Tongariro Landscapes 4

After an uncommonly long spell away from the hills, this series of images was taken one bleak long weekend in August 2017.


The trip is a sort of wander down memory lane, revisiting the birth place of my love of the mountains. A third form chemistry teacher once took a bunch of city kids on a 3 day trip to Ketetahi in winter, something that I will always be grateful for.


The walk into Oturere traverses that cold dry Rangipo desert environment found on the eastern slopes of the park. The weather was to be inclement but not unkind.


Oturere while a bit tired now, with its drafty window seals, and a barely functional gas heater, is still a special spot to rest and to contemplate life. And a great place to explore the starkly beautiful surrounding volcanic environment.


In the hills sunrise is the perfect time to get organised and out the door, headed to central crater in gale norwesterlys but otherwise the best day in the forecast.


Soft snow and white out conditions were to be found, and near black and white imagery the result.


This panoramic view is of Blue Lake, barely frozen after the mild and wet winter.


And the same looking from another angle. There was definitely a cool breeze. But the Tongariro area is compact, much more so than it appeared to that 13 year old, and traversing it only takes a hour or two.


I will warn you now that Ketetahi Hut is in a sad way, and the images that follow may be distressing! The 2012 eruption of nearby Te Mari crater perforated the structure, and DoC has not attempted to repair the hut. It appears that they do not yet know if Te Mari has done its thing for now or not.


The small rock that came through the back bunkroom roof, passed through (the admittedly weak) ondulene roofing, shattered the overhead rafter, passed through both bunks and the floor below. That rock must have been really really moving.


RIP Ketetahi. Every fibre of my being wants to go up there patch up the roof, to at least preserve the option for other generations of school kids to also be able to discover the mountains here.


Te Mari is about 1500m away, and has blown a bit of a chunk out of its side since last here, and is still steaming.


The department has recently rerouted the track straight down the ridge, avoiding the hot springs, which are now sadly out of bounds.


The springs, some of the best in the country, were a treasured part of those early trips to the park. Now kids stay in their bedrooms with their iGadgets, nursing, obliviously, their vitamin D deficiencies.


On the way back i take a shortcut through the crater itself. (Of course at one point i fall through the barely frozen ice slush, but at least that was the extent of the excitement slash misadventure of this trip.)


Even in whiteout its achingly beautiful.


This view is from Emerald lake looking west across the crater.


Turning around is the lake, unusually more unfrozen than frozen. And red crater in the background.


This is all thats to be seen of Ngarauhoe this time.


The journey down the lava flow back to Oturere is a bizarre landscape. Being so featureless, without the frequent marker poles, you could be 100m from the hut and never know it was there. Even on a good day...


The end of the less nice weather and the beginning of the bad weather. Sleet turned to slush turned to snow. And over a 24 hour period the mountain turned white.


The Lumix TZ81 seems to do a great job of the contrasting light conditions.


The third night brings more snow, the nice dry kind, and with it, wipes the world clean of footsteps, tracks, and, i guess, people. Ok, so I brought with me Susan Cain's, Quiet. The power of introverts in a world that cant stop talking. My lone hut companion, a kiwi, proves to be good company.


On the final day, the walk back across the snow covered Rangipo badlands is vastly different from the trip in. A hint of rainbow in the mist, and the mellow colors and long shadows of a new day.


Squeaky clean, virgin trails. Joy and happiness...


I have this thing about straight lines.


Nearing Waihohonu, the snow resumes, and the path through the dripping forest, leads to shelter in the mansion that is the new Waihohonu Hut. The hut literally has hot water, central heating, and a sophisticated solar power system.


And a pair of large cathedral picture windows. The now heavily falling snow is memorising. After some trial and error i determine that 1/60s best captures the falling snow. Too fast and it looks like dust, too slow and it looks like rain.


But, alas, the picture still does not do it justice.


Photos index



Seeking winter solitude in Tongariro National Park.