Letter of the month
The few giving the majority a bad name
It’s a sad fact that any backcountry hut three hours or less from a road end, particularly if the walk is not too strenuous, will suffer from some sort of abuse. After years of hunting and tramping, I have also found the further one tramps into the hills the better the people that you meet frequenting the huts become. I sympathise with your author Hazel Phillips who recounted negative experiences with hunters she met at Oamaru hut.
I have seen this type before. They always come in groups of two or three and it seems they are unable to hunt solo or walk in any further than three hours. They take up most of the sleeping area with gear they don’t need and are too lazy to move it to make room when others arrive. They are loud, don’t pay hut fees and can’t be bothered to clean up or gather firewood when leaving.
When hunting on DOC land there are rules to follow, one being no hunting during the hours of darkness or spotlighting. There is nothing too hard there to understand and boozing up first is far from ideal. Given the current climate regarding firearm-related incidents, hunters should try a low-key approach.
But as usual, it is the few that give the many a bad name. Most hunters I have had the pleasure of sharing a backcountry hut with have all been good buggers, with ethics, common sense and respect for the quarry hunted as well as fellow backcountry users.
I do hope people like the trio Phillips encountered are eventually reported which hopefully will make tramping particularly at night a whole lot safer for all.
– Paul Parker
On Great Walks success
After another season of tramping around my backyard of Otago and Southland, I’m afraid I’m going to have to question DOC’s labelling of differential pricing on the Great Walks as a ‘success’.
Based purely on ratios of international to New Zealand trampers and income, it seems like a fair call, but don’t we have to look at the knock-on effects, too?
I have spent many years enjoying the unspoilt beauty of the areas adjacent to the Great Walks, but this season I found their tranquillity has taken a massive hit – they have become full of tourists who, in conversation, are quick to say they were there because they weren’t prepared to pay the new Great Walks’ fees. (In numerous cases, directed there by helpful local DOC offices and in some cases woefully unprepared for tracks and routes far less manicured than those offered on the Great Walks.)
The associated huts in these areas are now frequently full and fraying with a noticeable lack of hut etiquette due to minimal education in place. The saddest part is the knock-on effect on all the smaller valleys that have no facilities at all; I now have a new backcountry game called toilet paper tails… how many bits of toilet paper can I see sticking out from bushes or under rocks? The Earnslaw Burn, close to the Routeburn Track, is the current winner with enough wads of ‘hidden’ waste to bring tears to the eyes.
International tramper numbers haven’t reduced. I’m sure their growth continues, and the new policy means a significant portion has just been displaced to areas less well equipped to handle them. In my opinion, it’s better to funnel visitors into areas where education on etiquette can be targeted and a lack of bush skills can be catered for by more concentrated facilities.
I’d love to know if DOC acknowledges this issue and, if so, the plan to stop the degradation this policy is causing elsewhere.
– Heidi Hadley, email
Fire to treat hypothermia?
The article ‘Hypothermia – the silent menace’ is a very good read and informative.
However, nowhere in the article was it mentioned about using fire to heat or raise the temperature. All trampers would carry fire-starting kits with them. The article mentioned using heat pads, which some might carry, and hot water bottles, which is unlikely on a tramping trip. Also, in order to get hot water, you do need fire. Therefore, does it make sense to use fire as a treatment for hypothermia? And is there any reason why fire shouldn’t be used?
I think the article may be targeting hypothermia under different aspects, like in backcountry, urban, park. However, Wilderness is more about activities associated with outdoor and backcountry. Therefore, if it could be more specific, your readers will be able to relate better when they next venture outdoors.
– KT Ho, email
– We asked hypothermia expert Dr Malin Zachau for her advice: “When a person is not yet cold stressed – i.e. a little chilly or they have become cold stressed – sitting by an open fire is a great idea. When mildly hypothermic, calories and gentle movement are more effective than sitting by a fire, but it is still OK to do so as long as the person is also given food and drink. When the person is moderately or severely hypothermic, attempting to actively rewarm a person by placing them close to a fire can be harmful and is not advised. Direct heat can cause vasodilatation – where the previously closed off blood vessels in the skin reopen and cold blood recirculates to the heart – which can cause the person to collapse with a cardiac arrest.”
Trail life a highlight
Congratulations to Sarah May Little, who illustrates the Trail Life cartoon each month. I find them fun, honest and very true. Please keep up the good work – they’re a real highlight.
I also love the What’s in My Pack page – it’s nice to see what other people pack for their jobs and trips.
– Rebecca Smith, email