You will enjoy beautiful views of Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe, a diverse and interesting landscape, and the stunning Tama Lakes.
People often ask me “when is the best time to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?” My short answer is always November, just after the Lakes have thawed out. This is my favourite time on the Crossing. During the winter months the Emerald Lakes and the Blue Lake are completely frozen over and covered with snow. Sometime during November (every year is different) the lakes thaw out, but snow remains around the edges for some time. This presents the most beautiful contrast of the blue and emerald colours of the lakes with the white snow surrounding the lakes. On a nice day this spectacle is simply magnificent. The contrast of snow surrounding the Red Crater is equally magnificent. Today Michelle and Rita from Canada described the Crossing as “perfect”. They reported the Emerald Lakes are 95% thawed and the Blue Lake 90% thawed. They were so happy and could not believe their luck with the weather and also with the remaining snow adding to their experience. One thing I would add though is if you do plan to do the Crossing during November you must be prepared for winter conditions. Full waterproof gear is essential plus plenty of warm layers. This morning there was a good frost. Yesterday’s forecast was for fine weather with a 30km/h south easterly. Guess what happened? It snowed!! So be prepared and always best to ask advice from an expert local about track conditions and weather etc.
Department of Conservation and local Iwi reopened the Tongariro Alpine Crossing from Mangatepopo to Ketetahi on the 19th October 2012. The track was closed after the Te Maari Crater erupted on the 6th August causing damage to the track and to the Ketetahi Hut. Damage to the track and the hut remains obvious, and adds another dimension to the hike. To bare witness to the aftermath of a volcanic eruption is intriguing. The Te Maari Crater continues to discharge steam, which only adds to the experience of hiking the Crossing. The crater is about 1.5km’s to the east of the track at the closest viewing point. On a clear day the newly active crater is certainly a spectacle. A lahar occurred on the 14th October washing over part of the track towards the Ketetahi finishing point. To see the damage on this part of the track is also interesting. Current hiking conditions on the Alpine Crossing include snow through the South and Central Craters. So it is a good idea to pack a spare pair of socks. As the snow melts it can get pretty wet and muddy through these parts.
Before you head out on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing make sure you have full wet weather gear, plenty of warm layers, and sturdy footwear, as weather conditions can change rapidly up there. As always, it is a good idea to check with experienced locals before heading into the mountains.
A few weeks back I spent four nights in the bush on my own. I stayed in a basic tin hut, built by hunters, with a beautiful view of the Wanganui River and surrounding forest. No computers, no mobile phone, no news, no Internet. It was back to basics.
The reason for the trip was to get away, and stamp out some lingering built up stress. As many New Zealanders will know, especially small business owners, the last few years have been a challenge and continue to be so. To those of you who are still in business, you have my full respect. To stay fighting fit we must take time out for ourselves. But unfortunately some of us need more reminding than others.
For some, taking time out will be a walk before breakfast, pumping weights at the gym, skiing, running, hiking, kayaking, surfing, jet boating, mountain biking or a movie with your best friend. For me I especially enjoy spending time in nature, either running, hiking, hunting or fishing. The feeling of freedom I get when on the tussock tops around Mt Ruapehu or the peace I feel amongst the lush green forest of Tongariro is priceless.
There are many well-documented benefits to spending time in nature. Here are just a few of them:
- helps to reduce stress
- improves mood
- overall increase of physical and psychological well-being
- greater sense of vitality
And of coarse spending time in nature can be fun, healthy and exhilarating. Taking time out is important, but some of us can do with a friendly reminder from time to time. So this is my reminder to you – get outside and have fun!