Mount Doom

“And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and a half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

One does not simply walk into Mordor. You must catch a shuttle or hitch hike. Commercialisation of the the car park aside, we set off down the Tongariro crossing with the masses, having started a bit late. No matter though, for Julija and I were going to crush it anyway, right?

Let me back track a moment. Since my hazy days in Matata, I have found an awesome travel mate, Julija, who is catching a ride down South. She is just my type of people, and full of great jokes like “Who is more adventurous, a Llama or an Alpaca? An alpaca, because an aplaca is always keen for an adventure ‘al paca my things!'”. Back to Mount Doom.

Trekking up to the foot of Mount Doom was hot, barren and over-crowded, like some hellish version of Hillary’s Step. At the foot of Mount Doom were numerous signs to turn back. Perhaps if one had wittily said “You shall not pass!” more people would adhere in jest. We contemplated it over an apple. We were making good time, there were seven or eight others attempting it and the clouds were coming and going. Why not? We abandoned the crowds and started the brutal slog up the forty degree volcanic slope. Mount Doom stands 2300m tall and is a formidable beast with great prominence over Mordor, making for incredible views as you stop to catch your breath.

Upon reaching the top and peering into the crater, the first thing I noticed was that it was freezing cold and full of snow. Wait, that’s not right is it? Then Julija notice the ring. The One Ring, no, two rings in the crater! Perhaps wedding rings from a marriage gone horrifically wrong? Perhaps we should be good samaritans and return them to Hobbiton on our way back up North? Either way, we found a questionable, decidedly adventurous route into the crater and retrieved them. The view from the top was spectacular and we stopped for lunch, but time was against us so we pushed on.

We headed straight down, just as we came up. There are no real paths on Mount Doom. It only took fifteen minutes of ski-running-sliding to reach the bottom and rejoin the tourist route. Late was the hour that we rejoined the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The crowds had all but gone and the way ahead lay clear. Onwards we pushed. It is one of the more spectacular hikes I have ever done, winding through an active alpine-volcanic range scattered with brightly coloured sulphric lakes and smoking landscapes. A true taste of savage beauty.

All told, including the detour up Mount Doom, the route was 30km long with 590 floors altitude gain. Thankfully we were based by the hot springs of Taupo to soothe my weary legs the next day. We must not stay long however. The road South calls and there are many miles to roam.

“Home is behind, the world ahead,
and there are many paths to tread
through shadows to the edge of night,
until the stars are all alight.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

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    • Roger Donaldson
    • December 16, 2017

    Beautifully written and some spectacular photos.

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