New Zealand Working Holiday (Part 21) : Tongariro Alpine Crossing @ Mangatepopo Car Park to Soda Springs, South Crater & Red Crater

Last month (in October), several friends and I took on one of New Zealand’s Great Walks; the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and had an epic journey worth bragging about. 😉 We left Tauranga and went to Tongariro National Park in two separate cars. At Ketetahi car park (end point), we left a car there, bundled up in the other car and drove to Mangatepopo car park (preferred start point) to start our Tongariro Alpine Crossing journey. 😉

For your info, there are shuttle services to Mangatepopo in the morning and back from Ketetahi in the afternoon at NZD30-45 per person, single journey. Detailed information on the shuttle timetables can be viewed here.

 

From Mangatepopo Car Park to Soda Springs (Mangatepopo Valley)

From the Mangatepopo car park (1120 m above sea level), we began our expedition and made our way on the well-marked gravel footpath towards Mangatepopo Valley. There are several signs and notice boards informing visitors about the trek and potential hazards that lie ahead.

The land is fairly flat with little vegetation due to the harsh environment. It was a pretty straightforward and easy trek. The iconic Mount Ngauruhoe, or popularly known as Mount Doom (LOTR) could be seen in the distance. After quite some time, we arrived at the beginning of the famous picturesque wooden boardwalk. From here, the trek climbs up a steady slope through lava fields with different colours of lava flows and several small streams. 😀

Kindly note that all visitors are advised to stay on the footpath/boardwalk at all times to minimise damage on the fragile landscape and vegetation. Also, it is not safe to drink the water from the streams or springs in the area due to high volcanic material content, acidity and/or the risk of giardia (a type of harmful parasite).

 

Mangatepopo car park @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing

From left to right: YJ, Jenny, Eri, Angel, Stephanie and Erika at the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing @ Mangatepopo car park
What looks like a beautiful day to take on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
An avalanche warning sign at the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing @ Mangatepopo car park
Group photo taken at the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing @ Mangatepopo car park
We began our Tongariro Alpine Crossing by walking on the well-marked gravel footpath towards Mangatepopo Valley from Mangatepopo car park
The first part of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing traverse through flat land with little vegetation due to the harsh environment. It was a pretty straightforward and easy trek
The journey from Mangatepopo car park to Soda Springs/Mangatepopo Valley @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Picturesque view of Mount Ngauruhoe, or popularly known as Mount Doom (Lord of the Rings) @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
A signboard at Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The famous picturesque wooden boardwalk at Tongariro Alpine Crossing traverse through lava fields and small streams @ Mangatepopo Valley
Beautiful view @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing

 

Soda Springs – Hiking Up the Steep Devil’s Staircase (Mangatepopo Saddle)

Near the head of the Mangatepopo Valley, there is a short sidetrack that leads to Soda Springs where the water seeps to the surface in a boggy area at the head of the Mangatepopo Stream. Due to the presence of iron oxide, the rocks surrounding the area are golden in colour and yellow buttercups grow abundantly in the area.

At Soda Springs, we took a break and answered nature’s call (visited the toilet) before we carried on with our journey. For your info, the last toilet facilities are located at Soda Springs and there are no further toilet facilities until you reach the Ketetahi Hut. So, please empty your bladder before you progress further or you have to hold it in until you reach the end of the trek. 😛

The next part of the journey took us to the steepest climb of the hike known as the ‘Devil’s Staircase’ (from 1400 m to 1600 m above sea level). And OMG, it was a really difficult and steep climb up the staircase! Some of us including myself had to take several short breaks to catch our breaths and regain our strength from the backbreaking climb as we slowly and steadily made our way up the Mangatepopo Saddle. The spectacular views we enjoyed once we got to the top are well worth the effort.

