Mount Tongariro

Mount Tongariro is enjoyed from all year round from summer and winter by waklers, trampers, photographers round and by sightseers –  particularly those who are keen to experience a raw volcanic landscape.  Some people are keen to see the area which was home to the filming of the most sinister of the Lord of the Rings locations, Mordor, which is the strong hold of the dark Lord Sauron.

Mordor, is the great volcanic plateau filled with geological wonders known as Gorgoroth. Much of Frodo and Sam’s journey into the land of Sauron was filmed on and around the Tongariro National Park.

Mount Tongariro is the most northern of the group of three volcanoes of the Tongariro National Park. Mt Tongariro is 1,968 metres high and   is a complex volcano of several craters that have blown their way out of what was once probably a much larger mountain. In the 1950s Tongariro pumped fountains of lava 300 m into the sky and in 1967 it sent glowing clouds of gas and ash down its slopes. Since then, it’s been relatively quiet, just puffing out the occasional cloud of gas or ash.

According to Maori legend, Ruapehu, a the beautiful maid was married to Taranaki. One day, while her husband was away hunting, she was wooed and won by Tongariro. When Taranaki returned at the end of the day he surprised the guilty pair. A titanic battle ensued in which Taranaki was defeated leaving Tongariro and Ruapehu close nearby. However, Ruapehu still loves her husband and sighs occasionally as she remembers him, while the mist, which drifts eastward from her head. For his part, Tongariro, who despairs of ever possessing her again, smokes and smoulders with anger. To this day travellers in the Tongariro National Park see the basin called Rua Taranaki, “the Pit of Taranaki”, which lies to the east of the Tama Saddle which was the original home of Taranaki.

Some facts:

  • Mount Tongariro is 1,978 metres high
  • The Tongariro volcano is a massive complex of volcanic cones formed by at least 12 vents erupting over more than 275,000 years
  • Mt Tongariro itself is a complex of craters that have been active at different periods
  • Mt Tongariro is the northern-most of three volcanoes that includes Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu
  • Geologists describe Tongariro as an “active stratovolcano”, or composite cone, made up of alternating layers of ash and lava flow
  • Tongariro in Maori means “fire carried away or seized by the cold south wind”

The Tongariro Crossing

Mount Tongariro is the site of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (The 42nd traverse) being a challenging journey across a remarkable volcanic landscape. This is a one-day trek that traverses a remarkable volcanic landscape along the slopes of all three mountains. steaming craters, steam vents, emerald-coloured thermal lakes, and old lava flows making the walk an unforgettable experience.

Beginning at Mangatepopo Valley near Whakapapa, the track climbs alongside a stream and around the edges of old lava flows. The age of different lava flows is indicated by the extent to which plants have re-established themselves on the harsh black lava rocks. Near the head of the valley, the Soda Springs are an oasis for the moisture loving yellow buttercups and white foxgloves.

The steep climb from the valley to Mangatepopo Saddle between Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro is rewarded by panoramic views, which on a clear day reach as far as Mount Taranaki.