Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tongariro: Part II

Day 3:  Summit day.  We got up relatively late, packed our day packs, and set out.  Ngauruhoe is basically a huge pile of large rocks, small rocks, gravel, pebbles, and dust.  The beginning part of the climb was pretty enjoyable.

Later parts of the climb were more strenuous.  The gravel was so soft and footing so unstable that sometimes it was literally "one step forward, slide one step back."  I let my Jersey upbringing shine through with more curse words than I think I've said in the past month.  We took plenty of breaks, and I found the climbing to be tough, but not too bad.

And holy guacamole, were we rewarded with a view!

Mt. Ruapehu, with the Upper and Lower Tama Lakes in the foreground.  View from the rim of the outer crater of Ngauruhoe.

After climbing to the rim of the crater, we actually climbed down into the crater to see what we could see.  In one place, we found a geothermal vent spewing steam into the cold, dry, windy alpine air.  We could see John, from our party, over on the other side of the outer rim (that's him, the little black speck, in the picture below).

Finally we got to the grand finale:  the inner crater.  The Fires of Mordor, if you're a fan of the Lord of the Rings movies.  So here I am, looking way too freaking happy.  I must have stolen The Ring or something.

On the way out of the crater, I made sure I hit the true summit.  Proof:

You can't imagine how windy it was as I was taking that picture.  I nearly had Pippi Longstocking braids, sticking straight out from my head!

The hike down was more slide than hike.  I managed a significant portion of the descent on my behind to keep my center of gravity low and to protect my knees as best I could.  I didn't find the climb or the descent too bad, which was reassuring, since I haven't done much hiking or climbing lately.  When I got back to our base camp, I realized that the mountain had left her mark on both my pants and Laura's pants:

It's gonna suck to sew that up.

Some of our party had a pretty rough trip up and down the mountain, so we played some Yahtzee in our tent to pass the time until bed and to cheer everyone up.  It was a lot of fun.  And that was summit day.

P.S.  One more mountain to go!

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