Te Araroa Trail – Day 57
Saturday, December 30, 2023
Distance/ Total: 34.8 km / 21.6 mi
The rain continued through the night and it was still raining in the morning. The rain came in waves – heavy rain for a few minutes, then sprinkling for a few minutes. I sat on the front porch of my cabin and watched the clouds blowing by.
By about 7:00am there were patches of blue sky bursting through the clouds and as the rain clouds blew by blue sky began taking its place. By 7:30 I felt good enough about the rain passing that I loaded up and started down the trail.
It started with about 7.5 km of roadwalk to the Tongariro Crossing Trailhead. The sun was coming out and it was starting to look like a good day. High clouds still covered the top of the mountain but I was hoping for the best.
The first 3 km was through the forest and with the sun out it was a hot and humid 285m (935ft) climb. I was glad to break out of the forest into the alpine scrub and able to get some wind. The trail continued through the scrub for another 3 km where the trail became mostly lava rocks. It was a well graded trail and walking up was easy. As I climbed upward I was now in the clouds surrounding the summit and back into the rains.
The trail continued through the lava rock for another 3km as I approached the peak of the mountain. A short walk along the rim of the crater exposed blue lake on one side (I caught a quick glimpse through the clouds, but was unable to get a photo) and the Red Basin on the other. The trail dropped into the Red Basin and walked across the central crater.
Once across the crater the real climbing began as the trail climbed back up to the rim of the crater and and over the even higher rim of the south crater. I was able to get a couple of glimpses of Emerald Lake and the Red Crater through breaks in the clouds, but as I climbed upwards there were no more views. In addition to the cloud cover I was now fighting winds of about 80-90 km/h (50-55 mph) that seemed to want to push me into the Red Crater. I walked as far from the edge as I could in case the wind should blow me towards it.
The climbing up and down the crater rim was about 1km and I think it took me close to an hour to negotiate. Finally dropping down into the south crater it was a nice flat walk for awhile, still with a strong wind, but not like on top.
After the south crater it was an easy walk through another lava field and finally back down into the alpine scrub. The trail down followed a lava flow down the valley so there were still a lot of lava rocks and even some recent rockslides. At least I was out of the rain again.
The trail continued to drop and as I approached the end of the Tongariro Crossing the trail veered off onto a trail to Whakapapa Village. At one time I’m sure this was a great trail, but over time it has become severely eroded. At times I was walking in gullies 10’ deep or on top of the edge of these gullies. The trail crossed many streams (some with bridges) and steep climbs in and out.
I finally reached Whakapapa Holiday Park about 6:45pm. A very long day and my feet were killing me. I found a spot to pitch my tent, ate dinner in the common kitchen, and discussed today’s adventures with the group. Now for some rest so I can tackle another trail tomorrow.