4 Stages of Long Distance Hiking

posted in: Ella | 11

“So if the volcano erupts, take a picture, then drop your packs and run.”


At least that’s what our hut warden said, in a very calm fashion. When he brought up the possibility of the volcano erupting, literally everyone in the hut started nervously laughing. It was like everyone was thinking, “that ain’t gonna happen right?” Luckily for us, Mt. Nguarhoe didn’t erupt on our expedition, or else I would not be alive to write this. Because if my survival depended on my ability to run down the Devil’s Staircase, we were all dead.

The Tongariro Northern Circuit Track started with us hiking 8.5 km from Whakapapa Village to Mangatepopo Hut. Sadly, it was raining, and we ended up getting soaked.

It was so cloudy we literally saw nothing but the trail.

Thankfully, you can stay in these huts along the way, so we didn’t have to set up our tent in the rain. They have mattresses, a stove, water from a pump, and a port-a-potty. Everyone was drying their clothes on this rack above the fire, so it was obvious we weren’t the only ones who got caught in the rain. The next day we did the crossing, which is a 12.8 km hike up Devil’s Staircase, up this steep path near the top of the volcano, and past the Emerald Lakes and the Blue Pool. It was awesome!

We marveled at the red crater and took water breaks on the volcanic rocks where the lava had flowed.




We planned on doing the circuit in 4 days and 3 nights, except the third day was only supposed to take three hours. Dumb. We were so stinkin’ dumb. We decided to do two days worth of hiking in one day.

Hiking from Orutere Hut all the way back to the Village was not a bright idea. That’s 21.8 km (around 14 miles).


After our last day, I came to the conclusion that four stages exist in long distance hiking.
1st Stage: Fresh and Fun Stage. You’re feeling good, like you can walk forever.
2nd Stage: Sorta Sore Stage. You’re feeling a little rough, but you’ve gotten used to the weight of your backpack, so you’re ok.
3rd Stage: This is Crap. I’m Done Stage. This is the point on the hike where you’re legs feel like they’re broken, and you don’t think you can walk anymore.
4th and Final Stage: My Legs are Numb, So Now I Feel Nothing Stage. This is the last stage. Sometimes you won’t ever reach this stage, but I definitely did on the last stretch of the hike. It’s almost a good stage, because you can’t feel anything.
Basically follow the crowd and do the Circuit in 4 days or you will suffer the consequences of the four stages. On the bright side, the last day was like we were walking through Minecraft. No joke. We’d walk through a forest, then a desert, but then BOOM there’s this crazy rock area that looks like the moon, rivers, volcanoes, mountains, waterfalls, it was crazy.  – Ella


11 Responses

  1. Geni

    So very beautiful! I was thinking it was summer there. Are you at such a high elevation that you need wraps?

    • Chrishicks5

      Yes, it is summer technically (Nov-Feb), but we are really high up and in general the weather is t-shirt and pants with a ready jacket all the time here, incredibly pleasant but not really swimming weather much. At the beaches, people tend to wear wet suits!

    • Chrishicks5

      We miss you too KK! Can’t wait to give you a hug, hope school is going great! Do you have winter break soon?

  2. Gwynn

    Breathtaking! We looked at the pics over and over and Zoe says she has some art ideas.
    The big waterfall pic looks like a flock of pterodactyls ran into the cliff….bloody!

  3. Gwynn

    So in the 6th picture, were Walden and Ella actually on the summit of the mountain in the background of the 7th picture?

    • Chrishicks5

      So in the 6th picture they are at the top of the hike for the day–the Red Crater. This was a steep and loose scree sloped mountain. Clouds were moving in rapidly and it was difficult! The 7th is actually before the 6th and is them standing in front of “Mt. Doom” at the South Crater which is actually a false crater and really just a depression between the two volcanoes that we were walking between.

    • Chrishicks5

      In the 6th pic, it was actually a crossing between, the actual summit was whited out, we were at 1980 meters

  4. Catherine B.

    In picture 8, are they at the top of a volcano? it looks like they are sitting on a rock by the top of the volcano. I AGREE with the 4 stages Ella!! 🙂

    • Chrishicks5

      Hey Cat! That is the Red Crater which is basically the top of a volcano! It is a crater which last erupted in 1850. There are large lava flows that we saw that came from this crater and then cooled to make new rocks.

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