Part 4: The Mars-red volcanic ash at the summit look almost otherworldly, juxtaposing against a magnificent backdrop of the Tongariro crossing. Standing on the summit, you feel minuscule vs the elements.
I wish I could say we descended from Mt Ngauruhoe gracefully, but half the time, we were on our asses slipping and sliding down tephra and ice. The last 300m, we slid down the icy snow, using our elbows to steer and brake. Unlike Frodo and Sam, no Eagles are coming... although silver lining - the tephra and volcanic soil kept our numb hands warm.
Part 6: Snow plains are beautiful to look at, but painful to transverse. Each step would sink 2-3 inches. A full 1.5k+ of trudging can do wonders to your already cramping quads. At least we had plenty of practice at Dartmouth.
With warmer weather on the horizon, this whole area would become a sand dune, and Blue Lagoon would be blue again.