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The King Country; or, Explorations in New Zealand. A Narrative of 600 Miles of Travel through Maoriland.

Chapter XVI. — Ascent of Tongariro

page 179

Chapter XVI.
Ascent of Tongariro.

Physical and geological features—Legend of Tongariro—A break in the clouds—The start for the ascent—Maories in the distance—The Waihohonu valley—The ascent—The brink of Hades—The great crater—The inner crater—The lower cones—Crater lakes—The descent—A valley of death—Tongariro by moonlight—A cold night—The start for Ruapehu.

The cluster of trachytic cones constituting the Tongariro group forms collectively an almost complete circle rising from a level plateau, which near the base of the mountains has a general elevation of about 3000 feet above the level of the sea. The enormous cone with its active crater, which forms the central point of the group, springs from an almost level base, and is flanked on its western and north-eastern sides by minor conical mountains, which are connected with each other by high ridges. To the north-west a series of undulating hills roll down to the plains, while to the south a steep, flat-topped spur juts out into the plateau which bounds the mountain in that direction. With the higher mountains are connected lower undulating hills, formed principally of scoria, and covered, especially towards the plains, with a luxuriant growth of native grasses, low fern, and dwarf shrubs. Right page 180in the very centre of this great circle of cones and extinct craters, the graceful, tapering form of the burning mountain rises from the bottom of an extensive basin-like depression, which, encircled as it is by the rugged sides of the surrounding ranges, has somewhat the appearance of an. ancient crater. This beautiful mountain, as it rears its tall head high above the less elevated cones, especially when viewed from its southern side, at once strikes the beholder by its wonderfully symmetrical proportions. With a slope of about thirty to thirty-five degrees, it assumes as near as possible the exact form of a sugarloaf, without a twist or a bend to mar the grand effect of its outline. To describe it, one must imagine this huge mass built up of trachytic rock, ridges of lava, scoria, volcanic conglomerates, enormous boulders, and other igneous accumulations to a height of thousands of feet, tapering off gracefully at the summit as if moulded by the hand of man. It is not a crater of elevation in the ordinary acceptation of the term, like its colossal neighbour Ruapehu, but a complete trachytic scoria cone, which may have originated from some sudden outbreak of plutonic forces, or from a small aperture in the earth's crust throwing up particles of volcanic rock similar to those of which the mountain is composed, until, through countless ages, its action becoming by degrees more extended, it gradually built itself up to its present proportions from the matter it ejected from its fiery mouth, and thus, phoenix-like, rose into being from its own ashes. "When examining the great mountain, it may be plainly seen that the ridges of trachytic lava, which form, as it were, the skeleton upon which the page break
tongariro.[Page 180.

tongariro.[Page 180.

page 181whole structure is raised, have generally a vertical strike from the summit to the base of the cone, converging, however, gradually towards the top, and while the edges of some are inclined so as to form an almost horizontal stratum, as shown in many of the gorges, the edges of the others stand out perpendicularly, like enormous buttresses. Although the whole mountain is covered with scoria and other volcanic débris, the largest deposits of the former appear to be between the lava ridges, and this is especially the case on the eastern side of the mountain, where these extensive accumulations cover a considerable area of country. Besides the active crater at the summit of the great cone, there is another to the north-eastern side of the group, known as Ketetahi, near to which there is likewise an extensive system of boiling springs. But as I visited these two latter points during another stage of my journey, I will refer more fully to them in their proper order.

After our ascent of Tongariro, and during our subsequent intercourse with the natives, we made it a practice to learn as much as we could of their many interesting legends. The legend of Tongariro was more than once repeated to us by the tribes both resident near and at a distance from the sacred mountain, and it is a remarkable fact, as showing the correctness of the oral traditions of the Maoris, that each one agreed in all particulars with the current stories.

