Disclaimer: Whilst ‘The Crossing’ is a highly popular track accessible and achievable for anyone with a moderate level of fitness, it is often exposed to conditions far outside of the the normal and in places, very lose, uneven ground. Additionally, being an alpine traverse, the weather can change almost instantaneously, quickly becoming inhospitable when minutes ago it was blue sky and warm. The below page is only intended as a SUMMER guide only.
The Tongariro Crossing is not a loop and therefore you will require transport to and from Ketetahi Carpark, or Mangatepopo Carpark depending on what way you walk it. Unfortunately, you are also unable to leave a car in either carpark for >4 hours, meaning a bus ride or non-trekking family member are your best bet. If you decide to go with a bus ride, this can easily be arranged at the nearby info centres – Turangi, Whakapapa ect.
What clothing/footwear should I Bring in my Day Pack?
Footwear: Boots with ankle support are advised but not strictly required. You could complete the crossing and summit in your average nike running shoe, however, the loose tephra may leave your shoes and ankles worse for wear and I would not advise it. Ideal boots would be light and have a 3/4 shank, or just enough rigidity to walk on loose rock without folding to much. Madi completed ‘The Crossing’ and Ngauruhoe summit in Salomon Quest 4D 3GTX boots and found them perfect for the crossing, however a little unstable for the summit if not tied ultra tight. I completed both the summit and crossing in my Lowa Tibet GTX WXL boots which were massively overkill for the crossing however, perfect for Ngauruhoe.
Gaiters: Not required for the crossing and will be overkill for all but ‘The Red Crater’ traverse. However, a must for Ngauruhoe, as the descent will involve plenty of lose rock that will quickly find a way into your boots. I suggest gaiters with a high wear threshold as the tephra is sharp and will abrade the edges of both your gaiters and boots. I took a pair of Stony Creek Long Gaiters, which served me well.
Lower body: Shorts will be fine, however bring sunblock, especially when climbing as the back of your legs will get fried. Pants will be overkill in summer. I wore a standard pair of rugby league shorts.
Upper body: As stated earlier, weather can change with a rapidity that catches a lot of people off guard. Therefore, I suggest a minimum of a Breathable T-shirt, Down Mid-layer and waterproof shell, (preferably GTX with decent wind breaking capacity). This may sound overkill but as the section from the top of ‘The Devils Staircase’ to ‘The Emerald Lakes’ is very exposed, you’ll be thanking me if weather turns south. In fact, I advocate for an additional thermal base layer and beanie as well as the aforementioned clothes, especially if you’re a person that feels the cold.
Headwear: Bring a Hat and Glasses as when the sun comes out, it’ll be bright and you’ll fry.
What food should I bring?
According to my Garmin Fenix 5X I burnt 3850 calories completing ‘The Crossing’ and Ngauruhoe Summit. Considering it’s a day trip, I wouldn’t get caught up trying to match calorie for calorie, however, bring enough food for 10 hours of walking/climbing. I brought crackers with cheese, salami and peanut butter, a couple ‘One Square Meals‘, and some scroggin / chocolate.
There are no water stations on the crossing and the lakes look fairly acidic to me. So if you don’t have some means of boiling/balancing the lake water (would not advise), I suggest bringing 3-4L if doing the Ngauruhoe summit and 2-3L if you are doing ‘The Crossing’.
Maps + GPS
Recorded via Garmin Fenix 5x – Normal GPS accuracy, ultra not enabled.
How physically difficult is it?
At the time of measuring this, I possessed a moderate-high level of fitness.
How technical is it?
The Crossing: Easy non-technical, with ‘Red Crater’ the only remotely difficult bit (loose rock and steep falls possible). If you are comfortable walking off track with a light pack, then the Crossing will be suitable for you. The hardest part for most people will be the duration of the walk, therefore only attempt if you are happy to walk for the majority of the day. Warning, Cold weather could quickly change this statement, turning it into a perilous day.
Mt Ngauruhoe, Difficult non-technical in summer; moderately dangerous. I suggest, only attempting this if you have a high degree of fitness, good sturdy gear (especially footwear) as detailed above and good balance and scrambling abilities. Beware of falling rock and enjoy the panoramic views from the summit.