There are two tools to help you assess avalanche danger:
- New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA) - based on the stability of snow and changes with the weather.
- Avalanche Terrain Exposure scale system (ATES) - based on terrain and does not change with the weather.
Anytime that snow and steep slopes are combined there is potential for an avalanche.
New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA)
The best way to understand the avalanche danger in Nelson Lakes National Park is to check the New Zealand Avalanche Advisory (NZAA). The NZAA provides daily assessments of avalanche likelihood at different elevation bands and aspects, primaray and secondary dangers, along with recent avalanche activity, current snowpack conditions and mountain weather. The NZAA is also available at DOC visitor centres.
The NZAA is provided by the Mountain Safety Council (MSC) as an advisory only. We recommend you also check the Nelson Lakes National Park weather forecast as part of your trip planning.
Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES)
The Avalance Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) rates avalanche terrain based on the angle and shape of the ground or the number of established avalanche paths.
How ATES applies in Nelson Lakes National Park
Nelson Lakes National Park contains a large amount of avalanche terrain. There are a number of relatively easy accessible areas that contain challenging avalanche terrain while seasonal snow is present. There are some significant areas of complex terrain.
Travers Sabine and Blue Lake Tracks
The Travers-Sabine circuit and Blue Lake track cross many known avalanche paths.
Hopeless Hut sits at the base of a known large avalanche path. Due to the risk of a major destructive avalanche, the area is monitored and the hut may be closed.
John Tait Hut
John Tait hut is located at the bottom of a large avalanche path that opened in 2008. Due to the risk of a major destructive avalanche, the area is monitored and the hut may be closed
ATES ratings for Nelson Lakes tracks/routes
- Mt Misery Hut
- Jamieson Ridge Track to Mole Track
- Sabine Hut to Mt Robert car park
- St Arnaud Lakeside Tracks to Cupola Junction
- West Sabine Hut to Sabine Hut
- Cupola Junction to Cupola Hut
- Hopeless Junction to Hopeless Hut
- Pinchgut & Paddy's Track to Flagtop (Mt Robert Route)
- D'Urville Valley to Moss Pass Junction
- Watsons Creek Track
- Nardoo Track to Nardoo Biv
- Matakitaki Valley to Bobs and East Matakitaki Hut
- Paske Track to Paske Hut
- Begley Route to Begley Hut
- Hamilton River Route
- Lees Creek Track to Lees Creek Hut
- Red Hills Route to Red Hills Hut
- Beebys Route to Beebys Hut
- St Arnaud Range Track
- Matiri Hut to Larrikins Hut
- Matiri Plateau
- Red Hills Plateau
- Mt Robert from Relax Shelter to Christie Ridge/Flagtop
- North Mahanga Range – Mt Misery area
- Upper D'Urville Valley – Moss Pass junction to track end
- Cupola Junction to Upper Travers Hut
- Angelus Hut to Speargrass Hut
- Sabine Hut to Angelus Hut (Mt Cedric Route)
- Flagtop (Mt Robert Route) to Angelus Hut
- McKellar Stream Track
- Connors Creek Route from Connors Creek Hut
- St Arnaud Range to Begley Saddle
- Matakitaki/Glenroy high country zone to below Maling Creek
- Northern Ella Range
- (Southern Raglan) Turk Ridge
- Robert Ridge – South of Flagtop/Christie Ridge to Sunset Saddle
- Three Tarn Pass (Bobs Hut to Ada Pass)
- Upper Travers Hut to West Sabine Hut
- Angelus Hut to Hukere Stream junction (Travers Valley)
- Angelus Hut to Hopeless Hut via Sunset Saddle
- Blue Lake Hut to D'Urville Valley via Moss Pass
- Blue Lake Hut to Waiau Pass
- St Arnaud Range south of Begley Saddle and Franklin Ridge
- West Branch Matakitaki/Spencer Mountains to Waiau Pass
- Southern Ella Range (adjacent to Moss Pass)
- Travers Range (South Hukere Stream/Sunset Saddle
- Mahanga Range – Excluding Mt Misery area
- West Sabine Hut to Blue Lake Hut
The avalanche season can extend from May into November. Most avalanches occur during winter storms, or in spring/early summer when warmer temperatures or rain make the snow unstable. Even if you cannot see snow from the track there may be enough snow in the upper slopes to form an avalanche that could reach the track. Avalanches can also occur outside of these times on some of the higher mountains in the area. During winter and spring, avalanches can reach a number of tracks.
Be avalanche aware!
If you are going into places avalanches could occur, make sure you:
- have checked the ATES class for where you want to go and the NZAA for the avalanche rating
- have the skills for the ATES class you are going into
- take an avalanche transceiver, a snow shovel and a probe. Know how to use these tools.