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Snow brings hazards to Tongariro

Large crevasses will now be covered over and are a risk to trampers. Photo: Dr Harry Keys

Heavy snowfall and daytime temperatures of -6-degrees has forced the Department of Conservation to advise trampers and climbers in Tongariro National Park to take extra caution.

Those going above the snowline need to be aware of dangers such as snow-covered crevasses, ice on higher lakes and covered holes, or even warm ground on Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, as such holes may contain volcanic gas.

Department of Conservation technical advisor Dr Harry Keys said the recent snowfall is welcome, but people risk injury if they aren’t aware of such hazards.

“This includes venturing out over deep water onto the ice covering, or partly covering, lakes and ponds on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing,” he said. “Falling through the ice on these lakes will quickly chill people, creating serious risk of hypothermia.

“There are no facilities for the rapid rescue essential in these situations.”

DOC senior community ranger Stacey Faire said those going into the park should let someone know where they are going, when they will be back and to be adequately prepared.

Those heading above the park’s road end will need alpine clothing, crampons and an ice axe. However, the avalanche advisory for the park is rated ‘high’, which means avalanches are a real possibility.

Faire said there were plenty of short day walks suitable for the current conditions, such as the Ohinetonga Track, an easy 2hr loop winding through the forest and accessed off SH4 at the ‘walking tracks’ sign in Owhango.

“We have put a warning out that there is a risk from snow loading on trees and windfall from trees due to the current conditions,” Faire said. “I would suggest walks in the lower alpine areas until the weather settles down.”