Tongariro – The track across Middle Earth

Nhauruhoe featured as the terrifying Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. Although it is often referred to as a seperate mountain, it is actually one of the many cones of the vast Tongariro complex. With its 45 degree slopes and perfect triangular shape, Nhauruhoe is the most distinctive volcano-shaped volcano in the area – outshined only by Taranaki.

The Tongariro Crossing is a very rewarding day walk in New Zealand, crossing 20 kilometres of steaming and colourful volcanic terrain from Mangatepopo to Ketetahi. But when I was there early 2013, the northern part of the track was closed due to Tongariro’s unrest and upheaval. The Te Maari craters near the Ketetahi end were still belching out fumes & smoke after their eruptions over the previous months in 2012. So it was only possible to do half the track, from Mangatepopo to the Red Crater and the Green and Emerald Lakes, and return the same way.

At nearly 1900 metres, the Red Crater is the highest point of the route. When I approached it, I heard several excited exclamations coming from people further up the track. Once I reached the crater’s edge, I could see why. A stupendous gap laid in front of me, vividly coloured in all shades of red, with several ejection vents on the side and rocks & lava bombs scattered all around. It was so huge that the shouts of awe and surprise people were letting out when they saw it actually echoed off its walls.

NaturePic Challenge – Mountains & Volcanoes # 6: Tongariro & Nhauruhoe, New Zealand


The perfectly volcano-shaped Mount Nhauruhoe.


Green & Emerald Lakes – the end of the track during the volcanic unrest early 2013.


Mount Nhauruhoe and its colourful crater.


The stupendous Red Crater, triggering resonating exlamations of awe by all who gazed upon it.


The fuming & smoking Te Maari craters, on the Ketetahi side of the track.

(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High


More stories & inspiration

Ode to the mountains! – The magic of Mount Taranaki

The Hazards – Scrambling up to prehistorical views

Pico del Teide – A volcanic playground

Reykjanes – Hidden treasures beyond the barren landscape

The walking track to Eldfell – The Fiery Mountain

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