It would appear, then, that when the Arawa canoe touched the newly discovered shores of Aotearoa there was among the dusky adventurers a chief who bore the title of Ngatoroirangi, a name which signifies in page 182the Maori mythology a high priest or deified man. After the natives had formed a settlement at Maketu, Ngatoroirangi was the first to set out, in company with his slave, Ngauruhoe, to explore the new land. Striking into the interior, he crossed the plains of Taupo, and then along the lake, into which he cast his staff, which the natives state became a great totara tree. He also shook his mat over the waters, and from the strips which fell from it sprang the inanga, a small fish which now abounds in the lake. It was dark and stormy when Ngatoroirangi came to the lake, but suddenly the clouds broke, and he beheld for the first time the giant form of Tongariro. With the keen instincts of a heaven-born explorer, the chief resolved to ascend the great mountain, in order to get a better view of the surrounding country; but the snow was deep, and the ice-bound summit of Tongariro was too much for the adventurous travellers, fresh from the sunny islands of the South Seas. Prompted by the unpleasant prospect of being frozen to death, Ngatoroirangi shouted lustily to his sisters who had tarried at Whakari (White Island), some hundred and sixty miles distant, to send him some fire. The summons was obeyed in quick time, and the sacred fire was entrusted to the hands of two taniwhas,1 named respectively Te Pupu and Te Haeata, who conveyed it by a subterranean channel which is yet supposed by the natives to connect Tongariro with the still active volcanic island in the Bay of Plenty. It is related that the fire arrived in time to save the

1 Taniwha, native name for a fabulous reptile supposed to inhabit deep water.

page 183life of the adventurous Ngatoroirangi, but when he turned to comfort his slave, he found to his horror that his trusty follower had given up the ghost. At this juncture Ngatoroirangi took the sacred fire, and casting it into the extinct crater of Tongariro, the subterranean fires burst forth. On this account Ngatoroirangi named the crater Ngauruhoe, in honour of his slave—a term by which it is generally known to the natives even unto this day. The great mountain itself, however, with its surrounding cones, is more usually called Tongariro—a term which means in the native language "towards the south"—and it is a remarkable fact, as showing the significant nomenclature of the Maoris, that the compass-bearing of the volcano is as nearly as possible due north and south.1There can be no doubt that Tongariro is one of the largest, grandest, and most perfect volcanic cones of its kind in the world, and little wonder, therefore, that the Maoris, when gazing upon its mysterious fires, should have linked its name with their songs and legends, and have rendered it a sacred object in their mythology, just as the Japanese have done their no less beautiful Fusiyama.
The morning of the 18th of April broke dull and cloudy. "We were now over 3000 feet above the level of the sea at our camp at Pangarara, waiting, nay, almost praying that the dreary, dismal clouds would break and give us a gleam of sunshine. We had up to this time been detained exactly ten days through stress

1 The exact position of Tongariro is—

Lat. 39° 9′ 45″ S.
Long. 175° 38′ 20″ E.

page 184of weather whilst waiting to ascend the tapued mountain, the dull monotony of our position being only relieved by the somewhat exciting expectation that the Maoris might be down upon us at any moment.
The thermometer, which for the three previous days had given a mean average of 57° Fahr. in the shade, suddenly fell to 43°. The omen was a good one, and we waited patiently.1 At about ten o'clock an invigorating breeze blew direct from the south, the sun shone brilliantly, the sky was dotted here and there with bright patches of a vivid blue, and as we looked in the direction of Tongariro, the whole scene changed before our eyes like a magnificent panorama. The dark, funereal, pall-like cloud which had up to this time entirely obscured the mountain, rolled gradually away as if by enchantment, and the magnificent tapering cone, glittering with ice and snow, and crowned with its waving cloud of steam, stood out against the azure sky in grand and beautiful relief. Tongariro to be seen to advantage should be viewed from its southern side. When beheld from the north it is to a certain degree dwarfed by the mountains surrounding it in that direction, while the crater on the north and west is likewise more depressed, and coming consequently lower down the mountain, thus detracts from its apparent height. On the other hand the country to the southward is more open, and the symmetrical cone rises boldly defined above the lower scoria ridges, which rise in gradual undulations around the great volcano in that direction. I had seen many

1 Throughout the journey we found that the cold winds from the south invariably brought fine weather.

page 185grand mountains in different parts of the world, but never had I gazed upon anything so sublimely beautiful as Tongariro appeared on this occasion; ice, snow, and steam all combining, beneath the bright sunlight, to add a magical effect to this wonderful monument of nature's handiwork.

Although we did not imagine that the weather would clear so rapidly we determined to seize this, the first opportunity, and to start at once for the ascent.

We were about two miles away from the base, and we had previously determined to hide our packhorse away in the bush, and to ride to the foot of Tongariro with our blankets and tent, make the ascent, and camp at the foot of the mountain at night.

It took just half an hour to saddle up, and get everything prepared, and then, skirting the forest near to which we had been camped, we ascended a hill some 400 feet high, to gain the Waihohonu Valley beyond.

