Rising rain wrecks routes

DOC is assessing the future of foot access to Ball Hut and the Tasman Glacier, after 1000mm of sustained rainfall over the last 8 days collapsed the glacier moraine at Husky Flat, cutting off access to Ball Hut and Ball Pass route from the Tasman valley. The route up the Hooker valley is also severely damaged by the heavy rains.

Sally Jones, DOC Operations Manager Aoraki/Mt Cook based in Twizel, picks up the story.

“That amount of rain is equivalent to 3 months of our average annual rainfall in a week in this alpine region. The headwaters of the Southern Alps that flow out to Canterbury were saturated. The downstream effect of this same rain event created the Rangitata flooding and bridge closures on State Highways One and Seventy Nine.”

A DOC ranger and two local guides walked up the Tasman Valley route towards Ball Hut and confirmed that the torrential rain has scoured out the loose glacial moraine at Husky Flat where a 300-metre wide gulf has obliterated the track. This totally rules out foot access to Ball Hut and the eastern approach to Ball Pass crossing. Climbers will not be able to access the upper Tasman and Plateau/Grand Plateau areas on foot.

From aerial footage obtained on Thursday 10th December from the Hooker Valley, it appears certain that foot access is not possible up the Hooker towards the western approach to the Ball Pass crossing after the moraine debris collapsed, making the route impassable. Climber access to the upper Hooker valley is gone.

“With the loss of these routes, it is possible climbers and other backcountry users may be tempted to find alternative routes – especially if constrained by time or darkness.” says Jones. “The unstable terrain will put people at considerable risk of getting stuck or sustaining falls.”

“This closure up the Tasman and Hooker valleys has long term implications for some guiding operations which will be severely affected by the lack of access.” says Jones

“Access is critical issue in our dynamic environment and this rain event has brought that into sharp focus. The impact on DOC’s South Canterbury huts and tracks, is being assessed as the weather has improved. Climate change is a national issue and needs to be addressed as such. DOC will be working with its partners and stakeholders to ensure all local concerns are heard and shared to address the effects of change as a country.”

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