tramping in winter
Hey everyone! Haven't done much tramping in winter in south island, and was just wondering how bad the conditions get?
Does it snow in a lot? how about the weather?
to be more specific, was wondering how bad the southern lakes and arthur's pass get.
thank you for your help!
In the worst cast scenario you would be pushing through waist deep powder snow as a storm blows around you reducing visibility to a few meters with the temperature easily below zero.
The other extreme would be a brilliant blue sky, no wind with a warm sun in the sky. The nights would be cold, and would be a crunchy frost in the morning which might stick around all day in the shade.
When you wade waist-deep through snow to make a path for sheep to reach hay, it's called 'snow raking'. It's hard work.
With groups I've tramped with in Arthurs Pass, it's a bunch of guys who rotate the lead, like a team of pursuit cyclists.
Much easier if you can walk on top of the crust.
You don't have to go looking for a 'South Pole experience', but there are places where you can & it's good to be with others. Depends on how the season plays out.
In general terms, freezing level decends to ski field altitude about late-May. They can then turn on the snow guns for their winter base.
Should be a decent snowfall in June to kick-start the season. July is the coldest month. August has the July snow, but springlike sunshine. Primo skiing, but increased avalanche risk. August 31st 2012 is Daffodil Day & things can get slushy. Some guides won't climb in September. Ski-fields try to hang in there for Labour Day. Mt Hutt can usually stay open untill then, tho it can be getting pretty rocky.
There's a few places where you'd be wary of avalanche, particularly depending on weather & snowfall.
Then again, some years see little snow & the 'natural' ski-fields have a lean time.
Plenty of info available closer the time, unless you have a specific query ?.
Places like the St James walkway in Winter, are pretty good (5 days hut to hut}, or the Lake Guyon loop (2 days).
The main thing to be aware of the Southern Alps in winter is that the temperatures usually hover around zero, and it's also very damp. Miserable damp. This freezing dampness is debilitating and it is not the same as when it get's to -10degC and everything freezes dry. Much worse.
You WILL need dry clothes and some way to get to keep warm at the end of the day. Camping in these conditions is a challenge.
The next thing to be aware of is that the days are short. If you start at dawn you really only have about 8-9 hours of travel time before you need to be finding a camp or hut by about 4-5pm. It's just too miserable and dangerous route finding in the dark, unless you are on a well-defined track or climb. You'll typically find yourself moving all day with few breaks. You'll need to be reasonably fit.
And you cannot go lightweight. If your summer pack baseweight is say 8-10kg, in winter you can add another 3-4kg. You simply can't take risks with bad weather and deep snow; both can trap you into very challenging situations and without the gear you'll get frostbite or worse.
The upside is that it will the trip of a lifetime.
don't be fooled by the word spring, the weather can vary a lot, some very nasty cold storms can blow through in spring that can bring snow of varying amounts.even the start of summer the weather can get rough, usually as rain but it can still snow even then
Before anyone jumps on me, St James Walkway & Lake Guyon are in the Lewis Pass area. But they seem more accessible.
Last year had to go hunting for snow. Stayed in Arthurs Pass village one weekend because it was about the only place, Canterbury way, that had any. The lakes were barely iced over & the roadside embankment, where the kids sled, was pathetic. Then a couple of weeks later it snowed in Christchurch & we had a few days off work !.
You really need to send an E to DoC or YHA or whever you intend staying, closer to the time. Then you watch the weather reports for your window of opportunity.
There's plenty of tripping available, depending on what you want to do.
i have essentially the same question.
i'm looking for suggestions for a tramp during the third week of May on the South Island. i was originally interested in something in the fiordlands (the Sounds and Glaciers look stunning), but the more i hear about the extreme wet and cold (and avalanches) the more i wonder if i should consider somewhere further north on the south island. i will be there for about 7 days total so i'm looking for a suggestion for a 3-4 tramp or a couple of shorter ones.
depends on your tolerance to the cold.. the further inland and higher you go the colder it will get...
abel tasman climate is mild,
queen charlotte walk also will have a more mild climate..
somethig like the heaphy should remain snow free, or around north west nelson valleys, even the table lands.
pelorus valley in the richmond ranges,
all depends how snow free things remain with the weather, nelson lakes will be hit and miss in the hills depending on your experience in snow and the weather...
anything else , take pot luck with the weather and be prepared for sub zero temps at least in the morning.
As noted, a lot less people on the Abel Tasman over Winter. Anywhere should pretty much be accessible, tho days are short & nights are cold.
Just depends on what's happened weather-wise around your dates.
They do rafting trips on the glacier lake at Mt Cook, if you want to get amongst ice bergs made of 300yo ice ?. They stop them when the lake freezes over. Last year that was after Queens Birthday.
Hell, the roses are still growing in May!.
The Otago Motorcycle Club Brass monkey Rally is June 2 2012. Come on down & rent a bike ?.
Skim through the DoC PDF on-line brochures, Lonely Planet or whatever. If there's something catches your eye, somebody has probably been there & can give you a chat.
We don't go into lock-down like Scott Base. The May 'Wilderness' seems dedicated to Winter Tripping.
speak for yourself, you might not go into lock down but some of us do ha ha ha
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