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Guide approves DOC’s Tongariro Alpine Crossing weather advisory

A new weather advisory will prompt DOC to tell walkers not to attempt the Tongariro Alpine Crossing when there are strong winds, precipitation and windchill forecast. Photo: Matthew Cattin

 

The Department of Conservation will implement an advisory system for ‘bad weather days’ on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing this summer.

From November 1 until the end of the summer walking season, DOC will assess the weather and if necessary, apply a ‘Not Recommended Today’ advisory for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. 

The move has been welcomed by a professional guide who operates on the crossing and in the national park. 

“If it prevents one disaster, then it’s a good thing,” said Terry Blumhardt from Tongariro Guided Walks.

“The advisory is intended for freedom hikers who DOC cannot know their previous experience. So that’s the threshold they are setting – a person who potentially has no experience, potentially has no concept of what gear to take and potentially doesn’t have great navigation skills.”

DOC’s Tongariro public safety senior ranger Theo Chapman said the advisory will help walkers make informed and safe decisions before they attempt the challenging 19.4km hike.

“Many track users underestimate how variable alpine weather conditions can be and are therefore not equipped appropriately. While the weather may feel relatively good in Taupo, Turangi or National Park Village, it is a different story at higher altitude and can change very quickly,” Chapman said. 

Hikers regularly get into trouble on the TAC, most recently on October 21 when a Chinese tourist was found dead at Red Crater – the highest point on the crossing. 

Chapman said, even in poor weather conditions, many hikers are undeterred. 

“The popularity of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing creates a goal-oriented mindset where hikers are determined to complete the hike in the time they are here, regardless of weather conditions,” he said. 

Weather advice will include enhanced pre-visit information, safety signage at key decision points and Kaitiaki Rangers assisting hikers on the track.

There will be signs at the start and end of the Crossing, plus electronic signs on highways at both road ends, and a notice will also be posted at the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre.

The weather parameters will rely on Metservice forecasts for Tongariro National Park at Red Crater. They’ll be available daily at midday and 6pm and will be based around the following conditions:

  • Wind speed of 65km/hr or greater between 6am and 6pm
  • Wind speed of 50km/hr or greater and precipitation of 10mm or more between 6am and 12pm, or 12pm and 6pm
  • Wind chill of minus 10 C or colder on a fine day
  • Wind chill of 0 C or colder with any amount of precipitation
  • Severe Weather Warning issued for Tongariro National Park

Blumhardt said:  “Beyond those conditions, I seriously don’t think an average freedom hiker should be up there,” he said.

Operators will be notified of expected weather conditions on Mondays and Thursdays and can decide whether to continue or cease activities.

“There is no legal requirement for concessionaires to adhere to this,” said Chapman. “We expect that transport operators will support the advisory as they have an interest in keeping visitors safe and providing a high-quality experience.”

Want a safe Tongariro Alpine Crossing adventure? View The Mountain Safety Council’s video which shows how to prepare for. and walk, this iconic track.

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