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July 2014 Issue
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July 2014 Pigeon Post

Challenging route tamed by track

With two mates I tramped The Old Ghost Road in early April and loved every minute of it, so I was interested in the article ‘Gruelling track section complete’ (Walkshorts, June, 2014) which stated there is only 15km of track to be built.

Once completed, tramping the 80km length will not be the same without the 30-odd-kilometre unformed section that we walked in two days. It was hard, but on reflection it was the best part of the trip as it was true tramping.

I feel once the road is finished it will be too easy to tramp! It might also be hard on the feet as the gravel surface put there for the mountain bikers is not a nice walking surface.

Regardless, The Old Ghost Road is a great achievement by those volunteers. Congratulations.

– Mike Barry, Porirua

On Haast-Hollyford Road

Tourists may indeed like to see a road being built between Haast and Hollyford, but I would like to distinguish between tourists and travellers. For many tourists, comfort and distraction from busy lifestyles are important. While travellers may enjoy this, they would never deem it a priority above the splendour of pristine landscapes and the pure, close-up experience that lies in discovering these in a simple manner, away from daily commodities and facilities we increasingly grow dependent on.

Personally, I would not like easier access to wild and untouched areas, even if I was a once-in-a-lifetime visitor to your still magnificent country and wouldn’t be able to get to the Red Hills unaided by yet another serious human encroachment. Nor would I like to see huts converted into places with conveniences resembling a hotel just to facilitate my fleeting presence.

Haven’t we converted enough? Would those who already have very adequate livelihoods and have the means of travelling to New Zealand truly want to see one of the last vestiges of nature assailed once again because of ever more demands for comforts?

Visitors, foreigners and the people of New Zealand should all ask how far we want to go in pampering ourselves at the cost of the environment we claim to love so much.

– Ghijselinck Dominique, Belgium

Front packs praised

On my return from a four-day tramp on the St James Walkway, I grabbed the latest issue of Wilderness for inspiration for the next tramp. The headline ‘Packs not like they used to be’ (Pigeon Post, May, 2014) caught my eye. Thank goodness they are not!

My Mountain Mule, with the hollow frame that you could fill with fuel, was fine when I was young and fit, but these days I’m definitely going for comfort and convenience.

One of our party was aged 76 and he is my inspiration to keep going for many more years. I have used a variety of packs over the years, but so far nothing has surpassed my new Aarn pack with two front pockets. Not only is the weight balanced front and back, it is largely carried on the hips – so no sore shoulders.

I am surprised that this style of pack has not become more popular. Sure, the front pockets look different and spark a few comments from others on the trail, but once I give them a turn carrying my pack they soon appreciate the benefits.

Please include packs with front pockets in your next gear review on multi-day packs. I could go on singing its praises for another few pages at least.

– Charlotte Woods, Geraldine

Fishing season

Wow, I’m very disappointed with Wilderness! You publish five best trout spots (Waypoints, May, 2014) when the season has just closed! Season starts next November.

Another good spot for the bucket list is the Wangapeka River in Kahurangi National Park. Waimea Tramping Club had a recent weekend tramp there. I went in a day early for some fishing and fed the ‘multitudes’ when they arrived with a fillet braised in foil with garlic butter. They threatened to hide my boots, insisting I stay behind to catch and feed them fish while they went tramping.

Who needs enemies with friends like that?

– Peter Vella

Hands off our huts

It was with a combined sense of disappointment and incredulity that I read the article ‘New Hut in the Caples Valley’ (April, 2014). In the wake of the new Mid Caples Hut being built, Upper Caples Hut had been closed.

For readers who have not had the opportunity to enjoy the Upper Caples Valley, it is a fantastic bit of country – stunningly bounded on two sides by the snow-capped Humboldt and Ailsa mountain ranges leading up to McKellar Saddle.

Upper Caples Hut (16 bunks) is set in a beautiful grassy clearing on a sweeping curve of the Caples River, and had provided a superb stopover or base for trampers, hunters and anglers. For many, I’m sure; this spot would have been on their list of favourites.

It is now a stated 6-7hr tramp from Mid Caples Hut over McKellar Saddle to McKellar Hut. Having tramped this route one July, I would suggest this time is optimistic in some conditions, and the average tramper’s day may in fact turn out to be considerably longer despite so-called ‘track upgrades’. Which brings me to my final point, which appears not to have been considered: shelter.

It should not just be about more bums on bunks, or more front country walkers, or more hut fees.

Frankly, I have little interest in bigger, plusher huts booked up to the hilt in advance and requiring the constant adjudication of harried hut wardens (bless their hearts, I do respect their job). What I have come to appreciate to a far greater degree after a decent slog is a warm, dry shelter.

Please, stop closing huts on a whim. We are all stewards of our wilderness assets and shelter should be paramount – especially when the asset already exists!

