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March 2014 Issue
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Pigeon Post: March 2014

Mum and son

In July last year Wilderness published my Wild Trip report of the Rangiwahia Deadman’s Loop in Ruahine Forest Park. I stated my desire to take my oldest son on the same trip this summer. I am pleased to report that we have now achieved this. The new track to Rangiwahia Hut is impressive and makes the ascent to the hut much easier; we made it there in 2.5hr.

The tramp out via Deadmans Track was more challenging for Fenn, 8, than I had anticipated, being a rough track and largely invisible in the tussock areas, but he loved the beautiful views and being on the tops.

It took us 7hr from hut to car park, 2hr longer than the average, but we made it, and I was very proud of him!

– Nina Mercer, e-mail

Overseas PLBs

Your correspondent Peter Vella is not entirely correct to say overseas PLBs can be registered in New Zealand (Pigeon Post, February, 2014). You cannot register an overseas-encoded PLB, EPIRB or ELT (emergenvy locator transmitter) in New Zealand unless it is re-coded and most companies charge between NZ$80-$150 to do this.

An overseas-purchased beacon that is not registered anywhere (you generally need to be a citizen in the county of registration) will work. But with no knowledge of who owns it or even if it is a false alarm, activating may lead to ramifications for the person using it. The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority can levy a fine of $20,000 for non-registered 406MHz ELTs. There have been discussions about imposing fines for unregistered 406MHz PLBs as well.

As for Vella’s comments about pricing, I can confirm that European manufacturers have different export prices to different markets. For example, on one brand of PLB there is a US$60 difference in price between exports to the USA vs New Zealand direct from the manufacturer. There was a slight difference in specification between the models but it shows it is not necessarily the retailer making excessive margins. The RescueMe unit Vella purchased was initially priced at NZ$699 but that has been reduced to NZ$599, no doubt due to margins as well as volumes. The current pricing of all 406MHz PLB’s with embedded GPS sold here is between $489-$599.

Prices in Australia will increase very rapidly due to the recent 15 per cent weakening of the Australian dollar so unfortunately, any prices currently listed will be invalid in the near future.

There are approximately 16,000 registered PLB’s in New Zealand. There are probably another 3000 unregistered.

The rules are simple, all PLB’s need to be registered to allow the system to work effectively. If you buy a NZ-encoded PLB from overseas, do not anticipate any warranty support in New Zealand. If you buy one and get it encoded in NZ, you are likely to pay the same price in the end.

Search and Rescue do not charge for the rescue, support NZ RCC by paying the GST and buy locally.

– Lloyd Klee,

Lloyd Klee was a member of the New Zealand / Australian committee that developed the current PLB standards

I read the review of multi-day packs (March, 2014) with interest and a certain amount of irritation.

Recently I thought I would shout myself a new pack for shorter multi-day trips (my 80-litre pack being gigantic for a weekend), but was frustrated at the range now available and gave up.

It therefore did not surprise me that three out of the four packs reviewed had a separate bottom compartment and these were all ignored by the experienced trampers who tested the packs. Separate sleeping bag compartments not only add weight with their extra zips, but they waste space as it is not possible to pack the second compartment as tightly as a main cell. Furthermore, a sleeping bag sitting that low has to have its own plastic bag or it will get soaked – the trampers photographed crossing the river on p66 of the same issue would all have wet sleeping bags and even if they had bypassed the lower compartment by using a single pack liner, water would have seeped in through the lower compartment zip, adding weight.

The Exped pack has a roll-top; these look very nice if the tramper is able to pack all quick access items such as a hat and gloves right at the top, but it is not an ideal situation.

The pack style of 20 years ago was so sensible but now appears to be unavailable: a single main compartment plus a small top cell for really important stuff that mustn’t be compressed and one outer pocket high up for quick access gear when weather changes. Why don’t pack makers produce packs that really work anymore??

– Marg Pearce, Porirua

– There are plenty of single compartment large-capacity packs available: Exped, Macpac, Cactus to name a few brands. For weekend trips, which seem to be your focus these days, you might want an overnight-sized pack. Check the December 2013 issue where we review four such packs – three of which are your favoured single compartment design. – AH

A note of thanks: my 15-year-old daughter is not terribly athletic, mostly due to a mild foot deformity. As a child, I did many short tramps in the Waitakere Ranges but a busy life has seen me take up running rather than tramping. My daughter does not run, so this is definitely not a family activity! She has, however, decided she rather likes walking off road and recently started asking about tramping (her active grandparents have continued to tramp into their 60s). Thus a purchase of Wilderness.

The whole family has enjoyed it and been inspired by it. We have settled on doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing next summer and we are making plans to up-skill over the year. I am sure your magazine will contribute to our planning. How nice to have a renewed interest for myself and husband, and new interest from my daughters. Thanks!

– Ruth Shapr, e-mail

It has been my privilege and inspiration to tramp in New Zealand for more than 65 years. Our five children have also shared these experiences with us from an early age, climbing Ngauruhoe when five and at seven traversing Tongariro in mid-winter.

Tongaririo National Park has been a special sanctuary, with its stark harshness and loneliness. Especially significant have been the fragile areas around Ketetahi and Rangipo, with their gentian fields and wind-sculptured surfaces.

With regard to the Tussock Traverse off-road running race held in January this year, I am concerned that a commercial company is obtaining access to the park to engage in financial gain.

The huge stress the company’s event puts on the delicate surface of the park may take years to heal.

More than 50 years ago we tramped to Ketetahi Hut in a four-metre trough! Through superb management and at great expense, DOC remedied that huge erosion problem by placing boardwalks and surfaced tracks in popular areas.

The Tussock Traverse goes through areas of great fragility which are easily degraded and can take a long time to recover.

I trust thrill seekers will look to a longer time frame to enjoy the future of our superb outdoor environment

– Rowen Crawford, Auckland.