12th April - The Tongariro Alpine Crossing - Part 2

Mike and Liz Downing
Sat 23 Apr 2011 11:18
No excuses for more photos - this is the sort of thing you only do once. No other day could ever be as perfect for doing the crossing as this.
The last climb. It's bit of a slog, but at least its an easy path and it does finally lead to
the summit of the crossing. This does have steep drops on either side. Not good in high winds. We
did have moderately strong winds that were cold, but they weren't too bad.
Up on the summit at last, at 6,130ft above sea level. Time to rest and look around and try and
take it all in. With the wind up here it was cold and hats and coats were definitely a good idea!
Humans were not the only creatures on the summit! No idea what it found to eat up here.
The views in every direction were stunning.
As they say, what goes up must come down! The track descends very steeply from the summit,
down a very loose scree slope to the Emerald Lakes. Again, you can see more ants already on their
way down. Once down this section, the track we have to follow flattens out and can be seen
winding it's way off to the left. 
The lakes are a stunning colour and bigger than they look - compare with the people down on
the ridge above the lake to the left. The brilliant colour is caused by minerals leaching from the
adjoining thermal areas.
Liz on the way down the scree slope - it's very steep, very loose and very challenging!
The best way to come down is to lay into the mountain side and be ready to slide with each step. An alternative for the braver is to jump and slide, jump and slide. It's good fun and you get down quickly. If you try to walk down you need proper alpine walking poles. 
The steep scree slopes come to an end as you reach the 3rd lake.
Looking back up from the first lake - did we really come down that?!
Looking across the Central Crater that we have to cross. The track can be seen to the right, going
across the crater and winding its way up the ridge to the Blue Lake that can just be seen.
In the foreground is a lava field that flowed across most of the crater before solidifying.
Climbing up the ridge to the Blue Lake and looking back at the track we've come along.  The
summit of the Crossing is the peak to the right of Mt Doom. The track can been seen coming
down from the ridge above Red Crater and across Central Crater, with the lava flow to the right.
The Blue Lake. It's sacred to Maori and you're not allowed to swim in it or eat food around it.
A last look across to Mt Doom before we descend further and lose sight of it.
Looking towards the downwards track ahead - it really is all down hill from now on! Lake Taupo
and some of its islands can bee seen in the distance above the mountains. 
Geothermal vents steaming near the track as it sidles around the northern flanks of Mt Tongariro.
Looking back up from where we've come, and still blue sky. This part of the track goes through
private land and an area of fragile soil and plants, and the paths have been well constructed,
including steps, to make certain that trampers obey the rules and stay on them.
The track hugs the hillside as it zig zags back and forth down the slopes.
Approaching the tree-line, the track disappears into the forest and it's a walk in the woods for the next hour. The only problem with that is we couldn't see where we were heading and had no idea how much further we had to go. For each of the last 20 minutes we thought the car park must be there when we go round the next corner. And then it was there - we had done it! Wow! Tired, but delighted. The car park was full of bodies lying flat out on the wooden benches and tables, and on the grass, all taking a well earned rest while waiting for transport to arrive.