October snowfall calls for continued avalanche caution
Those hoping to enjoy some spring backcountry adventures this week are urged by the NZ Mountain Safety Council (MSC) to wait for settled conditions.
MEDIA RELEASE 6 Oct 2022
Caution is advised as the Southern Alps have been heavily blanketed with snow this week making them a dangerous place.
The New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA), owned by MSC, has 10 of its 13 regions on ‘considerable’ avalanche danger: Queenstown, Aspiring, Ohau, Aoraki/Mt Cook, Craigieburn Range, Nelson Lakes, Arthur’s Pass, Wanaka, and Fiordland Tongariro. While Mt Hutt and Two Thumbs sit at ‘moderate’, with Taranaki on ‘low’.
'Considerable’ danger level indicates dangerous avalanche conditions where conservative decision making is essential, according to the New Zealand Avalanche Advsiory (NZAA). However, these ratings may change as forecasters monitor the conditions.
MSC Chief Executive Mike Daisley says anytime the mountains receive large amounts of fresh snow like this, there needs to be a grace period, sometimes multiple days, for it to settle.
At this time of the year there is increased recreational activity above the bush line as people start to move into summer adventure mode; alpine tramping, trail running, mountain biking, hunting and of course those who’re prepared to gain some more elevation in search of spring snow.
Spring is an active time for avalanches, which can occur at any time of year when there is enough snow.
October through to January is mountaineering season so key alpine regions like Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Aspiring see a huge boost in activity. Ski touring also remains very popular through this period.
Between 1999 and 2018, 40% of avalanche fatalities in NZ have occurred between November to April. While there has not been an avalanche fatality in NZ since November 2018 that does not mean the risk has gone or that there couldn’t be one this spring or summer.
“If the avalanche forecast is ‘low’ danger, which can be common during spring this doesn’t mean ‘no’ avalanches are possible. Be mindful of the terrain you’re in and how even a small avalanche could be dangerous,” he says.
No matter where you’re heading out above the bushline, keep an eye on the avalanche advisory. Forecasting for all 13 regions is still underway and regions won’t close until the risk of avalanches has reduced further. Aoraki/Mt Cook forecasting continues all year round.
MSC encourages those heading into the backcountry to submit public observations of avalanches and snowpack conditions at avalanche.net.nz for fellow users and local forecasters to see.
Travelling safely in avalanche terrain requires three essential components - the skills, equipment and forecast. You can find out more here.
- Find the latest avalanche advisory at avalanche.net.nz
- Ensure you know the basics or get a quick refresher by completing this free online course
- Take a practical course and learn from professionals, find a list of them here
- Get an introduction to crampon and ice axe use with our Alpine Skills Series videos.
Contact Communications Advisor Rebekah Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org with any other queries.