– Mike Nankivell, Auckland

Tent troubles

My wife recently walked the Te Araroa Trail with me acting as support crew. On the occasions she wasn’t hidden far away in the backcountry and we could meet up, we used a Kathmandu Taku tent to sleep in.

We had spent a while picking a suitable tent as this would be Linda’s comfy tent stop when she could meet up with me.
But after perhaps erecting the tent 20 times and now in the South Island, we had poles break on four different occasions in very light winds. I was next to the tent one time when, crack!, one just decided it was time to let go.
I went to Kathmandu in Blenheim after the first two broke, where the manager was very helpful and gave me several spare pole sections.
I called into Kathmandu head office in Christchurch on two occasions and they eventually accepted that the tent was faulty and we finally got a refund, shame that we were left without a tent.
I emailed them two weeks ago and no response, shame about that also.
Just be aware that this type of problem can occur and I have heard of other Kathmandu tents having the same problem
– Evan Pugh, e-mail
Kathmandu responds:

The team here at Kathmandu take great pride in designing and developing quality products, so we were extremely disappointed to learn of your experience. Our sincere apologies for any inconvenience to you and your wife.
We understand from our Customer Service team that they endeavoured to address the problem by providing you with replacement poles and a fly. However, as the tent was by then more than two years old and had been replaced by a new model, we were unable to source a replacement Taku, so a full refund was provided. If you’re not fully satisfied with this outcome our Customer Service team would be very happy to respond to your query (email customerservice@kathmandu.co.nz).
We are always grateful for any feedback on our products to enable continual improvement. Please be assured this issue has been elevated to all concerned parties to ensure we do all we can to avoid this happening in future. Thank you for taking the time to get in touch with us directly and to write this letter to Wilderness.
– Ian Babington, Kathmandu Customer Service Centre Manager

PLBs overseas and New Zealand

Correspondent Lloyd Klee makes some interesting points about foreign-bought PLBs, EPIRBS, and ELTs (Pigeon Post, May, 2014) that I feel need to be expanded on as they could potentially endanger people.

Beacons transmit distress signals to the International Cospas-Sarsat Programme, a global network of search-and-rescue satellites linked to mission control centres and rescue coordination centres. There are 26 participating countries working together including New Zealand, and it would be a very poor system indeed if travellers were expected to purchase a separate beacon for every member country they visited. This arrangement mandates that New Zealand beacons work in other member countries, and, by turn, that foreign beacons work in this country. It would be a tragedy if a reader went adventuring overseas and left their New Zealand PLB at home thinking it would be useless, found they needed it then paid the ultimate price.

It’s true that distress signals from foreign PLBs will go to the country of registration’s search-and-rescue headquarters first, potentially leading to a short delay while the signal is relayed along with the owner’s registered emergency contact details. It’s important to consider this before buying a beacon and to think about where it will be used most, but it’s just as important to remember that carrying any modern beacon at all vastly improves the chance of survival in an emergency.

Warranty support seems like a non-issue. Beacons are designed and manufactured to the high standards required of a device intended to save lives — they are robust and batteries must have a minimum five-year shelf-life. If I’m in trouble, the last thing I will be thinking about is getting a refund for a faulty PLB. And I’ll be feeling really silly if I’m in trouble and don’t have my PLB because I thought it wouldn’t work overseas.

– Brody Radford, Auckland

Memorial plaques are not welcome

I am of course sorry for people who have lost their lives in the bush (‘See more Memorials’, June, 2014), but I am totally against man-made objects like memorial plaques being placed beside the track. I consider they detract from the wilderness experience. I do appreciate useful memorials like huts and tracks, though.

Memorials are a way of imposing the memory of dead people on others who would rather be enjoying the environment and forming their own memories of the spot – without other people in it.
Incidentally, I am abhor people who leave money in their wills to have plaques with their name on them placed on park benches. How cheap can you get? If you want to give the living pleasure, why not donate money for an un-named seat? When I die, I would like my body to be dropped into the bush from a helicopter in a place where I wouldn’t be found, but I understand this isn’t allowed.

– Stephen Conn

A triumph for common sense and the environment

Thumbs up to Nick Smith and his team for negating the Milford monorail proposal.

If you have never visited the areas of Glenorchy, Kinloch, Gunns Camp, then move this to the top of your bucket list before the dollar-motivated visionaries get their way. These locations are the gateway to the finest tramping and sightseeing in New Zealand. The Routeburn, Greenstone Caples, Hollyford, Dart-Rees, Cascade Saddle and Milford tracks are all here. For the tramping gurus, there’s the Rock Burn, Theatre Flats, Lake Nerine, and the mecca that is the Olivine Ice Plateau.

The look of amazement and enjoyment from visitors at Gunns Camp is a sight to behold. Leave the yuppies behind, no TV, phone, internet, even the generator-powered lights go out at 10pm. Superlatives for this area, quaint, raw, remote, challenging, and serene. I have been there a number of times and will be back early next year, hopefully will share a brew with you.

– Peter Vella

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