The sun now shone warm and brightly, our course seemed clear, and all was going as merrily as the proverbial marriage-bell, when Turner hastily directed my attention to four mounted Maoris coming across the plains to our rear; but just at the moment we caught sight of them they disappeared behind a low hill. They were some distance off, but they were quite near enough to easily discern us, especially as Turner, with the white tent on his dark pony, formed a conspicuous object. Fortunately we saw no more of the natives, although we watched carefully for some time, but they nevertheless haunted us for days afterwards—during page 186our ascent both of Tongariro and Ruapehu—as we felt fully convinced that they must have seen us, and we were likewise equally sure that they could, if they so wished, follow up our tracks, when, by the marks of the shod horses, they would have at once discovered that we were Europeans. If we had been going in any other direction the circumstances would have been as nothing, but riding as we were straight for Tongariro, we knew that that fact alone was sufficient to excite their suspicion. When we had ridden across the top of the hill we were at once out of sight, and we rode as fast as our weak horses would allow over the scoria ridges which surrounded the base of the cone. We passed on our right an enormous bluff of volcanic rocks, and then descended a steep, precipitous incline strewn with enormous boulders which at some remote age had evidently been hurled from the fiery crater. It was impossible for our horses to walk down this treacherous place with their heavy burdens on their backs, even whilst we led them, so taking them off and putting them on our own shoulders we made the animals follow us, when they picked their way over and around the big stones like cats.

At the foot of the incline we gained the Waihohonu Valley, a wild, desolate-looking ravine with a winding stream running down its centre. To the left, on the opposite side of this watercourse, was a dense forest growth, while on the ground around the tussock grass and dwarfed alpine plants peculiar to this region struggled for life amidst the huge stones and small low scoria hillocks which were dispersed about in a confused but picturesque way. At the end of the page 187cluster of forest towards the mountain a steep wall of lava-like rock rose abruptly up, and ended in high scoria ridges which, closed in the valley to the south-west Looking in a north-easterly direction, the rugged promontories and jagged edges of the broken extinct craters of the lower mountains rose high in the air, piled about in a confused mass, and coloured dark red and black by the effects of the volcanic fires which appeared to have rent and torn them asunder until they had assumed the appearance of embattled walls and crumbling ruins. The whole conformation of this valley, which was nearly two miles in length, assumed a somewhat semicircular appearance, as if, at some period or another, it had formed part of an enormous crater, out of which the gigantic cone that towered thousands of feet above us had ultimately reared its lofty summit. Although the sun shone with a dazzling splendour over us, and a light-green vegetation clothed many of the hills around, and even crept up the steep scoria sides of the great mountain itself, the Waihohonu Valley had a wild, dreary, and parched up look, as if some fiery breath had but recently swept over it, and it was only just getting cool from the effects of the volcanic fires, which had left stupendous monuments of their work in the enormous lava ridges, which seemed to have cooled suddenly in their molten course down the steep precipices; while the gigantic boulders of black, shining, volcanic rock, which lay scattered about in every direction, looked like tremendous thunderbolts just newly hurled to earth by the hand of Titan. Not a few of these enormous stones appeared to have been rounded by the action of fire, page 188and in some cases to have been partially melted before being sent high into the air from the fiery mouth of the crater, to fall with terrific force into their present positions.

Securing our horses in the scrub, we scrambled for about a mile over huge boulders, and up rough, narrow watercourses, when, ascending a steep spur of the mountain, we reached the base of the great cone near to its south-eastern side, at a point which marked 4000 feet above the level of the sea. Gazing upwards, the steep, clean-cut sides of the tall mountain looked almost precipitous, and it was clear, at a glance, that the task to reach the summit and make the descent by nightfall would be no easy matter. Just at this part of the cone some volcanic disturbance, which had occurred probably ages ago, had poured down a stream of liquid lava, which, cooling, as it were, by some sudden blast, had congealed into a rugged and almost perpendicular ridge of dark, lustrous, adamantine-like rock in its overflow from the summit of the mountain. It was up this precipitous ridge that we had determined to fight our way. When we first began the ascent, the steep climbing told severely on our backs and legs, while the enormous protruding masses of porous lava which fringed the outside portion of the ridge, and over which we had to climb as much by our hands as by our feet, were as sharp as if they had cooled and crystallized but yesterday. Besides the cautious and often dangerous way we had to pick our footing, it was necessary to be careful, in order to avoid the many holes in the lava formation, which were just large enough to receive a man's body, and which, when we page 189threw stones into them, appeared to be of enormous depth. As we climbed higher and higher, the shelving, colossal sides of the mountain seemed to become steeper and steeper, while the summit appeared to get further away at every step we took.

