January 19, 2006
Rimu Park Lodge in Ohakune, NZ:
Going into the Tongariro Crossing, I was expecting an easy hike. Nothing too strenuous, just a nice eight hour hike up and down some mountains. Boy was I wrong. More like an eight-hour hike that not only brought me closer to the rock, but also my knees. Let me lay it out for you.
We began the hike in a valley with our goal in view, the summit of Ngauruhoe. The valley was sunny and flat, splotched with a wood walkway that led us to the beloved Devil’s Staircase. The staircase was not so staircase-esque; it was a steep climb through lava bombs and boulders, eventually bringing us to the saddle between Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. On the way to the saddle, periodic breaks were taken. We felt it only necessary to climb the true Hobbit way, having several meals along the way: breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, etc. Climbing the stairs was no easy feat. however, upon reaching the top, there was no denying that a sense of accomplishment filled our blood. The only problem was the remainder of the hike, another six hours. Once to the saddle of the two volcanoes, those willing began the climb to the summit of Mt. Ngauruhoe, or Mt. Doom for the Lord of the Rings buffs out there.
The view from the top was incredibly amazing. Cold wind cooled my face as steam from the volcano warmed my seat. Looking around we could see for kilometers in all directions, but my eyes were drawn to the south as Mt. Ruapehu stood with all its might. Climbing up was difficult; in some places,
for every step made, you slid back two. However, heading