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December 2021 Issue
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Deserved acknowledgement

Our letter of the month receive a Kiwi Camping Rover Lite 3cm self-inflating mattress worth $109 from

Letter of the month

Deserved acknowledgement

Thanks for a long-overdue acknowledgement of the fantastic work of the Search and Rescue personnel featured in the article ‘The Searchers’.

Geoff Wayatt, who was profiled, plucked my badly injured companion and me off Mt Aspiring/Tititea some years ago. A crampon fell off, my friend slipped and tied together we fell down the icy slope until a small crevasse brought us to a welcome stop. The two other members of our party raised the alarm and the Wānaka SAR team arrived in a chopper.

Geoff was calm, reassuring and capable. He was quick to assess the situation and immediately made us feel safe. He soon had us ready to be lifted to Wānaka for further assessment and treatment. My friend was dispatched to Dunedin hospital for a long stay in the orthopaedic ward. His injuries healed and he returned to mountaineering.

Geoff says he balances his search and rescue work with helping other people have good experiences in the mountains. He did just that for my wife and me a few years later when we spent a week in Centennial Hut where I was able to get back on the crampons and deal with feelings of exposure once again. 

– David Cregan, Nelson

– Thanks for sharing your story David. A Kiwi Camping Rover Lite 3cm self-inflating mattress worth $109 from is on it’s way. Readers, send your letter to the editor for a chance to win.

Caroline Hut is better off in private hands

I’ve always been wary of private locked huts in National Parks (‘Private Mt Cook Hut could become public’) despite the irony of belonging to clubs that own some.

In the Caroline Hut hearing, FMC and NZAC opposed this private hut. FMC inferred that it offered an elitist experience beyond public reach. Really? All other submitters supported the concession continuing and, paradoxically, they almost all belonged to those two organisations as well. That’s awkward.

Caroline Hut is owned by Alpine Recreation; locals who support the same national park values and act with the same high environmental integrity as do members of the clubs I belong to.

Elitist? Most of Alpine Rec’s customers are Kiwis, seeking support to enjoy a mountain experience. They walk in and walk out. I wouldn’t mind betting plenty are prominent older club members. Hardly inaccessible. I think the hut offers an opportunity for many ordinary New Zealanders who appreciate it just as it is.

Turning the hut over to DOC may not have the outcome some assume. DOC’s commitment to huts isn’t what it was. A few years down the track, removal could easily be the ‘cost effective’ option. Be careful what you wish for.

– Geoff Spearpoint, Little River

DOC’s policies to remove private structures on conservation land are under review as they contain anomalies which would mean The Hermitage at Aoraki/Mt Cook and Ultimate Hikes’ huts on the Routeburn and Milford tracks would have to revert to public ownership. Countless other concessionaire-owned facilities would be in jeopardy.

Caroline Hut is not private in the sense of a private bach, used only by family and friends; it is accessible to the public, but they need to buy the whole package: guide, food, equipment, not just the hut fees.

The hut fees collected for alpine huts do not cover the costs of running those huts. It is only by selling the guided package that Alpine Recreation can make it viable to operate Caroline Hut.

One of the main reasons my late husband, Gottlieb Braun-Elwert, wanted to build the hut was to relieve pressure on public huts so that our guided groups would not compete with unguided recreationists for hut space. Caroline Hut provides free access to an emergency shelter, water and toilet.

In 1988, Gottlieb discussed with DOC whether they should provide a public hut in the same area but DOC declined as it did not want a proliferation of buildings on that site and because of insurance issues. Alpine Recreation should not be penalised for DOC’s decision not to build a public hut in this location. It should also be remembered that there is a precedent for a guided operation and private hut in the area: the old Ball Hut.

– Anne Braun-Elwert, Alpine Recreation

What happened to Peter?

Congratulations on reaching the magnificent 30th-anniversary milestone (October 2021).

Having recently moved house, I found boxes of past issues which brought back many happy memories. Contemplating throwing out the old paper copies as I struggled to lift them into the loft, thinking it will all be online now, the October issue arrived in the post.

A great read, I must say, but how can you include Pat Barrett’s tale of high summer in the hills only to leave me wondering if Peter survived that terrible fall?

I will just have to start off my Walk1200km challenge by climbing into the loft again and find out what happened; I am sure September 1996 must be there somewhere.

– Nick Deane, Woodend

– Several readers wrote to ask what happened to Peter. Apart from a few nasty gashes, he was fine. -AH.

Giardia surprise

When I arrived in New Zealand 27 years ago, I read there was Giardia in mountain streams all around the country and I took appropriate precautions to avoid catching it. 

When I raised the subject with DOC hut wardens they all said don’t worry they’ve never caught it. I stopped worrying about it without ill effect, so the warning to always treat your water for Giardia comes as a surprise (Pigeon Post, November 2021). 

Perhaps I’ve been lucky or perhaps Giardia is only located in a few places. A distribution map would be very helpful.

– Duncan Peters, email

Ignored warnings

Re: ‘Trampers saved by cell reception in Nelson Lakes National Park’. The couple who used their cellphone to get rescued had been warned to turn back by friends of mine, who came across them on the Robert Ridge Track. The couple were unprepared and particularly unfit. It would appear they decided to ignore that advice.

– John Kennedy, email

Liberating lockdown

I have sorely missed being in the outdoors during the Auckland lockdown but now we’re at Level 3 it has been liberating to explore Auckland’s many regional parks.

I have also been eagerly planning trips for post border restrictions and was disappointed to learn the annual hut pass that I had bought earlier this year has not been given an extension or refund, despite Aucklanders being unable to use it for three months and counting. An extension or refund is offered only when the entire country is in Level 3 or 4 for more than two months. 

I do acknowledge that I have been more fortunate than most to have made good use of my pass prior to the lockdowns and look forward to exploring the rest of New Zealand once it is safe to do so again. 

For now, it’s time to explore another corner of Auckland and I am eagerly awaiting access to the reopening of Gibbons/Muir Track in the Waitākere Ranges and Waharau Loop Track in the Hunua Ranges.