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October 2015 Issue
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Surviving avalanche season on Great Walks

The Great walks are an attractive proposition in winter and spring.
Avalanche expert Andrew Hobman’s five questions to ask before attempting a Great Walk out of season

During the Great Walks season the tracks are managed and maintained to a high standard which, along with reduced cost and greater flexibility, has encouraged a growing number of people to use these tracks ‘out of season’.

But many trampers attempting these walks may not realise avalanches are a constant hazard in the mountains and particularly so in winter and spring. The Tongariro, Routeburn, Kepler and Milford Great Walks pass through alpine terrain where large avalanches can cross the tracks or be set off by walkers.

General, regional avalanche hazard information is available at, but track users must be able to assess the danger on a slope-by-slope basis.

Before you go, make sure you can answer ‘yes’ to all these questions:

  1. Have you discussed your intentions with someone?
  2. Have you checked the current weather and avalanche conditions on and with local DOC staff?
  3. Do you know how to recognise dangerous avalanche terrain and conditions?
  4. Are you carrying rescue equipment including an avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe and a communication device?
  5. Do you know how to use this equipment?

– Andrew Hobman is an avalanche specialist with Avalanche NZ