Mistake #2, Mordor, and Rescue on the Mountain
After Rotoura I took a bus south to the Tongario National Park. This park consists of two massive volcanoes each rising 7000 feet into the sky. These, of course, are active volcanoes and a brief glance at the mountains will reveal hot gases seeping from their soil into the air.
Though before I jump into the park, I wanted to focus on an incident that took place on the bus to Tongario. To get to Tongario I had to switch to a connecting bus. The first bus was late and I only had a brief second to switch my items from one bus to the other. In the transition, I forgot to grab my fleece. I am now without a jacket and ironically I spent the last 2 nights outside. As a substitute I am now wearing my rain jacket and multiple tshirts. I think Ill start a crowd funding site to raise money for Bret to buy a jacket. Any donors?
After the bus ride, I arrived to my campsite. It was pouring rain. Thankfully I went into the dining hut and waited the storm out. During this time I meant a nice older Australian couple who gave me tips of things to do whilst in Austrailia. I am amazed how easily I can now talk to strangers.
Anyway, I finally set my tent up in the rain and went to bed. In the morning, I caught a shuttle to the trail head where a I began my 19.4 km hike called the Tongario Crossing. As if Hobbiton wasn’t enough, this is where Mordor was filmed for LOTR and one of the volcanoes, Mt. Ngauruhoe, was actually filmed as Mount Doom. The crossing itself doesn’t take you to the summit but to the base. The summit hike was an extra 3 hrs. I had to catch a shuttle at 5 and I knew the crossing itself would take 6 to 7 hrs. But I didnt come to New Zealand to simply stare at Mt. Doom. I wanted to hike it – so I did.
The trek up was one of the hardest uphills of my life. There was no trail. It was basically straight up hike over lose sand and rocks. Rocks are such a problem that there are warning signs telling climbers to watch out for falling rocks. Twice on my way up I had to run to the left or the right dodging softball sized boulders coming down the mountain. Once I slipped and caused another rock to fall. I had to yell “Rock!!” and hope no one was below me. I wonder sometimes what I get myself into. Also my photos are not the best, but I have some amazing GoPro videos. This will be published after my trip.
Anyway about halfway up the mountain, I ran into this lady who looked like she was having a panic attack. I went over to her to ask her if she was okay. She informed me she was scarred of heights and couldn’t walk without slipping. My only thought was, “well then what are the hell are you doing up here.”
Apparently she had gotten lost and thought she was still on the crossing. She couldn’t move so I had no choice but to walk her down to the bottom assisting her with my poles. Down at the bottom of the climb, I pointed her in the correct direction and off she went. This took some time off but I still REALLY wanted to hike Mt. Doom. So I turned around and started up again.
I don’t how long it took, but I finally made it to the top. In front of me was a huge volcanic crater. It was spectacular.
But I was running out of time and had to get down. So I took a 5 minute break on top and turned back down. Of course right when I turned down, a huge cloud swallowed the mountain. I took a compass heading at the top and headed in the direction of crossing at the bottom knowing I would eventually find the crossing. On the way down, I managed to find an area where it looked like people had slid down. I followed or should I say skied this “path” down to the bottom. It was rough but amazing. I finally made it back to the crossing around 130. I had 3.5 hrs left to complete a 4.5 hrs hike. I had already hiked 1.5 hrs to the peak cutoff. It was time to move.
The rest of the hike was a blur. I didnt stop but once to drink some water and have a powerbar. In fact all day, I ate an apple, a powerbar, and some nuts. I was running on adrenaline.
After a sprint I finally made it back to the shuttle stop at 445. Talk about a close call! Thank you Shawn T and Insanity.
On the ride back I spoke with the shuttle driver. Apparently rescues happen all the time on Mt. Doom. People get lost and have no idea what they are doing. A helicopter has to pick someone off the mountain at least once a week. I am impressed I mean it took Frodo months (years in the book) to do what I did in a day or so.
After my hike, I was exhausted. I ate a ton of tunafish and went to bed around 9.