Tongariro Northern Circuit – Great Walk

Willem, Wouter and Ben, a family friend,¬† recently embarked on the Tongariro Northern Circuit hiking trail (one of New Zealand’s great walks). This is a 43.1km track that circumnavigates the impressive Mt Ngauruhoe (used as Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy).

Mt Ngauruhoe (2,291m) is the central one of the three active volcanoes that dominates  the landscape with Mt Ruapehu (2,797m) to the South and Mt Tongariro (1,968m) to the North.

Mt Ngauruhoe at sunrise from Oturere Hut.
Mt Ngauruhoe at sunrise from Oturere Hut.

First leg

We decided to walk the track in an anticlockwise direction with leg one taking us from Whakapapa Village to Waihohonu  hut.

Weather forecast – 104mm rain in the 6 hours between 9:00AM and 3:00PM and 65km/h winds.

The view towards Mt Ngauruhoe from the start of the track at Whakapapa Village just after sunrise. (The only time during the day dry enough to risk my camera out of its waterproof bag.)

A side trip to Lower Tama Lake ended without us being able to see the lake as visibility was so poor that the lake could not be seen from the viewing point.

Second leg

The second leg would take us from Waihohonu hut to Oturere hut (a relatively short “rest” day).

Morning greeted us with views of both Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu from the hut’s large strategically placed windows.

Weather forecast – sunny with some strong wind in the morning.

Mt Ruapehu from near the Waihohonu hut.
Mt Ruapehu to the left and Mt Ngauruhoe to the right. A young tramper taking some shelter from the wind.

The afternoon at Oturere hut afforded ample opportunity for a rinse off at a nearby stream, exploring the local waterfall and generally lazing around in now a windless sunny afternoon.


Third leg

The next leg would be the toughest, crossing Red Crater almost half way between Oturere hut and Mangatepopo hut.

On advice from the enthusiastic ranger, an early start to catch the sunrise.


Weather forecast for Red Crater – showers, 65km/h winds with temperatures after allowance for wind chill -2 decrees Celsius at 9:00AM or wait till later in the day with less rain but winds increasing to 110km/h. We opt for an earlier start.

The near cloudless sky at sunrise is overcast by breakfast and the rain starts as we head out.

Risk a quick photo at the emerald lakes.

By 3:00PM the rain has stopped and a few clear patches appear in the sky, but our walk is pretty much at an end.

Mt Tongariro from Mangatepopo hut.

Until next time, Tongariro.

8 thoughts on “Tongariro Northern Circuit – Great Walk”

  1. Awesome photos Wouter. What a shame the weather wasn’t better but great that you didn’t let it stop you. Is that Willem in the sunrise photo?
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks. It is not the most hospitable place but I saw enough to want to go back for a second look. No, it is not Willem but a young lady from Italy.

  2. Great photos.
    Good job of being well equipped, we tell people the weather is changeable up there – mid summer & -2.

    Well done – what’s next ?

    1. We’ll see; do want to catch the lakes in good weather (Tama, Blue and Emerald) so will probably return for some day walks rather than the circuit.

  3. Thank you for sharing Wouter, brings back many fond memories of the region. Great photos, awesome sunset, challenging weather conditions. Tells a real story!!

  4. They don’t call it Alpine country for nothing, the weather and landscape so changeable but that is the beauty of the place. Great photos and commentary.

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