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January 2019 Issue
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Avalanche risk normal despite deaths

A climber was killed when an avalanche on The Footstool swept him into a crevasse. Photo: Krzysztof Golik/Wikimedia Commons

With two fatal avalanches hitting Aoraki/Mt Cook last spring, DOC is advising visitors to seek advice and be prepared.

Two climbers were killed on Mt Hicks in late October, and another was killed a month later at Eugenie Glacier on The Footstool, but conditions are not unusual for the season.

DOC’s mountain rescue team supervisor Andy Tindall said the warmer weather of summer brings with it an increased risk as snow melts and alpine areas become increasingly crevassed.

“The avalanche which killed a climber [on The Footstool] and injured another saw both climbers pushed into a crevasse,” Tindall said.

DOC uses no avalanche control measures in the park, and conditions are largely unpredictable.

Climbing in the early hours of the morning, however, tends to be safest as the day’s heat can increase snowmelt.

Tindall encourages all climbers to seek advice from the DOC visitor centre and the New Zealand Avalanche Advisory before setting off.

“DOC rangers from the rescue team are available to give advice and discuss the latest conditions,” he said. “Climbers unsure about the conditions should contact the visitor centre for an up-to-date forecast.”