Tuesday 30 June 2015

The Big Snow- A Winter Whiteout

I arrived safely back in Winton last evening tired but happy after an epic 900kms round journey to the snow. I had an awesome three days and saw some amazing sights and beautiful scenery and even though I missed the hoar frost I’m so pleased I made the effort to visit. It might be another ten years before the McKenzie Basin sees a similar snow fall, I've heard that it was the heaviest dump Twizel has ever seen.

As you can imagine I have hundreds of photos to process so I’ve selected a few to post here and once I have the remainder sorted, I’ll upload them to my Flickr Albums and post a link to it in another blog post.

Sunrise, Tekapo River with Mt John in the background.

I went for a early morning walk from the motel before the sun was up and there were people walking around the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Sheepdog Memorial even at that hour! The stairs and ground around both were treacherous; the snow had compacted and formed solid ice. On these stairs the right hand side looks ok but in fact it was the most dangerous- with no hand rail and solid clear ice on every step. Even the ground in front was solid ice.

I took this one of the church on my way back after the sun had popped above the mountains, the safest place to walk was along the road as all the paths and walkways were ice and slippery.

I drove around to the NZMCA Tekapo Park where we stayed a few weeks ago. I had to leave the ute on the road and walk in through knee deep snow…crunch, crunch, crunch….the top had melted and then reset forming a crust over the powder snow underneath.

It took a bit of effort to walk down the drive to the park area. I saw snow-shoe footprints along the waterfront, that would be the way to go! Along with my footprints there were also plenty of rabbit footprints (and hungry rabbits running about). I’m glad we weren’t parked in here when the snow came overnight, we’d have got a hell of a fright waking up to this.

Lake Tekapo from the Tekapo Springs walkway.

While many businesses were cursing the snow, there were some reveling in it. Tekapo Springs hot pools were popular along with the tube park.

There’s no need for the synthetic carpet or snowmaking machine to line the run at the moment.

I found this interesting ice sculpture in the carpark- the snow has slowly slipped off the roof, curling on it’s way and then refreezing overnight.

Once I was happy that any black ice would have melted I left Tekapo for a slow wander back towards Twizel. This is Braemar Road near the Military Camp and just south of Tekapo, it may look driveable but the tracks are ice.

I was able to pull over into a few side roads and some driveways that had been cleared so I could take photos. I know it probably doesn’t look too bad but the cleared areas were often frozen snow and very slippery. And what you can’t see on this beautiful sunny winter’s day is the gale force wind that is blowing. In one case I couldn’t open the door against the wind and had to climb out the otherside.

The Pukaki dam and canal just past the Lake Pukaki Mt Cook lookout.

I turned off at the bridge over the canal (you can see the bridge on the horizon in the photo above) and headed along the canal road around the back of Twizel.

Stopping at Loch Cameron which appeared to be just about frozen over. You can also see two guys on bikes on the right hand side.

They decided to check out how frozen the lake really was; slowly, cautiously inching their way out to the middle.

Before one guy bottled, turning tail and pedaling mad as, back to the edge quickly followed by his mate. I wonder if they heard a cracking sound.

A casualty of the big dump that not many would think about are the birds; on the main road between Tekapo & Twizel I passed over 50 dead magpies, a dozen harrier hawks and many blackbirds, all road kill. With very little food available they are feeding on other road kill and being hit themselves. I saw a truck hit six birds at once, they're not lifting in time and of course the vehicles can't swerve to miss them. 

I did feel sorry for the farmers and their stock. Ten days and counting with thick snow on the ground, the sheep were confined to a small flattened area where hay had been fed out. At least the sheep had wool to keep warm, it was the dairy cattle I saw huddled in deep snow with no shelter that looked unhappier. Perhaps these conversions are moving too far into the high country.

Muddy farm tracks snaked across the pristine white expanse leading from hay supplies to groups of stock holed up in their snowbound paddocks, 

Farm entrances were also muddy and icy, tractors being the main source of transport to the outside world.

How many guessed the source of these icicles in the last blog post?

A leaking farm irrigator.

And one last photo of the Old Iron Bridge again, this time without the shade on the bank. Pretty spectacular scenery don’t you think.

Well that’s it for now, I have so many others to share. Hopefully I can get onto them soon. And continue to catch up to date with the remainder of the blogs.


  1. A magical landscape turned to white overnight

    1. You're so right Francis, I loved the barren dry landscape of the MacKenzie Basin and the arrival of snow just added another dimension to it.


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