Know before you go
IntroductionSafety information you should consider before commencing your trip.
May to late October – winter season
You need special skills and preparation to complete the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in winter. There is increased risk from additional hazards – snow, ice, avalanche terrain and sub-zero temperatures.
The track passes through an alpine environment with changeable weather conditions at all times of year. It is common to experience very cold temperatures, strong wind, heavy rainfall and poor visibility in summer – snow can fall at any time of year.
Check the weather forecast – NIWA website before you go.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing passes through volcanic hazard zones – even when the track is open, volcanic risk is present. Volcanic monitoring systems monitor activity and mitigate volcanic risk, but won't ensure your personal safety. If you are uncomfortable with this risk, choose a different track.
Te Maari, Red Crater and Ngāuruhoe vents have all been active within the last 100 years – the most recent eruption occurred from Te Maari in 2012.
Before you go:
- know the volcanic risks and what to do in an eruption, and
- check volcanic activity information on the Geonet website.
There is geothermal activity around the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – especially near emerald lakes. Steam vents (fumaroles) should not be approached – steam is very hot, the ground can be unstable and severe burns are possible. Stay on the marked track at all times to avoid injury.
During the summer hiking season, a ‘Not Recommended Today’ advisory is applied to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing when the weather is potentially hazardous.
The advisory is applied if any of the following parameters are exceeded on any two hours between 9 am and 5 pm on the NIWA Tongariro Alpine Crossing (Red Crater) weather forecast:
- average wind speed of 55 kph or greater
- wind gusts of 70 kph or greater
- wind chill of minus 10 °C or colder
- wind chill of 0 °C or colder with 1 mm of precipitation or greater
- rain rate greater or equal to 2.5 mm/hr
- snow rate greater or equal to 0.1 cm/hr
- precipitation of 10 mm or greater as a six-hour accumulation between 9 am and 5 pm.
The assessment to apply the advisory will be made at 6 am every day. If applied:
- signage is placed at Mangatepōpō Road end
- an alert is automatically be placed on the weather forecast – NIWA website
- transport and guiding operators, i-SITES and visitor centres will be advised automatically via email.
Toilets are every 1–2 hr along the track.
May to October – winter season
Track standard: Route
Track surface: Track is covered in snow and very icy in sections.
Suitable for: People with alpine skills, equipment and experience. You must:
- know how to navigate if cloud or snow covers the marker poles and you cannot see them
- know where avalanches are a risk and be able to rescue someone if an avalanche occurs
- have the equipment and skills to prevent a slide on icy terrain
- have the clothing for sub-zero temperatures and be able to survive if the weather gets worse.
Prepare for a long, challenging day
Allow 9 hours to complete the walk. There are between 9 and 11 hours of daylight in winter, so leave early enough to complete the trip before it gets dark. Always take a head torch.
Be prepared to turn back if conditions are no longer safe or if your progress is too slow.
Dress for cold, windy and icy conditions
On a calm day, Red Crater is at least 10°C colder than Taupō and 5°C colder than the start of the track – subtract another 2°C for every 10 km/h of wind:
Eg, when it’s 10°C (50°F) in Taupō, a calm day at Red Crater will be about 2°C (35°F). This feels more like -2°C (28°F) with moderate winds of 20 km/h (11 knots).
Conditions can change quickly. Layer your clothes to trap warm air in and keep cold wind out. Start with a base layer of polypropylene/merino, add an insulation layer of fleece/wool and finish with a waterproof shell layer.
Expect ice on the track between April and October. A helmet, crampons and ice axe are essential, as is competency using them. 38% of tramping injuries are from slipping.
Be avalanche alert
Avalanches are a hazard. Know the avalanche forecast. Take an avalanche transceiver, avalanche probe and snow shovel, and be competent using them.
Take these essentials
- Plenty of drinking water (water along the track is not suitable for drinking), food and toilet paper
- Waterproof jacket and pants, hat, gloves, sunscreen, and warm, layered clothing
- Sturdy tramping or mountaineering boots
- Crampons, ice axe and helmet
- Avalanche transceiver, avalanche probe and snow shovel
- Mobile phone, personal locator beacon (PLB), head torch and spare batteries
- Map, compass and/or GPS
Make a plan
Talk with someone at the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre who knows the current conditions.
Check the latest:
- avalanche forecast – New Zealand Avalanche Advisory website
- volcanic alert level – GeoNet website
- weather forecast – NIWA website
Know the route – deep snow can hide track markers.
Shuttle buses generally don't operate during winter, but guided trips include transport.
Go with a guide
Know your limits. Have a memorable and safe experience with the following approved Tongariro Alpine Crossing guiding companies:
Mangatepopo Valley in winter
Image: Zhi Yuen Yap ©
South Crater in winter
Image: Zhi Yuen Yap ©