High winds, rain close Milford Track

SODDEN: German tramper Marietta Merkel is relieved to be off the track after a wet and cold walk from the Luxmore Hut.
SODDEN: German tramper Marietta Merkel is relieved to be off the track after a wet and cold walk from the Luxmore Hut.

A storm has forced the closure of the Milford Track.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) said high winds and "extremely intense" rain had forced it to close the track for the second time in just over a week.

Waist-deep flooding after the Clinton River burst its banks forced a tramping party to return to the Clinton Hut.

DOC said heavy rain in the Clinton Valley had seen the river level rise from near normal to above flood levels within 5 hours. 

In addition 85mm of rain fell in the Arthur Valley in the 5 hours up to 10am today, with a further 200mm forecast.

The Mackinnon Pass is also being battered by storm force winds, with wind conditions expected to peak in the early afternoon.

DOC spokeswoman Annie Wallace said the 120 trampers currently on the track were safe with about 30 who had left the Dumpling Hut this morning expected to get off the track safely before water levels peaked.

Other trampers were staying at their huts for a second night, including families with children who had opted to stay at the Dumpling Hut.

The track was last closed on January 1, forcing trampers to stay in three huts along the track.

The current storm was less severe than last week's with peak rainfall at about 18mm per hour compared with 22mm per hour.

DOC said no new independent walkers started the track today, forcing today's bookings to be cancelled as the track was fully booked.

Ultimate Hikes, Milford Track guided walking operation was moving some walkers by helicopter.DOC said the track conditions would be reassessed tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, on the Kepler Track, trampers were travelling together across the mountainous section of the track accompanied by a DOC ranger due to high winds and heavy rain.

Gusts of over 100kph were forecast.Other walking tracks in the region remain open with the Great Walks huts essentially full. 

DOC has warned back country users to check forecasts and be aware of their own level of experience and preparedness before heading into the backcountry.

They are especially urged to watch out for swollen rivers and other natural hazards.

The Press