Check Conditions, Trampers Advised
Trampers thinking of braving the winter elements need to check conditions before they go, as recent rain and snow has caused considerable damage warns the Department of Conservation.
Areas around Arthur's Pass and South Canterbury have been hardest hit, as the rain has caused soft ground to slip and the weight of snow has broken or bent trees across the track.
"We are currently tidying up roadside areas but it may be months before reach the more remote sites," said Bryan Jensen, Waimakariri Area Manager.
"Beech forest usually gets hammered by snow but it is particularly bad this year. Many of the tracks in the Foothill Forests and within the Waimakariri Basin are virtually impassable."
Arthur's Pass has had one of the wettest June's on record. The heavy rain soaked the ground and softened earth around tree roots, which made them extremely vulnerable to the snow that followed.
"We will be placing signs at over 40 track entrances to warn of the potential risk to walkers. Many trees have snapped part-way up, or have toppled to become hung up in other trees. Dead standing spars that have become water logged are probably even more dangerous as they are likely to fall with little warning," said Mr Jensen.
Ranger Michael Cradock in Geraldine reports that most of the tracks in Peel Forest are closed, with only Big Tree Walk open at present. The Mt Somers Walkway has also taken a battering but remains open.
"The majority of tracks in Talbot Forest have been opened but there is still considerable work to be done," said Ranger Cradock. "Several large matai and totara trees have lost big branches. It will be an ongoing job involving as many staff as possible over the next few weeks to return the tracks to a passable state. It may be many years before some areas recover from this to return to their former glory."
In North Canterbury, all tracks are open but the rain has created plenty of slips and mud on tracks in the Lake Sumner Forest Park area and the St James Walkway.
For information on track conditions call your local Department of Conservation office.