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June 2015 Issue
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Pigeon Post, June 2015

Alfresco loo. Photo: Bob Moscrip

Everything a tramper should do

Ricky French’s article (‘12 things every tramper must do’, April 2015) resonated strongly with me, especially ‘Do that last big tramp now’.

I did a couple of multi-day tramps every year until 2010 when my gammy knees suffered on the descent from Gillespie Pass. I had not done any tramping until late December last year when my long time friend Peter Alexander, 72, convinced me (69) to do the Harper Pass trip from Aickens to Windy Point. We had done most of it many years earlier accessing the Taramakau via the infamous Townsend Creek.

Despite my resolve to extend my 1.45hr training walks I never managed to do more than just a few four-hour trips so I was a tad apprehensive about my ability to cope. Crossing the Otira was a challenge with our packs the heaviest, due in part to a litre of whisky. Ascending Harper Pass was a grunt but we made it, but by the time we descended to Harper Pass Bivvy our energy levels were low so we decided to overnight there.

The last two days, from Hurunui Hut to Hope Kiwi Lodge and then out to the Lewis Pass Road and Windy Point proved to be very hot and took 10 hours each. But we did it, nine days in all and testimony to French’s ‘you are probably fitter than you think’.

Now we’re planning the next one!

Tony Kunowski


 Something a tramper shouldn’t do

Parties in a hut can be a lot of fun but are they appropriate if your behaviour impinges on the comfort and enjoyment of others?

I recently had a weekend at Siberia Hut ruined by a group of partygoers – 13 revellers flown in by their employer (a well known Central Otago wine company) to spend Otago Anniversary Weekend in the ‘wilderness’. The group included a chef and assistant, and being a wine company, a generous quantity of food and alcohol. With a sound system and musical instruments, they occupied one whole living area and a fine time was had by all – except those of us who were looking for peace and quiet and easy companionship in a usually very welcoming DOC hut.

The party went on into the early morning. As you might imagine, the next morning there were some unhappy trampers among the non-party goers. Some trampers, fearing a repeat performance on the second night, choose to make their way to huts and campsites further up the valley.

A DOC hut that feels colonised by partygoers leaves other users feeling intimidated, not to mention really tired the next day and less than fit for tramping.

Perhaps idea number four in the list might be revisited?

David Cregan, Nelson


 Thanks for gargantuan effort

The great New Zealand clobbering machine seems to have a new target and readily and regularly attacks the Department of Conservation.

DOC has a gargantuan task in often difficult conditions and remote areas.

The organisation operates on a minuscule budget trying to balance a massive workload and huge challenges.

Whenever I meet DOC team members, whether at information centres, a planned event or somewhere in the bush, one thing is painfully obvious: they are always dedicated, committed, enthusiastic, willing, helpful, skilled, knowledgeable and truly passionate about their jobs and making the outdoors the magical experience it is.

To the men and women who are the frontline team at DOC: thank you. Those of us who have the willingness to turn off the TV and head outside really do appreciate the effort you make to enhance and protect our wilderness adventures.

Brent Reed, Christchurch


Toilet site spot on

In response to your correspondent Stephen Keach (‘A public inconvenience’, May 2015), the Forge Flat toilet on the Routeburn Track was installed in 2009 after the need was recognised to provide a toilet facility in the locality to meet the demands of changing park visitor dynamics.  

During the summer season a daily average of 200 day walkers visit the lower Routeburn Track, ranging from family and commercially guided groups through to senior visitors often with little to no tramping experience.  

After investigating several sites, the current location was chosen for a number of reasons:

  • Safe (not a risk of tree falls or steep drop-offs)
  • Non flooding (Forge Flat has been flooded regularly and posed the risk of sewage storage tanks being inundated)
  • Geologically stable (other potential sites were in high rock fall zones)
  • Discreet (it is tucked into a corner of the track and not visible from a distance)
  • Close to Forge Flat (200m) which is a recognised stopping/lunch/swimming spot
  • Helicopter long strop accessible for long lining in/out flyable sewage tanks.

The toilet has functioned well for the past six years, being emptied twice a season and we now encounter little evidence of freedom toileting in the surrounding area.

Greg Lind, Conservation Partnerships Manager, Queenstown


Truly light gear not available in NZ

Correspondent Dennis Brown (‘What is lightweight?’, Pigeon Post, April 2015), hit the nail on the head – I couldn’t have said it better and more succinctly.

Pack weight is like a continuum – the more you carry, the more comfortable you are in camp but the harder it is to tramp. And the less you carry, the more comfortable you are on the track but the fewer comforts you have in camp. It’s hard to have both.

As I thumb through Wilderness, my eyes glaze over, especially at the equipment reviews. These reviewers are living in the dark ages.

True lightweight trampers like Dennis and myself purchase gear totally online from cottage industry brands like Zpacks, Mountain Laurel Designs, Gossamer Gear, Six Moons that have truly put in thousands of trail miles and years of lightweight field research. What’s more, they ask us to have input and to test as well. Many have adapted gear for me to better suit New Zealand conditions.

