One Does Simply Walk Into Mordor: Mount Doom

After nine days and almost 240kms, the day had finally arrived to walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and climb Mount Doom/Mount Ngaurahoe.

We had to be up at out of the holiday park by 6:45 am as the trek started at the Mangatepopo Road car park at 7:30 am.

The trek shuttle bus can be booked from the Tongariro Holiday Park and costs $30 per person, but the walk itself is free to do.

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However, as you are picked up and returned to the holiday park by the same shuttle bus, you need to have completed the Crossing by 4 pm.

They hand you a brochure to give you an idea of where you should be and at what time.

This also includes at what time you need to be ascending and descending Mount Ngaurahoe.

We were particularly lucky on the day we went up as the previous day was full of cloud and they weren’t allowing anyone up on the mountain.

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The day we went up was quite sunny and there were very few clouds near the mountain.

The entire trail (19.4kms one way) consists of walking across volcanic terrain whether it be on the trail itself or climbing any of the mountains (Tongariro or Ngaurahoe) in this section of the park.

Mount Doom/Mount Ngaurahoe sits at an altitude of 2267m and at an average pace takes 90 minutes to ascend and 15-30 minutes to descend.

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To get up the mountain, it’s recommended you go up on the left side and then come down the right side.

These sides are based on if you were looking at the mountain from the bottom.

This is due to it consisting mostly of small, loose volcanic rocks known as scree. Hiking up it is tough going and burns your calves and quads.

You take one step forward and three steps backwards. Or at least that’s what it feels like.

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In saying that, it forces you to take plenty of rests which enables you to take in the surrounding areas of the park and beyond.

Words are useless trying to explain just how nice it is up there, so I will include as many images as I can to give you an idea.

We all summited the mountain in due course, with Nelson being the first to do so even though his ankle was still a little sore.

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Despite it being the middle of summer, there was still snow right before the summit and inside the crater itself which was awesome to look at.

We were able to spend a good 45 minutes at the top as we had made it up sooner than the allocated 90 minutes.

It was so nice sitting on the top of a volcanic mountain looking down over the surrounding areas and taking it all in. We truly picked a brilliant day to do it.

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Getting down from the mountain was a fun experience but is something that requires a lot of concentration.

It’s incredibly easy to slip over but you also need to be mindful of some of the bigger rocks that can be pried loose from others accidentally kicking them whilst coming down themselves.

Luckily, constant cries of ‘rock’ from those behind you more than offset the danger of being struck by one.

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Once at the bottom of the mountain, we continued hiking the Crossing and visited other popular spots such as the Red Crater and the Emerald Lake.

The rest of the Crossing is a mixture of hills, flat plains and forest area towards the car park at the end.

My only piece of advice for this hike, and what we learnt from others and their perceived lack of preparation, was that bringing the correct gear is essential.

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In fact, I would even go as far as saying that not being prepared for this hike could potentially put your life in danger.

Unfortunately, this hike (also one of New Zealand’s Great Walks) is positioned/advertised as a hike that most people with a good level of fitness can easily achieve.

With this mentality in mind, people turn up in incorrect gear and attempt climbing the mountain in said incorrect gear.

We saw a guy at the top who was wearing what looked to be a pair of board shorts, a t-shirt and a pair of Converse sneakers.

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Furthermore, given its popularity, it can get very crowded during the summer months. So, if you don’t like crowds, you probably should avoid it.

In saying that, as most people prefer doing the Crossing without doing the mountain, you can still find your way up without trying to get past a horde of people.

We got back to the shuttle bus just before 4 pm and Keith arrived right on time as we made our way back to the holiday park to celebrate what we had just achieved.

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