Wintry blast brings avalanche risk

Photo / File
Photo / File

The wintry blast has left dangerous avalanche conditions across New Zealand's high country.

The Mountain Safety Council is warning climbers to keep off popular peaks and only those with expert alpine skills to cautiously ascend a host of avalanche-prone mountains.

The council said recent wild weather had buried weak layers beneath the latest snow and there was a high danger avalanches could be triggered.

The latest advisory lists seven back country regions where avalanches pose a hazard.

All three peaks in the Tongariro National Park - Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro - are now considered hazardous.

People are also being warned to stay off Mt Taranaki because of continued bad weather with snow continuing to fall to low levels and threat of wind slab.

The avalanche danger was regarded as considerable and conditions underfoot were potentially unstable as temperatures and wind speed changed.

"The snow has come in fairly warm so we are expecting a good new to old snow bond. As temperatures drop and wind speed changes we may see a change in snow density which could give us a instability within the new snow."

At Aoraki-Mt Cook at least one large avalanche had struck in the Hoophorn Valley in the past few days and there was evidence of other slides in the alpine range.

There was now concern that windslab avalanches could be triggered by climbers on steep slopes and a high degree of caution was advised.

Fiordland National Park was considered a no-go zone with potential avalanche danger at the highest level.

"If you don't have the skills to make an assessment of potential avalanche danger for yourself we recommend that you stay below the snow line," the council advised.

MetService last night issued a snowfall warning for the Milford Rd with 1cm of snow expected near the Homer Tunnel.

It also issued a watch for the possibility of westerly gales becoming severe in the Tararua District and Hawke's Bay this morning.

- NZ Herald

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