The planning for this trip was completely overshadowed by the planning for walking the Milford Track, it was so straightforward that our only disappointment was when Ange decided she couldn’t make it. The trip also snuck up on us, being so close to the start of the year. Marion and I got back to work and suddenly realised all we had done was book our huts.
We picked dates based solely on the fact there was capacity to create a 4 day weekend by taking a Monday off work. This meant when we had a super long day 3 walking, we didn’t then have to drive straight home.
Our route included a crossing of the bulk of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This was the best maintained segment of the circuit by a long shot (although Waihohonu to Whakapapa was not far behind in terms of track quality and was a million times more peaceful). The rest of the track was in average to challenging condition, and I suspect doesn’t see a lot of maintenance, which is an absolute shame for a great walk.
The huts were actually kind of rubbish for what they were. Mangatepopo was ok size-wise for sleeping 20 people, although the gas fire in the middle of the room made things feel cramped when everyone was cooking dinner. Oturere was smaller but had an extra 7 beds. In bad weather with a full hut it would have been miserable. We had lovely people and good weather, thankfully, which made the hut survivable, but I would honestly recommend skipping Oturere and booking Waihohonu as your second night. It would make for a fairly long and challenging day, but Waihohonu is a much nicer hut and actually worth your $35/night.
Our weather was perfect. Well, we had perfect timing in terms of when we hit bad weather. It cleared not long after we started the track on Saturday afternoon, was stunningly clear and perfect tramping weather all day Sunday from our 3:30am start to go over the Crossing, and then clouded in and rained again on Monday as we headed back to Whakapapa. We got back with no actively wet gear, and enjoyed views forever going across the tops.
I always forget something while tramping, and this time I hit two – my filters for my camera (no point carrying the remote shutter cable and filter holders with no filters), and the wooden spoon for dinners. Whoops. I also carried my 2.4kg tripod for 3 days in order for it to be used for a sum total of about 5 photos. Admittedly, a lot of that was due to the lack of filters – you can’t take long exposures in daylight conditions without a decent filter.
I had my second pair of new boots in as many trips for this tramp, and these ones were AMAZING. I got blisters on the undersides of my little toes in the last couple of hours of Mondays walk solely because the rain saturated my socks and I didn’t have a second pair for walking in. Otherwise, I didn’t have a single issue with them. Bliss.
Along the track we met some lovely people – a big group from all over who regularly adventure together, a group of three ladies from Auckland, a couple training for the Inca Trail. We also met a couple of not-so-lovely people, including the dude flying his drone over Red Crater at sunrise, ruining what was otherwise a silent morning, and the people who walked in to Mangatepopo Hut solely to get drunk (along with the DoC warden who did nothing to dissuade them).
The best part of the track was the early morning on the top of Red Crater. Worth the 3am alarm clock for sure. The worst part of the trip was hitting the wall just shy of the Tama Lakes turn-off on our way back to Whakapapa, and having to push through it.
The total cost per person of this trip was approximately $180, including food and petrol. We travelled by private car, shared food for dinners, and stayed at the WTMC Lodge at Whakapapa for the night before we headed home.