by Greta Yeoman
Visitors to Aoraki/Mt Cook still have plenty of outdoor opportunities, despite the continued closure of the Hooker Valley track, Department of Conservation (Doc) staff say.
Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park operations manager Brent Swanson said the popular three-hour return track – which includes views up Hooker Lake to Mt Cook – would remain partially closed for several months following flood damage late last month.
The deluge of rain in late March – which also badly affected the West Coast – had caused structural damage to the second swing bridge on the walk, as well as washing out a section of the track, he said.
While the damage occurred about an hour into the walk, Doc staff had chosen to close the track at the first swing bridge to keep the public safe.
“[It was] the safest place to stop,” Mr Swanson said.
Visitors could still access the lookout over Mueller Lake.
There were also several other day-walks in the park – including the Sealy Tarns, Tasman Glacier, the Red Tarns and several short walks around the Aoraki/Mt Cook Village.
However, three huts – Empress Hut, Copland Shelter and Sefton Bivvy – and the Ball Pass Route were at present inaccessible due to the track closure.
Mr Swanson said because the track was an “important” part of the park’s popularity, it was a “priority” to get it fixed and reopened.
About 130m of the track would need to be recut.
Doc staff were now developing a plan to figure out time frames and needs to repair the bridge and track, Mr Swanson said.
A report released by the Mountain Safety Council last year estimated about 85,000 people walked the track between July 2016 and June 2017.
Staff in the national park were also preparing for the annual influx of visitors.
Snow had recently fallen, but this was above 2000m, meaning the popular Mueller Hut tramp and other tracks would likely be in high demand at the weekend.
“People are still having a great time.”
However, Mr Swanson reminded those getting outdoors to keep an eye on the forecast, any updates about track conditions on the Doc website and to be prepared for their Easter adventures.