Angelus Hut is perched high on the Travers Range between Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa in Nelson Lakes National Park. Situated on the edge of a small alpine tarn, Lake Rotomaninitua/Lake Angelus, it is one of the most popular huts in the park with overnight visitation increasing in the past five years to approximately 5,000 per year.
The Mountain Safety Council (MSC) has identified access to Angelus Hut, most notably via Robert Ridge, as a hotspot for tramping incidents in New Zealand. Over a period of nine years (2010 – 2019) there were 51 people involved in search and rescues (SAR) and two fatalities (2018 and 2019). This represents an incident rate of approximately 1 in 700 trampers requiring SAR assistance. This is considerably higher than the rate of 1 in 3,639 across New Zealand for the same nine-year period.
There are several ways a tramper can reach the hut. The most iconic route is via Pinchgut Track and Robert Ridge. Other alternatives include following Speargrass Track and Speargrass Creek Route, which provides the shelter of the bush for much of the journey, and Cascade Track which climbs steeply from the Travers Valley on the eastern side. Some walkers choose to complete a circuit involving different tracks either side of a night at Angelus Hut.
As a result, MSC, DOC and NZ Police formed an Issue Specific Advisory Group to develop and propose a number of prevention solutions which will improve the safety of trampers heading to Angelus Hut. We generated a report that contains the proposed solutions which the Advisory Group has suggested, after working through a facilitated design-thinking process.
"The Robert Ridge Route is frequently underestimated by trampers and we can clearly see through the insights MSC has developed that it has more preventable safety incidents than other popular tracks in the same area. It is a beautiful trip and it is easily accessible, so that makes it a very attractive option, but it is also very exposed. People do underestimate it; it is an alpine track and even in summer you can get snow. Tasman Police are excited to support this prevention focused approach."
– Sergeant Malcom York, NZ Police, Tasman District
"DOC supports the MSC establishing an Issue Specific Advisory Group focussed on the Robert Ridge/Angelus Hut area. We’re looking forward to working together to implement solutions that will improve visitor safety within our wonderful National Park."
– John Wotherspoon, DOC Operations Manager, Rotoiti / Nelson Lakes District
Following a review of the provisional report, MSC and DOC met to discuss each of the proposed solutions in detail and agree on the next steps towards implementation. The agreed actions for each of the proposed solutions are provided as a summary at the the report found below.