Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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Popular National Park track reopens after flood repairs

Magnificent views of alpine glacial lakes and the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Southern Alps/Ka Tiritiri o te Moana await visitors to the freshly repaired Hooker Valley Track in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

The Department of Conservation partially closed the popular Short Walk in March after extreme flooding washed away 120 metres of track and structurally damaged a swing bridge.

The same storm event destroyed Waiho bridge on the West Coast and indefinitely closed Fox Glacier/Te Moeka o Tuawe glacier valley access road.

Contractors have spent the last month repairing and strengthening Hooker Valley Track’s damaged second swing bridge and have created 257 metres of new walkway. The track reopened this week and already hundreds of people have been enjoying the walk, with news spreading of its reopening by word of mouth. DOC senior recreation and historic ranger David Dittmer says the remote location made the repair challenging.

"We can’t drive vehicles through the national park, so the contractors had to walk an hour in and out every day and all materials had to be flown in by helicopter."

The alpine environment also meant repairs couldn’t begin until winter conditions had eased in early August.

"Even then the contractors had their work cut out for them, completing $150,000 of repairs in between bouts of snow, rain, hail and freezing fog."

The Hooker Valley Track features dramatic views of Mueller Glacier, Hooker Lake and Aoraki/Mount Cook. The track provides access to and connects Sefton Bivouac, Copland Shelter and Empress Hut.

From mid-October many different wildflowers can be seen along the walk, including the world’s biggest buttercup, the Mount Cook buttercup/ka¬çpukupuku.

"The view of Aoraki at the end of the track is simply spectacular and well worth the three-hour return walk to get there. It’s picture perfect and inspires many people to visit the park."

David has lived in the national park for ten years and says spring is one of the best times to visit.

"The mountains are still snow-capped, but the weather is warmer which makes an early morning hike even more enjoyable."

However, the senior ranger warns the weather can change at any moment and visitors need to be prepared.

"It’s important to remember this is an alpine environment and its common to experience strong wind, high rainfall, heavy snowfall and rapid changes in temperature at any time of the year.

"Dress warmly, bring plenty of drinking water and wear sturdy footwear".

A million people visited Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park last season, with a hundred thousand of them walking the Hooker Valley Track. 

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