Work is on schedule to fully open the new Paparoa Track in March, however, DOC is about to announce a further, partial closure from May, to allow for upgrades at the Blackball end of the new Great Walk.
The planned opening late last year was derailed by a major slip on the track’s middle section. While an official opening ceremony took place on November 30, in Blackball, so far walkers and riders have had to be content with ‘in and out’ trips from either end, to either Pororari or Moonlight Tops huts.
Tom Hopkins, DOC’s Paparoa Track project director, said the track would need to be re-routed around the slip site. “A structure, such as a short bridge, might also be involved. We won’t know until we’ve opened the ground to see what we are dealing with.”
Meanwhile, construction crews have been completing track gravelling and safety barrier installation.
“We are aiming to have the entire track open at the beginning of March, weather and ground conditions permitting,” said Hopkins. Moonlight Tops Hut is fully booked bar one night from March to May, while a few vacancies remain in Pororari and Ces Clark Huts.
However, from May 11 further track closures will affect Ces Clark Hut and the historic Croesus Track section for DOC to carry out maintenance and improvement work.
Response to the new track has been overwhelmingly positive, said Hopkins. “Some cyclists have been surprised by how tough the ride is to Ces Clark Hut. However, the condition of this section fits well within ‘Advanced: Grade 4’, the category for the whole Paparoa Track.”
Also closed through winter will be Blackball Road, the access road to Smoke-ho car park at the inland end of the walk, to enable Grey District Council to complete upgrades to the road.
Both Moonlight Tops and Pororari Huts will remain open throughout winter. Website bookings for after May 11 are expected to open any day now.
Alternative access to Moonlight Tops Hut is feasible via Moonlight Track, a more challenging marked route involving a steep 4-5hr climb and multiple creek crossings.