Deciding whether or not I would do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing kept me fairly distracted for a couple of days. My knee had been doing pretty good, but not perfect. My biggest concern was there being a time limit. I was worried that if I had trouble with my knee I wouldn’t make it in the 7-8 hours allowed.
I made the decision to go because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. Luckily they provided me with checkpoints and times so that I could keep track of my progress. If I was behind, I could turn around at the second checkpoint.
I didn’t want to hold anyone back, but I was so relieved when Ebony and Marie decided to stay with me. Ebony was also having knee troubles and Marie was starting to get a head cold. Injuries and sicknesses aside we were ready to tackle the hike.
The total hike was 21 kilometers (just over 13 miles).
The first section from Mangatepopo Carpark to Soda Springs wasn’t bad. It was mostly flat with just a couple of short up hills. We made it 10 minutes earlier than the recommended time.
The second section from Soda Sprints to South Crater (which included a section called Devil’s Staircase) we much more challenging and yet we shaved another 15 minutes off the recommended time. We wanted to make it to the highest point (Red Crater) before we sat down for lunch.
The third section had a flat area, but also a challenging uphill. We hoped to shave another 15 minutes off and we did.
After I ate a quick lunch of salad, beir sticks, and cashews we were off again.
Section four was a quick yet challenging downhill section. It was covered with loose stone/sand. There was a couple of beautiful emerald lakes which produced a strong sulfur smell due to the volcanic activity. We stopped for several photos, so we took five minutes longer than recommended.
Section five wasn’t too bad or at least it wouldn’t have been if we would have stayed on the correct trail. We accidentally took a trail that went over a short hill instead of the easier trail that went around it. Even so, we cut another 15 minutes off the recommended time.
The sixth and final section sucked the life out of us. By the time we got there, we had seen most of the highlights, it was mostly downhill which killed my knee, and we just wanted to be finished. We ended up eating up some of the time we had cut off previous sections. It took us 15 minutes longer than the recommendation. At one point I went around the corner and stopped cold. I said to Ebony and Marie “I can’t believe the carpark isn’t here”. All three of us burst into laughter…otherwise we would have cried.
As soon as we saw the first signs of the carpark we actually ran for about 20 feet just to be done. We made it in 6 hours and 25 minutes (not including our lunch and an afternoon break). I couldn’t have been happier to get my shoes off and to our surprise the bus that picked us up brought BEER. In the end, I was so proud to have done the hike (and, we even finished before many others in our group).
When our tour leader asked me how it was, I told him “I’m so hyped up on Advil that I can’t even feel my feelings”. The truth was that my knee still hurt like hell, but I’d do it all over again.