8. Doomed in Tongariro

19 Feb

Rachelle and I woke up – on purpose – at 4:30AM (much to the chagrin of Rachelle’s 8:54AM alarm)…. and feeling like we didn’t have food poisoning!!!!  In fact, we felt great (thanks DoC!).  So, we packed up our stuff, and dropped bach off in order to catch a shuttle to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

I had seriously considered hitchhiking (à la Louis) to the starting point, but looking back, I’m glad I didn’t. Rae and I added on our own, bonus hike, and I couldn’t imagine how much longer the day would’ve been with the extra woes (and joys) that come with hitching. 



So thorough that we planned exactly where our shoes would be at 6:10AM


We stepped off the shuttle and happily realized… we were going to have absolutely gorgeous weather all.day.long.


The beginning of it all.



Early morning chill with purple mountain flowers.



A view to start off our day.



The sun trying to catch up with us



The sun definitely catching up with us.


A couple of hours into the hike, Rachelle’s alarm, like clockwork, went off at 8:54am.  Where where you at 8:54AM on February 19th?

At first, we started on the path with lots of people — it was too crowded, so we tried to duck off onto every side path but their were still people were everywhere.  Scott would have hated this place.

Soon, we made it to Soda Springs.


To clarify, there was no soda to be found.



Warning! Are they sure they didn’t mean ‘Warming!” ?


And then, something magical happened.  While on the trail… we were beckoned to the dark side like Frodo to Mordor.  Mt. Doom was calling our names.


“Rachel!!” – Mt. Doom



“Sammi!” — Mt. Doom



We couldn’t ignore the mountain, because as John Muir once suggested — when the mountains call you must go. So we decided to walk up to the base of Mt. Doom just to see if it was possible.  We had heard that people used to hike up there but now it was off limits.


Just a little farther….


Mt. Doom pulls you in.



…Until you find yourself heading towards the top.



Gorgeous view — both the girl and the mountain


We decided to should just outright climb the mountain. We literally had to dig our heels into Mt. Doom; it was 100 percent rock scree, falling out from underneath us, which was a bit unexpected because the beginning was deceitfully easy. It was one of the scariest mountains I’ve ever climbed, and the ground was volcanically hot, which made it even scarier. We passed literal steaming vents on the ground we were walking on.  I guess it’s why they call it Mt. Doom. 

We played a game to distract ourselves. It was called “What the BLEEP would we do if this (clearly active) volcano erupted.” It was a short game because we both came up with the same answer: Die.



The Depths of Doom– 2,291 meters tall (7,516 feet)


Despite the adversities, Rachel and I plugged away, making prockgress (hehe. Get it?). 


The brink of doom sure looks good…



On top of DOOM



The smile you (still) have when you haven’t realized you have to climb back down yet


At the top, Rachelle and I counted our lucky stars: We’d survived…and we’d packed some of the best hard boiled egg I’ve ever had.


Hard boiled eggs, cooked in natural hot springs, taste better when you were just living in fear.



Hiker babe.


Up at the top, while eating our hard boiled eggs, we made a few friends right when we needed them. Because. Well. we were about to have to hike back down…and that was going to be even scarier than going up.  (Sidenote: Rachel, remember when we met that 70-year-old man at the top, and we were incredulous.)

On the way down, our new friends motivated us down for a little bit, past the scariest parts, but then, they left us behind. And I didn’t blame them! We were butt-surfing cautiously, to the point of having to stop (frequently) to empty our underwear.


While butt-crawling down (and thanking our morning selves for dropping the car off at the end of this trail so we wouldn’t have to wait for the shuttle.  We were on our own time.), we watched in awe as thrillseekers (or lunatics) literally ran down the mountain.

We finally made it down! Our detour had taken us 3 hours and 20 minutes.  We sat for a few more, emptied the remaining rocks from our shoes, socks, and underwear, and washed our feet with baby wipes to celebrate our major feat (or feet).


We practiced gratitude once again. We thanked the universe for being back on solid ground and NOT on volcanic rock scree (a gratitude we did not realize we were going to be professing when we woke up that morning).  The bright side (besides having this amazing experience with my road-dog) was that the rest of our Tongariro hike was easier. Much easier. (Except for those last 6 kilometers, which were just straight downhill, rough on the knees, and not super scenic.) We were SO thankful we’d started so early in the morning, that I didn’t hitchhike, that our car was waiting for us, that the weather was spectacular, and since we’d taken a detour, that we’d to avoided the huge crowd from earlier that day.  New Zealand (and Tongariro) for the WIN.



Proud of us!



Red Crater (above) and Emerald Lakes (below)



12 hours of hiking, most definitely worth it



Celebrating the hike with another baby wipe! (we wanted to wash off in the water but we weren’t allowed because it’s sacred)



Active volcano and steaming vents: We like living on the edge (of volcanic activity)


On the way back down, I’d met a math teacher who was carrying his student’s books. They were on a class trip and one of the students misunderstood what she was supposed to bring. I shuddered at the thought of carrying books on this hike.  After Mt. Doom, though, Rachelle and I were descent advocates and ew showed people how to bury their feet into the scree, books and all.


Stunning, stunning, stunning



And Emerald Pool, quite deserving of that name.



Last view of Mt. Doom before our tough decent.


After soaking up the last of the gorgeous views, we headed back down. The ground was hard on our joints, so to distract ourselves from the pain, Rachelle and I talked about how well we were going to sleep that night and mused “we even have extra daylight to find a free car lot to sleep in”.



Doom’s end.



At the end, Rachel kept saying, “its around the corner I promise. I’m saying that more for me. :)”



On the road practicing #GRATITUDE


Finally, to the car, we felt Triumphant! Tired! and SOOO thankful!  We enjoyed the lovely sunset as we drove to find our sleeping place for the night.

I’m forever grateful that I have a friend whom I can venture with to Doom and back.
Returning from the dark side,

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