Fortunately the weather kept beautifully clear, and as we mounted gradually upwards, each hundred feet or so disclosed some new and enchanting view of the surrounding country, which lay mapped out beneath us radiant in all the beauties of the creation. At an altitude of 5000 feet we obtained a magnificent view of Mount Egmont, its peaked, snow-clad summit rising like a glittering island above the vapoury cloud that hung around the lower portion of the mountain, which was a little over eighty miles away from our point of observation, the intervening country being formed of a wide expanse of broken, forest-clad ranges of minor elevation, and which appeared, judging from their numerous valleys, to have a general north-westerly and south-easterly bearing. At an altitude of 5900 feet the climbing was very steep, and at 6400 feet we could see open plains in the distance, towards the west, with patches of forest, which gave them a park like appearance. At 6600 feet, two small blue lakes were distinctly visible immediately below us, situated on the summit of a flat-topped spur, which stretched out from the base of the great cone in the direction of the open plains beyond, while about six miles distant, in the same direction, rose the colossal form of Ruapehu, brilliant in its fleecy mantle of snow, above which its glacier-bound peaks, rising one above the other, shot up in the form of glittering cones high into page 190the calm, clear air. This was the most extended view we had, up to this time, obtained of the mountain king of the North Island, and we gazed upon its stupendous form with increased interest, as it was to be our field of operations for the morrow. Indeed, it was from this elevated point that we carefully observed all the principal physical features of the giant mountain, and laid down our plan of the ascent, which we successfully carried out two days afterwards. At this point, too, we found the last sign of vegetation in the small alpine plant, Gnaplialium bellidioides.1 At 6950 feet we found enormous icicles adhering to the rocks, the lava ridge up which we had with great difficulty kept our course, became very steep and rugged, while the climbing was exceedingly difficult and tiring. The mass of dark, black lava stood out in some places like a huge wall, and while on one side the thermometer marked 48° Fahr., on the other, where there were big clusters of icicles over a foot long, it indicated 30°. In this way we could enjoy a great variation in temperature at any moment. During the whole ascent we never allowed ourselves more than five minutes' rest at a time, as we knew that a shift of wind, which might occur at any moment, would sweep the clouds over the mountain again, when its steaming vapours would soon envelop it in an impenetrable mist. Tongariro at all times indicates sudden changes in the weather with the accuracy of a well-balanced barometer. When its vapour-cloud coils upward in the form of a feathery palm, the gods are propitious, and sunshine will be the order of the day; when it shoots out in a

1 For flora of Tongariro, vide Appendix.

page 191long streak horizontally from the crater, a change is impending; and when the vapoury cloud gathers round the summit and coils rapidly down the sides of the cone, as it does often with singular rapidity, it is time to look out for squalls. For a long distance up the mountain its rugged sides glittered with icicles, which clustered about the enormous masses of trachytic lava which cropped up everywhere around, while the ground was covered in every direction with a thick coating of frost and frozen snow. At a height of 7000 feet the whole aspect of the cone had a very bare and desolate look, and, besides the enormous boulders we encountered, we passed over a steep slope covered with volcanic conglomerate, which was very treacherous and slippery with sheets of ice. Here we had to go on all fours, and even in this way it was very difficult to keep our equilibrium sufficiently to prevent ourselves from rolling down the precipitous slopes below. We could now smell the sulphurous fumes of the crater as the clouds of steam rolled over us while we clambered over the enormous ice-bound rocks in the direction of the yawning chasm.

We crawled up a frozen, steep incline on to the hot, quaking edge of the great crater, where a grand and curious sight burst upon the view. We gained the rugged summit of the cone at its highest side, but just as we did so the great cloud of steam rolling up from the enormous basin beneath us swept over us in a dense white cloud, and what with the loud bubbling of the boiling springs, the hissing, screeching sound of the great columns of steam as they burst with terrific force from the rocky vents, the unearthly gur-page 192glings of the jets of boiling mud as they shot into the air, and the strong sulphurous fumes that pervaded the atmosphere in every direction, we seemed for once in our lives to be standing on the brink of Hades. Mounting a little to the right along the hot soil that smoked beneath our feet, we gained the very topmost point of the mountain, formed by a broken, rugged peak that fell on the inner side with a precipitous descent into the boiling crater below. We were now on the windward side of the steam-cloud, and at an altitude of 7376 feet above the level of the sea.

