The Southern Alps are the reason New Zealand is also referred to as the Land of the Long White Cloud. It is a mountain range which runs along the western side of the South Island of New Zealand. It forms a natural dividing range along the entire length of the South Island. The term "Southern Alps" generally refers to the entire range, although separate names are given to many of the smaller ranges that form part of it.
The mountains in the South Island, which run almost the entire length of the Island, were formed by two tectonic plates crashing into each other, a proces known as crustal shortening. The south island is a very geologically active area with the alps being pushed up by as much as 10mm per year. In 1991, aproximately 10 vertical meters slid from the top of Mt Cook, New Zealand's tallest mountain, in a massive avelanche, lowering it to 3754m.
The southern alps virtually divide New Zealand's south island in two. The west coast receives alot of rainfall every year and is a very lush green and forested area. East of the alps are large plains and undulating hills known as the Canterbury Plains. It is quite a contrast when travelling from the east to the west or vice versa.
Atomic Shuttles are not coach lines like Newmans or Intercity; they run minibuses aroun the island. That said, I have travelled with all three and only now travel with Atomic Shuttles, they are a lot cheaper and a great service. Booking in advance is not normally required in my experience. Normally a booking th nigh before is suffucient to secure you seat, howeverthere is obviously no harm in booking your seat earlier than th night before you travel. There are timetables and destianations on the websites and note that the summer months (October to February) normally see more routes and destinations than the winter months.
Red TapeNo permits are required to climb in the suthern alps, however it is expected that climbers and hikers alike register with the DOC before setting out. Some of the huts on popular treks such as the Kepler or Milford Sound tramps reqire booking in advance with the DOC. Most of the mountain huts though a not required to be booked in advance. If you plan to stay in huts that are owned by th New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC), it is a good idea to join th club. As a member you will be entitled to half price hit fees and this can quickly pay for itself sinc membership is only $90NZD per year.
Even when in the moutain huts, the DOC will radio each night for a"roll call" of sorts to ensure that noone is out missing in the mountains. It is therefore very important to let th DOC know if you will not be back at th hut for the night, or arange for someone at the hut to let the DOC know. That way they will not nedlessly send out the helicopter looking for your party.
External LinksNew Zealand Alpine Club
Departent of Conservation