Every time my subscription comes up for renewal,  I ask ‘Why renew?’ I can tell you it’s not for the gear reviews or new gear advertisements. It’s for the off the beaten track articles that give ideas for new unexplored routes.

Rob McKay, Auckland

Overhydration risk over-hyped

It would be highly unlikely that any trail runner would ever suffer from overhydration (‘What is overhydration?’, New Zealand Trail Runner, Autumn, April 2014). The body is chewing through water on these runs and needs more water to reduce the risk of body weight loss and its consequences.

It would be best to advise runners to know what their water use is and therefore what they need to put back into their body. They do this by weighing themselves prior to a run and then on return and to do this in different temperatures and on easy and hard runs to get a good idea of what they need. A one per cent drop in body weight is a 10 per cent drop in performance and bad thinking or decision making.

No trail runner should ever drink to thirst, by then it could be too late and no amount of drinking will bring them back in time to finish an event.

Not one bit of the advice given applies to a trail runner and if used by an inexperienced runner is more likely to place them in a life-threatening position than overhydration ever could.

Paul Chandler, email


Pack a trap

Many trampers returned from Easter trips complaining about those furry scurrying mice in huts. Some years ago I stayed at Hope Arm Hut in Manapouri where mice were rampant. I caught two with the old wooden trap I had in my pack and then donated it to the hunters who were staying on in the hut.

In Te Anau I purchased two grey plastic replacement traps. They are easy to set and to dispose of the carcasses.

Since then, I have always carried at least one trap when tramping. Recently, I caught four mice at D’Urville Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park. I only had one trap but even so no mice got into the food supplies. A minimal smear of peanut butter, cheese or salami lasts all night as bait. The mice rarely get a chance to eat any.

If, as often occurs in the South Island, a weka hovers near the hut it will happily dispose of any dead rodents offered. I suggest that trampers add a mousetrap to their equipment. Although the number caught is not great, in the more frequently used huts it is enough to keep the population low and provides some entertainment in the evenings.

Vivien Pohl, email


Farewell old friend

On a trip to the Matiri Valley over Easter my favourite old raincoat finally gave up the ghost. So to fill in some time, I composed a wee poem in its honour, one a few readers might be able to relate to.

Ode to a raincoat

You’re Gore-Tex and red and, finally, dead

Sixteen years – we’ve shared so much

All the Great Walks, all those backcountry huts

Through wind and rain and hail and snow

There was nowhere you couldn’t go

And when the rain and wind blew in

I could think of you, tramp on and grin

But now you’re off and rather smelly

I noticed it in the Matiri Valley

Soaked to the skin en route to Larrikin

That February Wilderness article kicked in: new gear, seamless, origami-like – so many choices

So, it’s time to go – farewell and thanks for all

I’m upgrading to a coat that can take a waterfall

Joy Liddicoat, Wellington


Good deeds, great inspiration

Congratulations to Matthew Pike for his article Trail Angels (April 2015) in which he reveals the kindness of strangers to those walking the Te Araroa Trail.

My Favourite story would have to be the stranger that saved Naresh Kumar from sleeping on the floor of a public toilet by taking him to his house for beef stir fry, wine, cheese and even let him relax in his jacuzzi.

I have recently finished the Milford Track and after reading this article have been inspired to do the Te Araroa Trail. In the past weeks I have been researching a lot of information about it.

I will have to wait a bit though because I am only 13 years old!

Quinn Bungard, email

Enlightenment at last!

Thank you for publishing ‘We’re Not Alone’ (May 2015). Having been a hillwalker in Scotland for many years, I recognise that the Brits are obsessed with making lists and classifications to aid them in the sport of Peak Bagging. The full list of peaks are classified as follows:

Munros, Scotland, Over 3000ft  

Corbetts, Scotland, 2500-3000ft

Donalds, Scotland Lowlands, 2000ft-plus

Grahams, Scotland, 2000-2500ft with 150m drop from summit

Murdos, Scotland, 3000ft-plus  with 30m drop

Furths, Ireland, England and Wales, 3000ft-plus

Nuttalls, England and Wales, 2000ft-plus with 15m drop

Hewitts, Ireland, England and Wales, 2000ft-plus with 30m drop

Wainwrights, 1000ft-plus included in Wainwright’s guides to the Lake District hills

Birkitts, 1000ft-plus,  inside Lake District National Park

Marilyns, All British Isles, all hills with 150m summit drop

Deweys, England and Wales 500-2000ft with 30m drop

Hardys, Hills in UK ranges with geographical area more than 1000 acres

Humps, Marilyns with 100m drop

Tumps, All of UK, Any hill with 30m drop

I hope this will enlighten your readers.

Martin Geddes, Napier


Alfresco loo

Alfresco loo. Photo: Bob Moscrip

Alfresco loo. Photo: Bob Moscrip

I guess we have all seen a few good backcountry loos over the years. The old Rangipo one which used to face the hut and had the door blown off with the wind. The Blue Range Hut in the Tararuas which was side on to the hut and had no door.You could tell if it was occupied if there were a pair of knees and feet sticking out!

Then there was this one, which must be an all time classic, at Thompsons Hut on the Rakaia River and surrounded by matagouri. It certainly left an impression!

Bob Moscrip, email