With snow and ice covering the track, walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in winter requires special skills and preparation.
While the Tongariro Alpine Crossing should always be taken seriously (you are walking 19.4km over an active volcano after all!), it can be tackled without a guide for most of the year.
However, once the winter snows arrive, this all changes. Walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in winter is a very different experience and requires special skills, equipment and preparation.
Not only does snow and ice cover much of the track, there is also the risk of avalanches and sub-zero temperatures.
The safest and best way to experience this incredible walk in winter is therefore to join an expertly-guided expedition.
“The Tongariro Alpine Crossing in winter can be a fantastic experience,” says Sarah Cate, owner and operator of Adventure Outdoors - one of the companies based in National Park Village offering guided Tongariro Alpine Crossing walks in winter.
“In winter the track is either very icy and slippery, or buried under a thick base of snow hiding the track markers. Unless you know what you’re doing, you could get stranded like a possum, stuck on the ice!”
Attempting the walk in winter conditions without the right equipment and extensive alpine trekking experience, is treacherous and potentially life threatening, warns Sarah Cate.
“Because the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is so iconic, walked by thousands of people each year, it can be easy to forget you’re traversing harsh mountainous terrain. And in winter this environment is even less forgiving for the unprepared.”
With the walk starting at an altitude of 1100 meters and reaching 1886 metres at the summit of the Red Crater, extreme weather is common in winter with gale force winds and sub-zero temperatures. Parts of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing also passes through avalanche terrain in winter.
Expert guides such as those employed by Adventure Outdoors, understand the conditions and hazards on the mountain intimately and know what to do when conditions take a turn for worse.
“We know how to be prepare for all the risks posed by wintery conditions, and know when it's not safe to go,” says Sarah Cate.
Nevertheless, walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in winter is still an unforgettable experience - well worth doing, stresses Sarah Cate.
“The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is just fabulous in winter. This landscape is magnificent in all seasons, but especially when the peaks of our three volcanoes - Mt Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu - are covered in snow. A winter Tongariro Alpine Crossing is an experience like no other - as long you know what you’re doing or are with someone who does!”
To stay safe on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in winter, book a guided walk with one of our locally owned and operated companies below:
They will provide everything you need - expert guidance, transport and specialised gear, including hiking boots, rain jackets, fleece pants and tops, backpacks, ice axe, crampons and helmets.