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In the shadow of Ngauruhoe

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August 2020 Issue

Oturere Hut, Tongariro National Park

Winter has its disadvantages: cold, short daylight, more uncertain weather. But it makes up for these deficiencies by the transforming effect of snow, by the pleasingly low angle of the sun and – perhaps best of all – by fewer trampers.

Oturere Hut lies in the shadow of Mt Ngauruhoe, a waypoint on the Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk, and makes an outstanding winter destination. Perhaps the best access is from the Desert Road, on the track to Waihohonu Hut, then north along the poled route that leads across high, barren ground to the Oturere Valley. Apart from one short section of beech forest, there’s not much in the way of shelter, but the terrain is easy enough: undulating, with few climbs.

The comfortable 26-bunk hut makes an excellent base from which to explore the nearby waterfalls, or the curious lava formations of the valley itself, which come in a range of sizes from hobbit to mountain troll. And all with Mt Doom looming above.