By GUY WILLIAMS
A Queenstown tramping enthusiast is sounding a note of alarm over the number of walkers he encountered camping at the head of Earnslaw Burn at the weekend.
Greg Thompson says he and six fellow members of the Wakatipu Tramping Club who did the overnight walk near Glenorchy were surprised to see more than 30 vehicles at the start of the track, and even more surprised to be among about 60 people camping in a ‘‘tent city’’ scattered around the tussock basin at the foot of Mount Earnslaw.
Chatting with some, he was told a selfie in front of the basin’s stunning icefall is becoming a popular shot on Instagram.
However, despite his concerns about the impact on the site’s environment if the number of campers continues to escalate, he commends their effort getting there, describing the six- to eight-hour walk up the valley as an ‘‘energy-sapping scramble’’.
Instagram snaps can develop a trending momentum that attracts ever-increasing hordes, such as the spreadeagled #royspeak shot overlooking Lake Wanaka.
The demand to take a selfie at that spot — a lookout that’s actually 30 minutes’ walk below the summit — has resulted in queues as well as parking overflows at the track’s start.
Department of Conservation (DoC) Whakatipu boss Geoff Owen says the popularity of the Earnslaw Burn track, which starts about 20 minutes’ drive north of Glenorchy and spans conservation land and Mt Earnslaw Station, has grown over the past couple of years, even during the current summer, with more Kiwis exploring their backyard.
He puts the track’s busyness at the weekend down to a ‘‘good weather window’’ coinciding with a summer weekend, and hasn’t heard of any major issues at the site to date.
However, the department will continue to ‘‘monitor and review as needed, working with the station owner’’, Owen says.
DoC ‘‘needs and expects’’ walkers to take responsibility and follow its care codes, particularly on advanced trails with no facilities.