From, this elevated position we had a clear and well-defined view of the whole summit of the mountain, which appeared to be permeated in every direction, by a vast thermal action. The steep, broken sides of the enormous crater wound before us in the form of an almost complete circle of nearly a mile in circumference; and it could be plainly seen that, towards its north-western and western sides, it was considerably lower than on the side upon which we stood. Within the great circle, at its northern side, there was a smaller or inner crater of an almost complete rounded form, the sides of which inclined gradually towards its centre in the form of a complete funnel. This minor crater was separated, from the larger one only by a narrow ridge or lip. Looking down into the main crater, which appeared to be about 400 feet in depth, its sides, rugged and broken, as it were, by the force of volcanic fires, were built up principally of enormous masses of trachytic rock, lava ridges, and beds of conglomerate, formed mostly of rounded stones and boulders fused together into a compact mass by what page 193must, at some period or another, have been a very powerful igneous action. In fact, it could be plainly seen that the whole volcano when at the height of its eruptive force must have been the seat of a powerful volcanic activity, until gradually its exhausted fires subsided into their present state. In some places the sides of the crater were perpendicular and fell with a sheer descent, while in others they were more disturbed and broken. At the bottom of the crater there were scattered about huge rocky ridges, from the large crevices and fissures of which enormous jets of steam burst forth with a roaring, screeching noise, which echoed from the depths below like the wailings of the condemned. Hot springs sent up streams of boiling water, which ran over the rocks and then lost themselves in the hot, quaking soil, which sent them high into the air again in the form of coiling jets of vapour. Miniature cones of dark, smoking mud rose up in every direction, while around all was a seething, fused mass of almost molten matter, which appeared to require just one or two degrees more of heat to transform it into a lake of liquid lava. In every direction were large deposits of pure yellow sulphur, some of which assumed a rock-like formation; at other places it formed a crust over the steaming earth, and where the thermal action was less intense, the glittering yellow crystals covered the ground like a thick frost. No fire was visible in the crater, nor was there any indication of a very recent volcanic eruption. The whole crater of the mountain was in the state of a very extensive solfatara, which was evidently more active at some periods than at others. The inner or second page 194crater, which likewise sent forth a vast volume of steam from its boiling depths, was in much the same condition of activity as the larger one, only that the deposits of sulphur literally lined its sloping sides with a bright-yellow coating, which came up to the very summit of its rim and looked like a circle of gold beneath the bright rays of the sun, which lit up the feathery steam-clouds in the most brilliant prismatic hues.

We obtained a complete view of all parts of the great mountain, as likewise of the smaller volcanic cones and ridges which lay below. Looking in the direction of the north-east, and down upon the rugged clusters of minor elevations, we could see several extinct craters of considerable size; some perfect in their formation, while others had been rent and distorted by the action of volcanic fires, which had left their marks upon them in the form of enormous lava ridges and extensive deposits of scoria.

In the midst of these extinct craters we could see two small blue lakes; one of a complete circular form, the other, which was only a short distance away from the first, being nearly oblong in shape. The lakes, like those on the southern side of the mountain, were evidently nothing more than extinct craters filled by subterranean springs. Beyond these lakes we could see the steam rising from the Ketetahi crater, while further along to the north was a white cloud marking the position of the boiling springs.1

1 It is supposed by many that Tongariro and Whakari (White Island) are the only two remaining centres of active volcanic action in what may be termed the Australasian division of the Pacific. This in [gap — reason: illegible] reality is not the case. The great volcanic belt which appears to extend through the Malay Archipelago may be said to stretch as far south as the New Hebrides. Thus on the island of Tanna there is an active volcano which attains to an altitude of 1500 feet above the sea. It is in a constant state of eruption, emitting vast volumes of smoke, with ashes and lava, from a crater 500 feet in depth. On the island of Ambrym, of the same group, there is likewise an active volcano, nearly equal in size to that of Tanna, while on the island of Vanikoro still further to the north, in the Santa Cruz group, there is a coneshaped mountain in a constant state of activity. During a journey of exploration in the New Hebrides and other islands of the Coral Sea, the volcano of Tanna was asccnded by the author, who read papers descriptive of the islands before the British Association, at its meeting held at the University of Glasgow in 1876.

