Weather conditions in winter
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Dear forum members, My name is Jiri van Gijsel and me and my wife are planning to visit New Zealand in August of this year. I'm still in the planning stages of our trip and I’m trying to get an idea of the weather conditions in the winter, especially on the tracks. I'm planning to undertake, as many as possible, one or multiple day tramping trips during our stay. We are going to visit both the North and South Island. But I’m trying to get an idea of how to divide my time between the two islands, in relation to weather conditions. We are experienced hikers, but will not be bringing specialized gear for tramping in the snow. I know the basics; that weather conditions can change rapidly and that the more south and higher you get the more likely you are to encounter snow and ice in the winter. But is it, for instance, not advisable to tramp in Arthur’s pass national park in august? The DOC gives recommendations, but my experience is that in other countries, like America for instance, these recommendations are on the safe side. I hope my question isn’t too general to answer. With kind regards, Jiri van Gijsel
Hi Jiri. You are obviously aware of the key factors. August the best winter month, is often a good time to do one to three day hikes in the valleys of Arthurs Pass, but conditions will be dependent on the variable weather at the time. There will be almost definitely alpine snow and ice conditions above the tree line, and sometimes hard snow can cover the ground right down to the rivers, especially in the weeks after a heavy snowfall. Even the tracks are likely to be much much rougher and less formed than you might expect. If you have experience in using such equipment, carrying an ice axe is a good option. The advice you get from DOC depends on the individual employee you speak to, and how well they understand your situation. For obvious reasons their recommendations tend to be very conservative. There are many locations on the West Coast of the south island where one to four day trips are possible without crossing higher snow bound passes. There are several coastal hikes, some of which are pleasantly less busy in the winter. I would suggest spending one week around the North Island volcanoes and three weeks in the South island, and keep your plans very flexible to accommodate the weather. Hugh van Noorden
Generally speaking, in the South Island, August is the transition from mid-Winter July to September Spring ie Winter snow in increasingly sunny days. But it varies markedly from year to year.
In addition to Hugh's accurate advise I would add: 1. The days are of course much shorter. You will probably find you have about 8 - 9hrs of usable daylight to move in. This gives less margin for error; plan accordingly. 2. Tramping in NZ is pretty much a year round activity - and personally I always preferred the winter months. Cooler temperatures make it easier to maintain high levels of exertion. In most places the temperature will be somewhere between 0 - 12 degC in the daytime. It's only on clear frosty nights will you get to -10 degC or lower. But don't underestimate how damp it will be. The combination of a temperature around 0deg and wetness everywhere rapidly becomes very miserable indeed once you stop moving. Dry clothing, shelter and hot food are essential. 3. What I would do is to make sure you plan for plenty of options in every area you go to so that you can enjoy your time here without necessarily being stuck in a motel or camp ground. Most areas have plenty of low-level tracks that will make very enjoyable trips without being exposed to dangerous conditions on the tops. A good type of Plan B might be an overnighter into a hut at bushline, maybe a daytrip a little higher if conditions permit - and then out the next day. Or just cosy up in the hut and enjoy the howling wind gods at play. 4. Conditions can change very rapidly. One August two of us had an superb 10 day trip in the middle of the North Island (Kaimanawa/Kawekas). The week before three other club members had a miserable trip in exactly the same area. When you do get a nice break in the weather, life will be fabulous. Cold, crisp and cloudless and no wind. Beautiful views everywhere. Enjoy! Philip Wilkie
http://www.arthurspass.com/ http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/plan-and-prepare/alerts/ http://m.metservice.com/mountain/mtn
Do they remove any bridges in Arthurs Pass? I know they do in Aspiring, and it makes things hard in places like the snowy etc
removeable bridges are usually recogniseable by their design, they arent swing bridges, they are made of welded steel tubes usually painted green and are bolted at either end, and relatively short. designed to be helicoptered out in one piece.. sometimes they can string together a couple of bridges to cross a watercourse..
Snowy creek is actually a swing bridge I'm pretty sure (tbh it was over 10 years since I was there last so I'm really pushing the limits memory wise) at least thats what the DoC website calls it anyway I was just pointing out that it could be an issue up there in AP too? I don't know, never been there, the place doesn't interest me much.
Yes, you're right, Pipeking. The Snowy River bridge is a suspension bridge. The upper Snowy River bridge is removable. Here's a link to a page that has a picture of it. http://www.david-noble.net/NZ/Jan07/Cascade3.html The APNP bridges are all permanent (unless they get washed away like the one on the way up to Barker Hut did a few decades ago). Arthurs Pass is very pretty especially in the summer. I've been all over and when I go back there after a while away, it always delights me how attractive it is.
I recommend at least buying some 'trail crampons'. These pull over your boots, are lightweight, and make a huge difference if a track is a bit icy, or slushy. We use them with trekking poles and they have extended our winter capabilities hugely. (Don't buy cheap ones. I did first and had to use my Leatherman pliers 2 or 3 times a day, straightening the bent points! lol ) We use Hillsound now.
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