Free Phone 0800 TRACKT (872258)

Tongariro Mountain Magic

Tongariro: Mountain magic

By Fraser Crichton  5:30 AM Saturday Jul 21, 2012 NZ Herald

A moonlit weekend gives Fraser Crichton an opportunity to find out more about Project Tongariro's high-tech Tongariro Alpine Crossing experience.

Hiking with Project Tongariro's high-tech Tongariro Alpine Crossing experience where volunteers have installed QR codes for signage and wayfinding at high altitudes. Photo / Fraser Crichton

 Kim waves her phone at the barcode-like QR square on the track marker. There are eight of us standing around watching, and she must be feeling the pressure.

She waves it again then stands up and says, "South Crater to Red Crater. Grade: moderate/difficult. Allow 1 hour".

Kim Manunui is Project Tongariro's media co-ordinator, and she's reading from a free smartphone application they've developed called the Pocket Ranger that can scan QR codes. We're standing, as the app says, in the South Crater on an Easter evening taking part in a moonlit crossing organised by Project Tongariro, and I'm there to learn more about the Pocket Ranger.

Project Tongariro is a community organisation established as a living memorial to five park rangers who died in a helicopter crash on Ruapehu in 1984. It is dedicated to educating people about the national park's natural history and runs conservation projects at Lake Rotopounamu, Waimarino wetlands and a kiwi recovery project called Operation Nest Egg.

I stumble along at the start of the crossing trying to walk and take notes from Kim. The Pocket Ranger was developed in partnership with the Department of Conservation in 2009 to provide tourist information on local accommodation, activities and transport.

Kim explains the 12 tiny QR codes mounted on the sides of prominent track markers provide unobtrusive interpretive information for each section of the track. Normal signage gets blown away in hurricane force winds and the Ngati Tuwharetoa, who gifted the park to New Zealand, object to ugly signs along the track.

Eventually DoC wants to roll out similar schemes across the country.

The 19.4km Tongariro Alpine Crossing is the best one-day trek in New Zealand. It's absolutely, stunningly beautiful. Its red, yellow and orange sulphur landscapes are a Martian world. No wonder it's so popular. Our guide - Hakan Svensson, known as Hogi - reckons more than 2000 people are attempting the crossing over Easter weekend, and more than 100,000 visitors this year, many from overseas.

Hogi is a search and rescue volunteer, and has saved many people - including bejandalled boy scouts - from the crossing's notoriously harsh weather. But he doesn't criticise the overseas visitors as we huff up the new boardwalk detour that replaces the steep, scoria rubble of the Devil's Staircase. "Ninety per cent of the rescues across New Zealand are Kiwis," he says. He says the new boardwalk we are on is part of a strategy to make the crossing easier to retreat from in bad weather, and therefore safer for everyone. It cost DoC $1 million per kilometre to construct as all the materials had to be flown in by helicopter, but it will save on rescue costs in the long term. The Pocket Ranger plays a role in making the crossing a safer experience.

We walk across the flat, red expanse of the South Crater, then up to the high point of the crossing: Red Crater. The gash of the volcanic fumarole steams and glows red as we stand with the last of the sun streaming through the light mist. The colours are amazing and there's no one around. No wonder people are increasingly doing the trip over winter to escape the crowds (including a Project Tongariro working winter trip this year). The moon rises and it's dark quickly. We put head torches on for our descent.

As we walk down through the moonlight I think about something Hogi said as we started, "You can see the movement here, I think that's my favourite thing about the valley." He explained that it's one of the few places in the world where volcanoes and glaciers have come together to create the landscape we see today. And it's a living landscape. Lava flowed from Ngauruhoe as recently as 1954 and Ruapehu continues to burp and rumble. The Pocket Ranger might not replace Hogi but it makes the crossing a richer experience.

What’s New?

  • About Tongariro Track Transport About Tongariro Track Transport

    Tongariro Track Transport

     Tongariro Track Transport is owned and operated by Ron and Lorraine Sivell of Adventure National Park Limited.  They started the Tongariro shuttle service to ensure their customers did not miss the scheduled pick up times.  This was a problem 10 years ago as the end of the track is in a remote area, people who missed the scheduled timetable had a problem getting back to their accommodation at the end of the day. 

    The Service is much improved today with the increase number of people on the Tongariro Crosing and the use of cell phones. 

    more
  • Tongariro named in the top 10 world parks Tongariro named in the top 10 world parks

    Tongariro named one of world's top parks

    By Andrea Warmington  6:22 PM Monday Sep 12, 2011 New Zeland Herald

    Lonely Planet describes New Zealand's oldest park Tongariro as "a serene realm of geological anomalies".  Lonely Planet has named Tongariro National Park as one of the world's best parks and preserves in a list that includes the Grand Canyon and Iguazu Falls National Park in South America.

    more
  • Project Tongariro launches interactive smartphone Project Tongariro launches interactive smartphone

    Project Tongariro in the central North Island has launched New Zealand’s first interactive smartphone application for a National Park – just in time for the busy summer walking season.  Called the Pocket Ranger, the free to download app is designed to offer an interactive and multi-media experience that provides interpretation, maps and images of the unique natural fepocket rangeratures of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing while at the same time conveying important safety messages.

    more
  • What a great day on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing What a great day on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

    We have had some wonderful weather in Tongariro National Park over the last two weeks and our winter guides have been busy.


    If you have done the crossing in summer, all these customer recommend you come in winter as you have spectacular views with the mountains in their winter coats!

    Check it out at Tongariro guide

     

     

  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing Track Repair

     

    Tongariro Alpine Crossing repairThe Tongariro Alpine Crossing track repair work will be started this week.

    A 2.5 km long section of the track was badly damaged and in places made hazardous during the eruption of Te Maari on August 6th.  The aim is to repair the track on either side of the Ketetahi Hut to back- country adventure standard. This will provide trekkers with a defined poled route but it will be rough and muddy in places without a gravel surface over much of it. The Ketetahi Hut will remain closed due to substantial damage from the eruption. However a day shelter and toilets will be available at the site of the damaged hut. Due to substantial damage to the water supply, no drinking water will be available at the Ketetahi Shelter. Trekkers will need to carry enough drinking water for the day.

    Progress to get this work completed will be very weather dependent and snow still covers part of the damaged area but every effort will be made to have the Alpine Crossing walkable by Labour Weekend. Prior to re-opening of the track to the public, Ngāti Tuwharetoa through local hapu Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, will lift the Rāhui off this section with an appropriate blessing ceremony. New signage will also be installed updating track information.

    GNS (Geological and Nuclear Sciences) have been carrying out extensive monitoring of the eruption site, including gas sampling, to ensure a robust risk assessment is undertaken to aid decision making. Gas levels continue to reduce and earthquake activity has been at a very low level since the August eruption.

    Ngāti Hikairo will continue to provide a cultural and safety information presence at the Mangatepopo carpark, the gateway to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

  • Tongariro Mountain Magic Tongariro Mountain Magic

    Tongariro: Mountain magic

    By Fraser Crichton  5:30 AM Saturday Jul 21, 2012 NZ Herald

    A moonlit weekend gives Fraser Crichton an opportunity to find out more about Project Tongariro's high-tech Tongariro Alpine Crossing experience.

    Hiking with Project Tongariro's high-tech Tongariro Alpine Crossing experience where volunteers have installed QR codes for signage and wayfinding at high altitudes. Photo / Fraser Crichton

    more