Chris' Blog
Tongariro Crossing Track Renamed
Posted: Saturday 17 November 2007 by Chris

New Zealand’s most popular one-day trek across Mt Tongariro in the central North Island is being renamed the ‘Tongariro Alpine Crossing’. The new name better reflects the nature and terrain of the track and coincides with the start of the Great Walks season.

The change of name was decided upon at a recent meeting between representatives from Tourism NZ, the Department of Conservation, the Tourism Industry Association, the Ministry of Tourism and the NZ Police. The meeting was held to discuss safety aspects of the track and follows concerns that many visitors who undertake the Crossing are under-prepared both in terms of equipment and expectation.

Advising the public and the tourism industry of the name change is complex and DOC is working closely with Tourism New Zealand, local I-sites and tourist operators to get the message across.

DOC is also undertaking a number of other practical initiatives to improve public safety. These include an ongoing project to upgrade the track surface and alignment, developing a deviation of what is known as the ‘devil’s staircase’ and new signs at strategic points suggesting visitors turn back if their fitness or the weather is failing. DOC also hopes to improve the descent from Red Crater to Emerald Lakes, where many injuries are known to occur.

In contrast to many South Island tracks, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is easily accessible and impressing the changeable nature of its alpine conditions is an ongoing challenge.

“It’s an 18.5 kilometre trek over a mountain – yes it’s rugged and also has some of New Zealand’s most stunning landscape,’’ says Dave Lumley, the Turangi Taupo Area Manager for DOC. “People often get caught out because they don’t realise how quickly our weather changes or the level of fitness needed.”

Mr Lumley says that although guiding is not currently allowed on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, DOC has indicated that using professional guides is one of several tools that will assist to improve public safety. A section of the track crosses private land and the owners are in the process of preparing a management plan for permitted activities. It’s not yet known whether this will include guiding.

DOC estimates that approximately 65,000 people traverse Mt Tongariro each year.

Free information leaflets on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (still using the old name) are available from the Whakapapa Visitor Centre. An updated brochure will be available before Christmas.

Click here to view.
Source: Department of Conservation

Mt Ruapehu top considered hazardous
Posted: Saturday 29 September 2007 by Chris

Following last night's eruption of Mt Ruapehu climbers, skiers and sightseers are being warned not to venture to the top of the volcano.

This morning, staff from the Department of Conservation (DOC) and GNS Science inspected the size and extent of the eruption during an early morning flight before briefing staff involved in last night’s event and alpine rescue of a climber injured by the eruption.

Dr Harry Keys, DOC, commented that the two most significant hazards were flying rocks and lahars. The lahar that flowed down the Whakapapaiti Valley beside the Far West T bar was smaller than the one seen during the 1995 eruption while a small lahar flowed into the Whangaehu River, scene of the lahar on 18 March this year.

GNS Science volcanologist Brad Scott said, “The eruption was a ‘blue sky’ event occurring with virtually no warning. Previous records show that blue sky eruptions on Mt Ruapehu may be a single event or, as happened in 1975, involve two or three eruptions each getting less in strength than the one before.”

Therefore, Department of Conservation, GNS Science, NZ Police and Ruapehu Alpine Lifts staff agree that for the next five days the upper mountain should be treated as an unusually hazardous area. GNS Science will continue to closely monitor the volcano and report back any significant change, until any immediate likelihood of another eruption is past.

The Department of Conservation is strongly recommending that no-one venture beyond the upper boundaries of the Whakapapa or Turoa ski fields

At 8.23pm last night Mt Ruapehu erupted for seven minutes, sending a plume to an estimated 5000 metres and two lahars (volcanic mudflows) down the slopes of the mountain. The eruption, described as a blue sky eruption, came without warning.

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Source: Department of Conservation

Great Walks to be cheaper for under 18s
Posted: Saturday 29 September 2007 by Chris

Hut and campsite fees for children and young people aged under 18 will be free from July next year on New Zealand’s nine Great Walks, including the Whanganui Journey.

Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced the initiative on the Abel Tasman Coast Track today, on the eve of this year’s Conservation Week (August 6 –12), the theme of which is outdoor recreation.

“This initiative is designed to reduce the barriers to more young people walking New Zealand’s most spectacular tracks with their family, their friends or with school groups,” Mr Carter said.

“As our population becomes more urbanised, it is crucial we make it as easy as we can for young people to switch off the TV and the playstation and discover the outdoors. Only through first-hand experience will young New Zealanders fully appreciate the importance of preserving our natural environment, and its significance to our national identity.

“By abolishing fees for those under 18, we can reduce by a third the cost of walking the Abel Tasman Coast Track for a family of two adults and two teenagers. The cost of three nights in huts on the track drops from $270 to $180. The savings are even more pronounced on more expensive Great Walks like the Milford Track,” Mr Carter said.

“This intiative fufills a key recommendation from the New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Summit last year to improve access to the outdoors, and it also complements the Labour-led government’s wider work to tackle obesity, foster recreation and tourism, and enhance the time working people have to spend with their families.”

The nine Great Walks are:

  • Lake Waikaremoana,
  • Tongariro Northern Circuit,
  • Heaphy Track,
  • Abel Tasman Coast Track,
  • Kepler Track,
  • Routeburn Track,
  • Milford Track,
  • the Rakiura Track,
  • and the Whanganui Journey.

Click here to view.
Source: Department of Conservation

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