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September 2016 Issue
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Safely cross a spring snowfield

A bluebird day could make for a slippery crossing. Photo: Trev Streat
Crossing a snowfield on a crisp spring day can be a magical experience. However, a misstep on an icy slope or an unchecked weather report could make for a treacherous day. Trev Streat from Alpine Guides shares all you need to know to stay safe.
  • Research your planned route: Using maps and online guides, find out if your tramp will take you into snow, and if so, find out where you might encounter steeper slopes.
  • Check the weather: Rain, snow and wind can make a snowfield a dangerous place, especially if it causes limited visibility. Clear, cold weather can create an icy top layer first thing in the morning. Snow will usually soften throughout the day, meaning it could be a less treacherous crossing if you wait until later. However, if the snow gets too wet and soft, it can pose an avalanche risk on sloping snowfields.
  • Check the snow conditions: Check for avalanche warnings on your route at www.avalanche.net.nz.
  • Bring appropriate equipment: Pack your ice axe and crampons when you think you’ll be encountering snow.
  • Wear appropriate footwear and warm clothing: For crampons to work properly, you’ll need a boot with a stiff sole (see our three-four season boot guide). Wear impermeable layers, gloves, and bring sunnies to protect your eyes from the glare off the snow.

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