Walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in winter requires special skills and preparation. Additional hazards are present: snow and ice, avalanche risk, and sub-zero temperatures.
If you are well prepared with proper winter clothing, equipment and skills, and are a competent winter alpine tramper, it can be a fantastic experience.
In the winter season shuttle buses generally don't operate, but guided trips include transport.
If you plan to do a shorter return hike, drive to either end of the track where there is a large parking area at Mangatepopo road trailhead, and a smaller parking area at Ketetahi road trailhead.
Winter conditions and risks on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
- The winter environment at Tongariro is frequently cold, wet and windy, and conditions can change very quickly. For your safety, it is essential to be well dressed for winter conditions.
- Daylight hours are short and temperatures are often below freezing, even during the day.
- Snow and ice are common on most sections of the track. Deep snow can hide track markers. At times surface conditions can be hard ice. Alpine equipment and skills are essential.
Parts of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing passes through avalanche terrain. You should be prepared for avalanche risk, and know when it's not safe to go.
Most of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is simple terrain, however the section that crosses over Red Crater between South Crater and Emerald Lakes contains challenging and complex terrain. The section from Blue Lake to Ketetahi contains challenging terrain.
If you are going into places avalanches could occur, be sure you:
- have checked the New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) and the Avalanche Terrain Exposure scale system (ATES) for the area where you want to go
- have the skills for the ATES class you are going into
- have checked what avalanche advisory and alert information is available from the DOC visitor centre nearest the area where you want to go
- take an avalanche transceiver, avalanche probe and a snow shovel. Know how to use these tools.
Avalanche terrain on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (PDF, 4084K) | Avalanche terrain ratings for Tongariro National Park