Tongariro Alpine Crossing is New Zealand's most famous day walk. It's a dual natural cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site and you're likely to find it on websites with titles like the Best Hikes in the World to put on your Bucket List, the 50 Best Hikes in the World, the World's Best Unknown Treks, and 21 Totally Breathtaking Trails to Hike Before you die. It's a challenging day hike - 19.4 kilometres and 820 metres of elevation gain - but doable for the average fit person in good weather conditions.
Jack and I first completed Tongariro Crossing BK (before kids) when we were still tourists in New Zealand on work visas, once in the summer of 2007 and again in the autumn of 2008. As born and bred Kiwis, it's imperative that our children check the Tongariro Alpine Crossing off their bucket lists before they grow up and leave the country to seek their fortunes across the sea. Despite being the quintessential New Zealand walk, Tongariro Crossing is an arduous alpine track with changeable, potentially dangerous conditions that shouldn't be taken lightly. Of course, I want my kids to be safe. I also want them to love the journey, crave challenges, and cherish the magic of Tongariro National Park. To nurture their love of the outdoors, it's important for me to pace the adventures and not too push them too much, too soon all the while keeping them motivated.
Ever since his favourite Auntie and Uncle did the crossing 2 years ago, Dan's been keen to do Tongariro Crossing. Many of Dan's previous tramping quests have been chronicled here at megdrive.com and I trust you'll agree that Dan is a pretty experienced 8 year old tramper. Still I had concerns, which led me to generate the following minimal skillset required to complete Tongariro Crossing:
- Fitness - The track is a long distance and a solid climb. Dan's never walked so far or climbed so high in one day. Certainly not both extremes on the same day.
- Technical ability - Scoria or scree (i.e., tiny, slippery little stones of horror, unpredictability and tears) can be tricky to navigate. Dan hasn't encountered scoria before. In case you haven't guessed, scree and I are mortal enemies and I worried Dan will inherit my fear.
- Strong morale - Will the love and motivation last for the duration of the mission?
When Dan and I were driving home from the climbing gym the other week, he said, "Mum, I wish we were a more outdoorsy family." Seriously?! Facepalm. That got me thinking that maybe it was time to up the adventure level for Dan. In consideration of the skillset needed and my concerns, here was my rationale for attempting Tongariro Crossing with Dan:
- He has an unrelenting positive mindset when we're tramping. He doesn't complain and has confidence that he can improve to accomplish the task. He's never too cold, never too tired, never too hungry. (However, sometimes he does mention that his sister is too slow and too annoying).
- He loves a challenge and thrives in technically difficult situations. He's tramped up to 12 kilometres previously, loves navigating boulders and fallen trees, traversing streams, and persevering to reach the summit or the destination. When there's a choice between an easy or a technical track, he chooses the difficult one every time.
- He has strong focus and desire. Unprompted, he's repeatedly expressed his wish to complete the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I've also apparently failed to provide him with an outdoor-rich upbringing, something we must fix before he needs to spend all of his inheritance paying private therapists to overcome this form of neglect.
It was a brisk and sunny Sunday in the school holidays when Dan and I completed the Tongariro Crossing. He packed carefully the night before, happily and groggily rising at 5am to get the first shuttle bus. He insisted on carrying his 18L pack and his provisions and walked quickly past the slower trampers, "excuse me, pardon me." He agreed to stop for very few photos, joked and laughed all the way, danced and giggled down the scoria, and only paused at kilometre 18 to ask if we could stop at the climbing gym on the way home. "Surely you aren't too tired to belay me, Mum?"
It turns out it was all about attitude towards challenge.
And fart jokes. Dan is 8, after all.