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Mountain Safety Council urges caution for backcountry trips

Mountain Safety Council urges caution for backcountry trips

The Spring storm currently rolling up the Southern Alps will create dangerous avalanche conditions in backcountry regions for much of the week. Several regions are at ‘Considerable’ or ‘High’ danger ratings.

Head forecaster for the New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) Jamie Robertson says that even once the storm is past the danger isn’t over,

“During the storm, a great deal of snow will fall on the divide, but due to the high winds, a great deal of this will be blown onto the lee side creating wind loading.

“Once the storm passes people might be tempted to enjoy this new snow which may be on the sunny side of the mountain, but that is a recipe for disaster particularly as the snow warms up and begins to melt.

“The warmer conditions and the wind loaded slopes mean that in the days after the storm larger ‘loose-wet’ avalanches that can run to the valley floor are quite possible.

Robertson suggests the NZAA is the best place to ascertain when it’s safe to head back out.

“The forecast team are updating their forecasts as the conditions change, and this can be several times a day if necessary.

“You’ve got to read the full forecast to understand how it’s going to play out. Head to avalanche.net.nz for all the details.

Nick Kingstone, Communications Manager for MSC says this cautionary message is for those exploring below the snowline as well,

“Trampers and hunters also need to be aware of the region they’re heading into. If there are avalanche paths above them then there’s a chance they could be at risk during and after Spring storms.

“Slushy, ‘loose-wet’ avalanches flow more like water and can reach the valley floor in some cases as they can more easily flow over obstacles.

“Reading the Fiordland forecast this morning, there’s been over 140cm of snowfall above 1300m which is being transported around the mountain by the high winds.

“It’s definitely a time to postpone any backcountry trips until the conditions begin to stabilise later in the week.

“Always check the NZAA and keep an eye on our Instagram page @NZAvalancheAdvisory where we post updates as well.

For more information as well as free resources and guides to help you stay safe, head to www.mountainsafety.org.nz



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