A little over an hour from Taupo, on the Northern Island of New Zealand, lies the towering Mount Ngauruhoe (n-yar-a-ho-e). Some may see it as just another rocky volcano but others may know it as Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings. Either way, the adventure up the massive mountain is incredibly rewarding and worthwhile. Here’s a little guide for anyone who wants to achieve the tremendous feat of making it to the peak of Mount Doom.
Ngauruhoe sits along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing which is a 19.4 Kilometre walking trail, one of the most popular day hikes in the country. However, for anyone who wants to hike just Ngauruhoe, you won’t need to traverse the entire distance of the Alpine Trail. The trail begins at Mangatepopo Car Park. From there, you’ll walk about 5.6 kilometres on a convenient wooden walking path. The journey from the car
park to the base of the mountain will take you past rocky hills, a nice little stream and a beautiful waterfall. There are also washrooms at one point along the trail from the parking lot to the base (near Soda Springs).
To get to the waterfall just look for a sign that says Soda Springs along the trail. It will be on your left and you’ll have to walk a few feet off the main trail but there’s no trees or anything so you won’t get lost.
It takes about two hours to get from the car park to the bottomof the mountain and unfortunately, when we did the hike, we definitely did not bring enough food and water. If you’re going to do this, make sure you do. By the time we had gotten to the base, before beginning the trek up the mountain, we were exhausted and had little food and water so we had to be careful with what we used and when. However, if you have a lifestraw, which we did, you can use that to drink from the stream along the path.
At the base of the mountain, you’ll see that many people drop their bags and leave them there while they hike the mountain. We left ours there as well before beginning the hike up the volcano. Once you begin the adventure towards the summit, it doesn’t take long before you’re starting to feel defeated and tired. Because of the vast amount of volcanic rock covering the mountain, every time you take a step you slide back down a little. This really caused my legs to burn. After doing this for about 20 minutes some fellow adventurers were coming down the mountain and they directed us to an easier spot in which to climb. Once you’re on the mountain, if you go left a little, you’ll see some pieces of hard rock that take you almost right up to the peak. This spot is much easier to climb because there’s real, solid rock to grab so you won’t slide back down with every step.
The mountain is deceptive because at many times I would look up and think “I’m only about 15-20 minutes from the peak” but it would not be so. It’s much larger and steeper than it looks and feels. Eventually I made it to the summit and it was incredibly rewarding. It was foggy and cloudy and there were other hikers sitting around just hanging out and talking. There’s a very steep cliff around the inside part of the volcano and it’s a far drop, so be careful up there. One thing to note is that it’s actually quite cold at the top of the mountain so make sure you have a hoodie or jacket. Despite it being Summer in New Zealand when we made the trek, there was snow at the peak in the middle part of the ancient volcano.
We stayed at the summit for about 15, maybe 20 minutes before heading back down. The ascent from base to peak took about a little over two hours but the descent back to the base was extremely quick, somewhere between 10-15 minutes. We grabbed our bags and began the two-hour walk back to the car park.
All in all, the entire journey from parking lot to mountain, up the mountain and back to the parking lot took about six hours. I played competitive hockey throughout my teen years so I’m no stranger to pushing my body to physical feats but hiking to the top of Mount Doom was definitely one of the most difficult things I have ever experienced. Don’t let that intimidate you though, it was a wonderfully rewarding experience. If you do it, do it at your own pace and be prepared with food and water. If you are intimidated by it, go with some friends that have the same drive to complete it that you do and have fun!
Let the world be your companion! #WandertheWorld