Mount Doom, Mordor
Mt Ruapehu in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand is a mountain I was introduced to in my teens. Prior to that I had driven past it on the Desert Road, which forms part of State Highway 1. It was from the Desert Road that this image was taken. Over the years I have hiked, skied, climbed and stayed on the mountain in all of the seasons of the year. Our family of three boys learned to ski here.
In 1953 the Crater Lake at the top of the mountain broke through a ice plug in the side of the crater and flowed rapidly down the Whangaehu River, washing out the railway bridge at Tangiwai on the Main Trunk Line just before the express train from Wellington to Auckland was due to pass over it. At 10.21 pm on 24 December the train ploughed into the river killing 151 crew and passengers. This tragic accident happened during the first visit to New Zealand of the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II.
The volcano is still active and from time to time it erupts into life, the last time in 2007.
Mt Ruapehu and the surrounding area proved ideal as the dark and savage realm of ‘Mordor’ and ‘Mount Doom’ in the “Lord of the Rings” films. Whakapapa Ski Field, on the slopes of Ruapehu, supplied Middle Earth’s snowy slopes and the opening battlefield on the slopes of ‘Mount Doom’, where an alliance of men and elves defeats the armies of ‘Mordor’.
The mountain often has a gloomy feel to it when viewed across the desert-like foreground of the Central North Island Plateau, across which the Desert Road runs.