The activities depicted on this site are inherently dangerous and can result in serious injury or death. Any action that you take as a result of information obtained from this site or any information provided through Hike2Hike is at your own risk.
After spending several weeks trying to climb mountains in New Zealand, we finally found a weather window on Mount Ngāuruhoe. As a Lord Of The Rings fan, this was one of my main goals while in New Zealand to climb Mount Doom. The weather window was relatively small according to all the forecasts at 2-3 hours, but we both wanted to take the chance.
Instead, A shuttle is required to reach the trailhead. Since our weather window was early in the morning, there was no way to make the shuttle work, so we opted to take the Managtepopo Track to the hut, stay overnight, and get an alpine start.
We arrived late at the parking area for Whakapapa village and started walking as quickly as possible to limit walking in the dark.
Despite it being only 9:00 pm, the hut was already dark, and everyone was sleeping, which we took to mean that everyone had a rough day on the muddy trail.
To try and make the sunrise at the top of Mount Ngāuruhoe, we set our alarm for 2:00 am.
While the huts had been a welcome part of New Zealand trails, they are not ideal for an alpine start. Waking up at 2 am in a room full of people, attempting to pack a bag quietly, and then climbing down from an upper bunk bed takes a fair amount of effort. Still, the equipped kitchen was a welcome accommodation for a warm meal.
By around 3:00 am were started up the Tongariro Alpine Crossing trail. I was overjoyed that when we left the hut, there were no clouds in the sky, and we could see Mount Doom (Ngāuruhoe) silhouetted in front of us against the night sky. The first bit of trail was well-groomed and easy to walk, which was a welcome change from the day before.
After around one hour, we arrived at the base of the scree field used to ascend Ngāuruhoe. By now, the first light of day was just creeping over the horizon, making it a little easier to see the climbing route.
Ascending the scree field is a nightmare. The pumice is deep and slides backward. Both of us were crawling on all fours to make progress. The hill reminded me of climbing Mount St Helens back in Washington, wading through ash and rock doing everything possible not to slide down further than you step up.
Luckily around halfway up the scree field, there is a small ridge to the climbers’ right that we used for ascending on more solid rock. Once on the ridge, the remaining section of the main ascent was smooth and relatively easy.
The summit ridge was my favorite part of the climb. While walking, I could hear a bubbling sound from below the ground. It took me a moment to realize it, but it was the sound of groundwater boiling due to geothermal heat in the volcano. Combined with the steam pouring out of the ground, it made the whole place feel very doomy. I can see why Peter Jackson would choose this peak to represent evil in Lord of The Rings.
After a brief stay near the top of the peak, we could see the predicted weather moving in and decided to head back down. We managed to make it back to the Tongariro Crossing track just as the summit of Ngāuruhoe got swallowed up by clouds and wind. After all the weekends of bad weather and avalanche conditions that kept us off other peaks, it felt relaxing to finally knock one more mountain off my life list of climbs.
While walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing trail in the dark was a relaxing experience it was far less so in the daylight. The constant stream of human beings was hard to compete with on the narrow trail. I was overjoyed to make it back to the Mangatepopo hut for a rest and some food before heading back to the car.