What weather conditions do you cancel for?
We are a freedom hiking company, this means no guide. Therefore, we no longer operate in wintertime conditions. Once the track is clear from snow and ice, we start to operate for summer. This is usually some time in October. We stop operating when snow covers the track, this is usually in June or July. It changes every year.
During the summer months, we keep up to date using Metservice. We monitor the wind, rain, and temperature forecast and make an experienced call every day.
What are the risks when doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?
Weather - We release an up to date forecast and our advice every day before your trip goes ahead. If we cancel, it is for a good reason. We do not take people up unless we are prepared to be up there ourselves. The weather can change at any point so always prepare for all conditions. Dress in layers so that you can easily add and take away layers as the conditions change.
Alpine Conditions - This is not a walk in the park. It is an alpine hike over a mountain. Prepare well. The more prepared you are the better your day will be. Stick to the track and respect the unique natural and cultural aspects. To be sustainable, we need every hiker to play their role in keeping this taonga safe and clean.
Volcanic activity - check out our volcanic level page under the 'Plan ahead' menu. If the level raises, we will not be going. Simple. However, volcanoes can be unpredictable. In the case of an eruption keep out of valleys. Head to higher ground. We will know it has happened and plans will be in place for a quick evacuation. If safe, head to the nearest track exit, either turn back to Mangatepopo or go to Ketetahi. There will be buses to collect you and take you a safe distance from the mountain. All transport operators work together to make this happen as quickly as possible.
Unstable terrain - Good foot wear and hiking poles can help keep you from slips and trips. You can't beat having good worn in tramping boots. However, descent running shoes can be ok during the summer months. Please do not hike with thin, smooth soles. And for goodness sake, no JANDALS! Take the Tongariro Alpine Crossing seriously.
Dehydration - This can be a sneaky one. You are going to have quite the workout! At least 2 litres of water per person. Even more if you can make room to carry it. Save a nice bottle of something yummy for when you finish too. Something to make you go AHHHHH!
Over heating - You are exposed all day long. Wear a hat! Make sure you can strip right down. Do not just dress for the cold. Have shorts and a t shirt under all your layers. you will not regret it. REMEMBER to apply and reapply sunscreen. The sun and wind will get you if you do not. Pay attention to your face shoulders, back of the neck and exposed chest area.
Hyperthermia - And then there is the cold. Bring wooly hat, gloves and buff. These are small items you can use if you end up needing to but do not take much room in your bag if you do not need them. If you have a fall and you are having to wait a while for help, you can get extremely cold. Prepare for this, then hope it does not happen. Do not do a 'She'll be right'
Fatigue - When you get tired it is the most likely time to slip or trip. Keep hydrated and breathe nice and deep. Have a look around and give yourself a pat on the back from time to time at the amazing place you are.
Body break downs - If you stop to have lunch, make it a short one. You tend to loose a lot of heat when resting and your body can start to seize up if you make your stop too long. Lots of short ones is better than one big lunch break. Bring along a mini first aid kit including blister protection, plasters and pain relief.
How challenging is the track?
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing takes most people between 6-8 hours to complete. Between Mangatepopo and the Red Crater you climb 800m in altitude. This requires reasonable fitness. If you train for this hike, or you are an experienced hiker this will be a breeze. For a person of average fitness this will prove to be a challenge but you will be able to do it. Lots of water, mini stops, look at the scenery, give yourself a pep talk, one foot in front of the other and you will get there. You know your body better than I do. If you are worried, you could try an easier hike before attempting the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Mt Tauhara in Taupo is a great practise mountain.
If you are a slow hiker and worried about making it back to the bus in time, we highly recommend the Ketetahi Park N Ride. This is where you park your car at the end of the track at Ketetahi in the morning. Tongariro Expeditions pick you up from there and take you to the start of the track at Mangatepopo. That way you are hiking your way back to your car. No need to rush for a shuttle in the afternoon. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in your own time back to where your car is patiently waiting for you.
Northern Circuit - What is the best way to do the Northern Circuit?
This is a two to three day hike that can start and finish at either Mangatepopo or Whakapapa village. If you have a car you are best to park at Whakapapa and start and finish the track there.
If you require transport from Taupo we suggest the following:
What is the best time of year to do the track?
Tongariro Expeditions specialises in offering shuttle options for freedom hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Once there is snow and ice on the track, around July, it is no longer safe to freedom hike. We close up for the winter and open again when the snow clears, around October.
Between October to July the Tongariro Alpine Crossing offers a range of experiences. From mountain snow caps to rich volcanic colours and back to snow. The trick is to get the weather right on the day you want to go.
Our busiest months are January, February and March. The weather patterns tend to be the most stable and you have better likelihood of your booked date to go ahead. However, you will also experience a hot hiking conditions and a busier track. It is nice for you and the mountains fragile environment, if we spread hikers more evenly over the summer season. October is the month where we are watching for when the snow is safely off the track. If you catch a good weather day in late October, with a back drop of snow, you will be treated to seeing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in both winter and summer conditions in one. A great time to go for diverse vistas, cooler more comfortable hiking conditions and a feeling of having the mountain to yourself.
Our main advice is do not wait to see what the weather will be doing to book your spot. Your booking is fully transferable closer to the time if you see that the weather is better another day. It is rare but we do sell out in advance some times, so transfers do need to be checked for availability by emailing the office. So as soon as you know you want to move your booking please let the office know.
If you are not able to move your booking, or you do not mind a little bit of weather, the trip may still go ahead if safe. We would be in touch with you the day before your trip and discuss your options with you via email. If the weather is not safe to go ahead we will offer you a refund or to transfer to another day.
How does the parking at Ketetahi Park n ride work
This can be a confusing concept for some people. Our one way shuttle. How does it work?
Basically, you park at the end of the track (Ketetahi end on SH46). Tongariro Expeditions pick you up from there in the morning and take you to the start of the track (Mangatepopo car park). You are given a map and information sheet and off you go. Hiking completely free of thinking about a bus in the afternoon. You are hiking back to where you parked your car. No need for a shuttle in the afternoon. Great option. Very popular.
The next confusing thing is where to park. DOC have put in place 4 hour time restriction for the Ketetahi car park for peak season between October to April. This means you have to park outside of the car park. It adds a 10-15 minute walk at the end of the day back to your car. It is a flat straight gravel road that you need to walk alongside to get back to SH46 where you would have parked your car.
Parking in peak season on SH46 has actually been happening for years. Well before DOC put in the time restriction. This is because Ketetahi car park is only small and could only take around 50 cars. However, people used to park all over the place and cause congestion issues. There is plenty of parking along the side on SH46. Space for 200 plus cars. The berms are wide and safe to park on for the day.
Is it safe to take a baby to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing?
There is no short answer to this. Ideally, do not take a baby on this track as it is slippery and steep in areas and you are exposed to the elements all day. However, if you are experienced, hike regularly and have a purpose built hiking pack to carry your baby then, yes it is possible to take a baby. Please be mindful of the weather conditions. We give a full refund to anyone booking with a baby if they choose to cancel due to the weather.
Also, once your child is too big to carry the whole way we again suggest not taking them until they are around 10 years old. This is so they can hike the whole track without needing to be carried. We take each situation on a case by case basis and prefer to talk to you about your experience and confidence in your child before accepting the booking.