Date: 14 July 2017
Alpine hazards which pose risks to inexperienced people now include avalanches and thinly snow-covered crevasses especially on Ruapehu outside the ski area, thin ice on the higher lakes on Tongariro and thinly covered holes or warm ground on Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. Such holes may contain volcanic gas.
Steep icy slopes on all peaks need to be approached with caution. Alpine equipment and experience, including training for avalanche conditions, are necessary to proceed safely into the higher elevations of Tongariro National Park. In addition, warm clothing and boots suitable for alpine conditions are also necessary.
"Recent snowfalls are very welcome but will have covered up some crevasses and other holes on the volcano and climbers and others risk injury if they do not make themselves aware of such hazards" advises Dr Harry Keys, DOC Technical Advisor.
"This includes venturing out over deep water onto the ice covering or partly covered lakes and ponds on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing" he says. "Falling through the ice on these lakes will quickly chill people creating serious risk of rapid onset of hypothermia. There are no facilities for the rapid rescue essential in these situations"
All waterways including the lakes on Tongariro and his peaks Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu are sacred to the local Māori tribe. Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro kaumātua Te Ngaehe Wanikau asks visitors to the area to keep their own safety and wellbeing paramount and also to respect the sanctity of the maunga tapu (sacred mountains) by not touching or entering any of the waterways including the alpine lakes. Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro places extreme importance on their guardian role in protecting not only Tongariro and his peaks, but also the safety and wellbeing of visitors to the region.
Full winter conditions now exist on the mountain. People going above the parks' road ends should be fully equipped with alpine clothing, crampons and ice axe, know how to use them and take account of the weather and avalanche forecasts:
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