Image of the September 2014 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
September 2014 Issue
Home / Articles / Waypoints

A winter walk on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Trampers climb towards the summit of Red Crater. Steam fumaroles keep a small portion of Emerald Lake ice free . Photo: Zhi Yuen Yap
6-8hr one way
Mangatepopo or Ketetahi car parks
BH34, BH35

Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Tongariro National Park

Winter on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing brings a blanket of snow that conceals the brilliant colours of Emerald Lakes, but paradoxically it also reveals the best kept secret of the TAC: a true wilderness experience on what in summer is one of the busiest tracks in the country.

The winter route is essentially the same as the summer crossing, but minor route modifications may be needed depending on the snow conditions. You’ll also need crampons because while snow is rarely encountered at the lower altitudes of the two road-end car parks, it lies thick on the ground above the Ketetahi Shelter and Devils Staircase.

The TAC is a great track for those making their first foray into winter alpine tramping. The mountains are relatively forgiving, the tracks well marked and the relatively low altitude allows easy route finding as well as quick retreat should the weather close in.

However, this is still an alpine environment with its associated risks and it should be treated with respect. Guided groups are available and are strongly recommended to those without the necessary experience.

– Zhi Yuen Yap