An Aoraki/Mt Cook tour operator says some of the region’s glaciers are now in a period of ‘last chance tourism’, and anyone who wants to experience them should act now.
“Now is the time for people to come and see the glaciers.
“The Hochstetter Icefall (located in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park) once had towering ice grids, but they’ve now shrunk considerably in size,” said Charlie Hobbs, owner of Southern Alps Guiding and the Old Mountaineers Cafe, in Aoraki/Mt Cook. , noted.
Hobbs, who has been guiding in the area for 35 years and climbing there for 43, said visiting the glaciers now comes with additional challenges.
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“As small glaciers retreat, the risk of rockfall increases. There is much more rock instability as the glaciers retreat.
“Glaciers have been melting since 1895, the last mini ice age, but more so in recent years,” Hobbs said.
On Tuesday, National Institute for Meteorological and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) lead scientist Dr Andrew Lorrey said many New Zealand glaciers would disappear within a decade, impacting the ice industry. tourism and would pose hazards to hikers.
His warning came as an annual late-summer survey of more than 50 South Island glaciers revealed continued loss of snow and ice.
Hobbs said the loss changed the experience of skiing on the Tasman Glacier, which had shrunk in size. He said that 20 to 30 years ago the glacier was not steep but now has a steeper slope due to lack of ice volume.
Since 2016, enough ice has melted from the South Island’s Brewster Glacier to supply the drinking water needs of all New Zealanders for three years.
In terms of operating his tourism business, Hobbs said they will now need to mitigate and review dangerous areas and where they can go.
“We can still operate successfully, but we have to make sure we check the areas we can and cannot go to.”
Tim Rayward, owner of Air Safaris in Lake Takapō/Tekapo, said it seemed hard to believe the glaciers could disappear in 10 years.
“There is definitely melting as Lake Tasman and the lake below the Murchison Glacier grows, but there is a huge amount of snow and ice up there in the Alps,” Rayward said.
“Cast iron is something to watch closely. Some glaciers are receding, but the scenery is still incredibly spectacular.
“At the moment, the permanent snow line appears to be increasing.”
Rayward said the melting didn’t affect them or their flight path much as they all bypassed the Aoraki/Mt Cook glaciers.
“The lakes have gotten much bigger,” he said.
Twizel’s Aviation Adventures owner and pilot Chris Rudge said he’s not worried about his flight operation because the larger glaciers will remain and there will still be snowfall in the upper levels.
“The larger glaciers will still be here ten years from now, but it will be interesting to see what happens to the smaller glaciers.
“The biggest noticeable changes can be seen in the Mueller Glacier (Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park). It has retreated around the corner. There are no more icebergs in Lake Mueller Terminal. has lots of icebergs in Hooker Terminal Lake as the ice walls crumble as the Hooker Glacier retreats.
Rudge said that in recent years there has been a lot of erosion with melting glaciers, especially on the Mueller Glacier where there have been large rockfalls and landslides.
“It’s been going on almost 24/7, there are dust clouds and you can see it from Twizel.”
Dr Andrew Lorrey, who is leading the snowline survey, said many New Zealand glaciers were suffering due to “extremely hot summer temperatures, exacerbated by a sea heat wave”.
“A decade from now, we predict that many of our beloved and important glaciers will be gone. This will have far-reaching impacts, such as altering our beautiful landscape, affecting the livelihoods of people who depend on these natural wonders for tourism, and the effects of diminishing meltwater during times of drought,” a- he declared.
“This will impact tourism in several ways. Access to the glaciers will be further and further away and you will have to climb higher and higher to see the glacier.
Lorrey said tourist activities like trampling near glaciers could become dangerous as the landscape around would be unstable and boating in lakes under a glacier could also be dangerous as there is a chance that a wall of ice will s collapsed into the lake causing a local tsunami.
He said loose sediment near Tasman Glacier, located in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, collapsing into Lake Tasman had blocked some routes used by trampers to climb the mountain.