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Mt Tongariro (returning via Hardman’s Ridge), Tongariro National Park

Easy cramponing (or snowshoeing) along the Mt Tongariro Summit Route. Photo: Alistair Hall
Tongariro National Park
Mangatepopo Hut (20 bunks $15 (May-October), $36 (21 October - 30 April)
From the car park at the end of Mangatepopo Rd
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Few winter peaks are as accessible as Mt Tongariro. Reached on a Great Walk standard track, a return climb can be achieved in a few hours.

With crampons and ice axe (or snowshoes and walking poles) begin from the Mangatepopo Road end and take the easy Tongariro Alpine Crossing track to South Crater. Here, you’ll possibly encounter deep snow and will hopefully be able to follow the path plugged by others, otherwise it’s a tiring journey across the crater to the start of the Mt Tongariro Summit Route. This is where you’ll need to put on your crampons or snowshoes, as the route traverses the steep-sided northern wall of South Crater. But it’s easy going and a basic knowledge of crampon use should suffice to see you safely on the summit.

The view from Mt Tongariro in winter is absolutely stunning. Nearby Ngauruhoe and distant Ruapehu offer a sense of scale in a seemingly vast landscape, otherwise devoid of features thanks to a pure white blanket covering everything.

Add some adventure to the return journey by heading down Tongariro’s north-west face to the ridge above Mangatepopo Stream. This is easy travel on soft volcanic soil and there are good campsites near Pt1409 if that takes your fancy. Day trippers should descend the ridge opposite Mangatepopo Hut, leap the stream and rejoin the Tongariro Alpine Crossing track back to the car park.