page 195

We left the summit of the cone towards sundown, but in place of descending by the route we had ascended, we came down a very steep part of the mountain on its eastern side. This precipitous slope, covered thickly with loose scoria, and strewn in parts with enormous boulders and rounded stones, was walled in on either side by two stupendous lava ridges, which ran down the mountain-side and gradually opened out towards the base in the form of a triangle. The slope of the cone was here very steep, and the scoria being fine and very loose, gave way under our feet, and caused us to slide rapidly forward for many feet at every step. Taking hold of each other's arms to better maintain our equilibrium, we took gigantic strides, each one, as the scoria slid down with us, carrying us forward from ten to fifteen feet at a time. In this way many large and small stones were set loose, until we had a whole regiment of them bounding on in front of us, and as their momentum increased at a terrific rate with every foot they rolled down the steep incline, they soon attained the velocity of cannon- page 196balls, and went crashing with tremendous force into the rock-bound valley below. So rapid, in fact, was our progress in this way, that, although our ascent from the bottom to the top of the cone had occupied us nearly six hours in hard climbing, we made the descent in a little over an hour and a half.

It was dark when we reached the base of the mountain, but we managed by slow degrees to find our way over the stupendous masses of rock which lay scattered over the deep ravine forming the head of the Waihohonu Valley. Here an enormous fissure ran down along the course of the dreary-looking gorge, and as it wound along in a snake-like course, it appeared as if it had been formed by a river of lava, which had been suddenly cooled, and then as suddenly cleft in twain. We picked our way for about a couple of miles along its rugged, boulder-strewn banks, and as the shades of night closed round us the whole surroundings looked so dismal that we appeared to be passing through a veritable valley of death. When we arrived at our camping-place our first anxiety was to see that the natives had not swept down and taken our horses. Luck was, however, on our side, and we found the animals where we had left them, but very poorly off for feed. It was evident from the keen feeling of cold in the air that we were going to have a severe night, as the temperature was falling rapidly, and as the moon rose bright and clear a heavy frost set in. We lit a fire, and made a scanty meal off tea and biscuit; and as we were anxious to get clear of the tapued mountain with the first streak of dawn, we resolved not to erect our tent, in order that we might not be page break
tongariro by moonlight. [Page 197.

tongariro by moonlight.
[Page 197.

page 197delayed in our rapid retreat. We therefore spread our blankets upon the ground, and made a tolerably comfortable bed on the scoria.

When we lay down to rest in the dreary valley with its lava-walled sides, the full moon shone brilliantly, the great cone of Tongariro, with its feathery cloud of steam, looked grandly beautiful beneath, the clear silvery light, the stars hung like lamps from the cloudless heavens, and the magnificent constellation of the Southern Cross shone directly over our heads. Never in any part of the world had I seen the heavens appear so clear and radiant as when gazing upon them from the depths of this dark valley. Around us, however, on every side the whole place had a singularly wild, weird look, and a strange sense of loneliness seemed to hover around us. We were in a tapued region, which the superstitious minds of the natives had made the abode of taniwhas and other evil demons. The bones of the ill-fated Te Heuheu lay somewhere upon the great mountain, and Turner suggested that the ghost of the great Maori chief might slink down upon us in the night just to test the thickness of our skulls with his greenstone mere. It was, however, the living which concerned us most, as we still had a kind of secret conviction that the natives we had seen in the morning had laid some plan to entrap us.

Sleep, however, came at last, but the cold soon awoke us, and by midnight the whole valley was covered with a thick coating of white frost, which glistened like snow beneath the pale moonlight. I had placed my thermometer close handy, so that I page 198might observe it during the night, and I now found that it stood at 27°; at four o'clock it marked 22°; and at six o'clock, just before sunrise, it indicated exactly twelve degrees of frost. The plants around us were completely matted together with white incrustations; the icicles rose from the ground over an inch in length, and in a way that I had never seen before; the breath froze upon the moustache and beard; the manes of our horses stood erect, the bristles about their nostrils were transformed into needle-like icicles, and their backs were covered with a crisp, white coating of frost.

It did not take us long to saddle up, although we experienced some little difficulty with the buckles, owing to our fingers being numbed with the cold; but once on our horses, we rode rapidly away from Tongariro, and just as the first ray of sunlight swept over the hills we gained the plains beyond, to begin the ascent of Ruapehu.