Stewart Island tramping route made tougher

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 10:06 26/12/2012
25-stl-newtrack
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Department of Conservation ranger Jack Turner navigating the new route around the cliffs at Mason Bay on the Stewart Island north west circuit.

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Trampers on Stewart Island's north west circuit may need to find extra stamina at the end of the challenging 10-day tramp, after the track was re-routed following storm damage this month.

The Department of Conservation has been forced to create an alternate route up and around the cliffs at Mason Bay - near the end of the tramp - after the regular route was blocked by storm damage.

But the views would be worth the extra sweat, the department says.

DOC Stewart Island visitor assets programme manager Dale Chittenden said wild weather gouged away the sand at the base of the cliffs at Masons Bay, making the track inaccessible by foot.

This was near the end of the tramp and on the longest day with no alternative route, he said.

DOC was alerted to the situation when a tramper walking the circuit in the opposite direction found the pathway around the cliffs was blocked.

The tramper identified the steep nature of the terrain and impenetrable bush and made the call to turn back and report it to DOC's Stewart Island field centre, Mr Chittenden said.

"It was good to see trampers making the right choice and knowing when to turn back instead of putting themselves in dangerous situations."

Several trampers were on the circuit but managed to get around after waiting for the low tide. Mr Chittenden said.

"We thought we may have had to rescue some people but the weather and tide were favourable."

However with more people expected to tramp the circuit in coming months, it was important an alternative route was established, he said. A new access had been cut around the top of the cliffs and although it was a steep ascent, it had the reward of magnificent views, Mr Chittenden said.

Working on the site had been challenging because of the large and steep sand dunes, he said.

He said the North West Circuit was a challenging and remote 125km tramp taking 10 days around the top end of Stewart Island and was known for its unique wildlife, coastal views and physical challenge.

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