Letter of the month
Don’t overlook planning for day trips
The misadventure of two American tourists walking the Kapakapanui Track in Tararua Forest Park nearly resulted in a fatal outcome (Walkshorts, July 2016). This incident highlights a theme that is all too familiar in our islands, of people (both tourists and locals) taking on ambitious day trips and then finding themselves in dangerous predicaments.
Mt Taranaki and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing are perhaps the two most prominent sites where such stories unfold. Like Kapakapanui, these tracks can easily be accessed and they offer the tantalising prospect of experiencing magnificent scenery and a summit experience, all within a few hours.
But despite technically being achievable within a day, these walks demand good planning, fitness and respect for alpine conditions.
DOC promotes safety information through the Outdoor Safety Code. While the general safety rules outlined by the code are applicable to trips of all duration, this broad approach comes at a risk of people not perceiving its relevance to their situation. Day-trippers in particular are more likely to disregard key aspects of safe planning because it can seem superfluous or too onerous for a short trip.
The Mountain Safety Council has produced a guide specifically for day walkers – Day Walk: know before you go – but it is not widely circulated.
I feel DOC and MSC should do more to publicise this excellent resource and to promote safer day trip planning generally.
– JJ Mitchell, email
Hut safer in summer
While I support the concept of encouraging people to experience the outdoors in winter, I was concerned to read that a winter trip to Liverpool Hut was recommended (‘Seven huts that are better in winter’, June 2016).
I spend a lot of time, both summer and winter, in the West Matukituki Valley of Mt Aspiring National Park as my husband is a hut warden at Aspiring Hut. Allowing for the variability of snow levels, you can pretty much say snow will be down to the bushline below Liverpool Hut from late May until September.
The photo used to illustrate the article appears to have been taken in early May or September, and not at all indicative of winter conditions.
Ascending out of the bush, you must cross several rocky slabs which have a significant drop to the valley floor below. There have been several fatalities and falls off these slabs in the past. In winter, this section of the track becomes extremely icy and once covered in snow is very unforgiving.
Trampers who have good winter gear and knowledge of the route are fine but the article gave no warning of the risks and I believe was irresponsible to say the least.
– Heather Thorne, email
Noisy flying machines
Wayne Clark and Sarah Tiong don’t know how lucky they are (‘Then along came a helicopter’, July 2016).
Not so long ago, many, perhaps most, helicopters in alpine areas were equipped with sirens. These were effective not only at flushing deer from cover, but trampers and climbers from their tents – generally in the hour or two immediately following first light.
What, at the time, were intentionally rude introductions to a new day were routinely answered with equally rude responses from voices, fingers and ice axes. Nowadays though, I’m more inclined to a little misty-eyed nostalgia. Then, as now, mountains and choppers go together, much like boats on water.
I recall being somewhat startled upon discovering a small Christmas tree somewhere in the middle of the Olivine Ice Plateau. It was almost certainly disgorged from an aircraft of some sort. And is probably due to emerge from the Andy Glacier any day now.
Fortunately, some sanctuaries have been set aside. When a prominent mountain guide was once asked to name his favourite hut, he replied ‘Empress’. Why? Because no aircraft are allowed to operate in the upper Hooker.
Contrast this with Aoraki/Mt Cook’s Grand Plateau, just 5km away, on a busy day.
– Hugh Middleton, Lower Hutt
Bury your poop
John Forrester has come up with a brilliant sign (Pigeon Post, July 2016). Sadly, it doesn’t just need to be in every hut, but handed out at all international airports in New Zealand and in every rental car as well.
I have heard of a fire brigade having to hose down a roadside pull-off in a major tourist area that was covered in human waste.
I still remember the name of Padre Crowleys lookout in the Death Valley area of Otago, not because of the views but because of the human waste scattered around.
We shouldn’t have to educate in this regard, but it appears there are too many lazy, disgusting people out there.
– Pam Pope, email
Helicopters in Wilderness Areas
In the Olivine Wilderness Area story (Wild range, July 2016), Geoff Spearpoint wrote: ‘There are no huts and tracks in the entire area, and air access is not allowed’.
However, in the article ‘Then along came a helicopter’, in the same issue, was an account of two helicopters buzzing a group on the Olivine Ice Plateau. Alpine Helicopters CEO Jonathan Wallis was quoted as saying “Helicopters provide safe aerial access to these areas”.
Personally, I am furious that a designated Wilderness Area may be sullied by the presence of hovering tourist helicopters. Isn’t ‘wilderness’ meant to be just that? What is more damaging to wilderness, a hut or noisy hovering helicopters?
– Chris de Bazin, email
Image reinforces stereotypes
How’s the foot? You know, the one you shot yourself in by printing a forehead-slappingly dumb introductory photo for the article ‘Smashing Stereotypes’ (July 2016) which described how women who tramp and climb are ‘being treated as less capable than men’.
I trust it did not occur to you that an outdoor clothing catalogue-esque photo of a woman smiling up at a (male?) companion giving her a kindly helping hand up a moderate tussock slope might rather undermine the article’s message.
Unless perhaps it is Wilderness’ editorial policy to let the girls agitate a bit here and there, as long as a subtle knock back goes alongside? Wouldn’t want to challenge the readership, after all.
What a sad irony that the very attitudes the article calls out are clearly displayed before it, with no apparent awareness of the dichotomy.
– Anthony Sidwell, email