Approximately 100,000 people attempt the 19.4km Tongariro Alpine Crossing every year. The crossing has become notorious for poorly prepared backpackers from Europe, Asia and North America who get caught out by hurricane force winds and unseasonal snowstorms. At least that’s what some would have you believe. In reality, and according to Hakan Svensson, the Tongariro Search and Rescue Team’s coordinator, the majority of visitors complete the crossing without incident and statistics across New Zealand suggest 90 per cent of search and rescue callouts actually involve Kiwis.
The Crossing does, however, see a disproportionate number of visitors from overseas. To mitigate some of the risks a new boardwalk has been constructed to make it easier to access South Crater and replacing the old Devil’s Staircase. Svensson says trampers are now more likely to turn around if conditions are bad, as they know there’s an easy walk back to Mangatepopo car park. The boardwalk cost $1 million per kilometre but it’ll save on rescue costs.
Visitors to the park contribute money to the local economy and to conservation projects and the boardwalk is seen as a multi-million dollar investment in the long-term viability of tourism in the Tongariro area.