 

A small stream flowing along the trek in Mangatepopo Valley @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
A scenic walk through the Mangatepopo Valley heading to Soda Springs @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Unique volcanic terrain @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The lengthy walk to Soda Springs from Mangatepopo car park @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Colourful and mineral rich lava flow from Mount Ngauruhoe @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Kindly note that all visitors are advised to stay on the footpath/boardwalk at all times to minimise damage on the fragile landscape and vegetation @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Soda Springs @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Long drop toilets at Soda Springs @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing. There are no further toilets available until we reach Ketetahi Hut
Near the head of the Mangatepopo Valley, there is a short sidetrack that leads to Soda Springs where the water seeps to the surface in a boggy area at the head of the Mangatepopo Stream @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
A sign warning visitors of the potential hazards on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, just before the start of the ‘Devil’s Staircase’
Erika making her way towards the ‘Devil’s Staircase’, the steepest hike on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Mangatepopo Valley @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Rugged, volcanic terrain at Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Climbing up the backbreaking ‘Devil’s Staircase’ @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Breathtaking view from the Mangatepopo Saddle overlooking the Mangatepopo Valley/Soda Springs @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The Devil’s Staircase @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The cloud-shrouded summit of Mount Ngauruhoe @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Stunning view of the Mangatepopo Valley @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Erika at the foot of Mount Ngauruhoe a.k.a Mount Doom (LOTR) @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Our steep hike up the ‘Devil’s Staircase’ was rewarded with a stunning view of the scenic Mangatepopo Valley @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Mangatepopo Saddle @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing

 

Soda Springs to the South Crater – Of Snow-Capped Ridges & Steam

Next, we carried on with our journey and made our way through a scenic rugged landscape formed by two previous lava flows from the 1870 volcanic eruptions and two pyroclastic flows in 1975. Mount Ngauruhoe stood majestically several metres away from us and the view was simply amazing!

Fit and experienced hikers may choose to scale the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe (2287 m), but only when there are no strong winds and the visibility is good. Caution is needed when hiking up to Mount Ngauruhoe’s summit because the volcano is steep and the surface is mainly loose rock and stones (scree). In addition, the summit climb is not marked or formed.

After that, we followed the marked poles and easily made our way across the captivating South Crater which is basically a flat basin that may have been glacially carved and filled with sediment from the surrounding snow-capped ridges. To our amazement, the ground was steaming. It was such a surreal experience! 😀

 

The summit of Mount Ngauruhoe shrouded by thick clouds @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Uneven terrain leading to South Crater @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The South Crater @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing is basically a flat basin that may have been glacially carved and filled with sediment from the surrounding snow-capped ridges
Steam emerging from the ground at the South Crater @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
A spectacular sight of the snow-covered ridges at the South Crater @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Erika at the South Crater @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Erika enjoying her time at the picturesque South Crater @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Making our way up the Tongariro Saddle towards the Red Crater @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The view at Tongariro Saddle @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Tongariro Saddle @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Erika enjoying her ‘on top of the world’ moment at Tongariro Alpine Crossing

 

South Crater to the Red Crater

Once we came to the end of the basin/South Crater, we had to hike up the exposed ridge and follow the marked track leading towards the Red Crater. We could smell the pungent stench of sulphur as we excitedly made our way closer to the active volcanic crater.

Loose rocks and soft sand made the trek slightly challenging, but we managed to overcome it and reach the site of the Red Crater (1886 m). For your info, the Red Crater is the highest point on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing with impressive views overlooking the Oturere Valley, South crater, Central crater, Emerald Lakes, Blue Lake and beyond. 😀

The Red Crater itself is an impressive sight with a striking colour combination of red, black, brown and yellow due to the oxidation of iron and other minerals found in the rocks. Active fumeroles (steam vents) in and around the Red Crater produce eye-catching bright yellow sulphur deposits and thanks to the thermal warmth of the ground, the top section of the crater rim is often free of snow throughout the seasons.

 

Memorable group photo on the Tongariro Saddle with Mount Ngauruhoe in the background @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Enjoying our lunch on the slope of a crater @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing was an amazing experience!
The Red Crater @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a wonderful sight
The Red Crater is the highest point on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing with impressive views overlooking the Oturere Valley, South crater, Central crater, Emerald Lakes, Blue Lake and beyond
Breathtaking view of the Emerald and Blue Lake from the Red Crater @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Some hikers descending the steep crater’s slope to the Emerald Lakes @ Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Amazing views and unforgettable experiences at the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

 

Up next: Tongariro Alpine Crossing – the Red Crater to Emerald Lakes, the Blue Lake, Ketetahi Hut & Ketetahi car park

Like and share this blog post:
0

Leave a Reply