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New Zealand's glaciers

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Author Topic: New Zealand's glaciers  (Read 3042 times)
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Having fun in the hills!

« on: January 26, 2011, 09:59:40 am »

Shrinking glaciers curtail climbing trips

By FLEUR COGLE - The Timaru Herald | 5:00AM - Tuesday, 24 November 2009

AORAKI-MOUNT COOK'S shrinking glaciers are forcing climbers to think more carefully about their excursions into the national park.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) yesterday released the results of its annual end-of-summer survey of the snowline on key South Island glaciers, showing the glaciers continue to shrink. The news is no surprise to those who know the national park.

Veteran mountaineer Gordon Hasell, who has been climbing in the area since the 50s, said that during the 60s the lake at the base of the Tasman Glacier was the same size as the duck pond in Timaru's Botanical Gardens.

"It's now about 4km long."

With a new lake and the increased exposure of the glacier's moraine walls, climbers were being forced to change the way they approached the park.

Mr Hasell said climbers no longer have as easy access to parts of park as they once did.

"Now the major effect excess recession has had is a greater dependence on air access."

Department of Conservation ranger Ray Bellringer said the changes had been "very spectacular and very noticeable over a period".


Cold spell needed for Mount Cook

By JEFF TOLLAN - The Timaru Herald | 5:00AM - Monday, 07 December 2009

HOT WEATHER is threatening a thriving climbing season in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

Alpine guides say their books are bulging with customers, domestic and international, but Conservation Department staff are praying for a cold snap to hit the area in the coming weeks.

Ranger Ray Bellringer said a storm from the south would prolong the climbing season. Without it, large crevasses in glaciers open up, the risk of rockfall increases, routes become more challenging and climbing or guiding will eventually become impossible.

"If we get another hot period then the season would be over by the middle of January. We've been in the equinox for some weeks, [it has been] raining, nor'west and windy. There were some reasonable amounts of snow around, but it's melted back quite a bit," Mr Bellringer said.

Police Mid-South Canterbury Area Commander Inspector Dave Gaskin urged any climbers to use common sense and climb when the conditions were right.

He said each season, search and rescue teams were put at risk, rescuing "foolhardy" people who tried to climb in bad weather, or who climbed areas that were beyond their experience.

However, guides in the area have said there has been no shortage of people booking with them, to take advantage of the skills of people who know the park well.

One of the area's largest guiding companies, Alpine Guides, has a 10 per cent increase in bookings for this season, filling the diary until January 20.

Managing director Bryan Carter said between 180 to 200 people had booked in for the summer season, with the Australian market still going strong.

"[People are choosing] short haul travel more than long haul. A lot of people have decided it has been a bit of a tough year, so they're going to take a break."

Dave McKinley of Mountains New Zealand said while the weather had been "playing games", it was still good to be out in the hills and there was no shortage of business.

"We are pretty heavily booked through to almost March, it's quite a healthy season. For the start of the season, the conditions are better than last year," he said.

Whether climbers had a guide or not , Mr Gaskin said police and DOC staff were unable to stop them, which made it important to keep a close eye on the weather. He estimated there would be 20 or 30 rescues from the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park every year and three or four deaths. Rescue or recovery missions were not a nice part of the job, Mr Gaskin added.

"People who fall off mountains are generally knocked about. You're falling down a hill and when your body comes into contact with some unforgiving objects ... it's difficult."

He said the region's police had an annual budget of about $30,000 for helicopter SAR operations and while there was no such thing as a "standard" rescue, an average cost of getting someone off the mountain was about $2000 to $5000, not including costs to DOC and police staff.

ACC picked up a large part of the bill for rescues, if there was an injury involved. People only had to pay the helicopter bill if they decided they could not carry on their journey and wanted to be airlifted out, rather than walk.

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