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June 2020 Issue
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Pigeon Post, June 2020

Our reader of the month receives a Backcountry Cuisine food pack worth $100 from Readers, send your letter to the editor to win.

Letter of the month

Track times and tectonic plates

Your correspondent David Holroyd revives the hoary issue of track walking times. When I worked as a park ranger, track users would frequently complain that the stated walking times were incorrect – either too long or too short. When we added track distances to the times, and stated on the map that times are for ‘an average family group, stopping occasionally to take photos or to have a snack break’, the complaints ceased.

Track times are intended as a rough guide only. We are all different, so you should factor in your age, fitness at the time, pack weight and health.
Holroyd expressed a wish for consistency of track walking times across the country, but that would be impossible to achieve. Staff measuring those times vary hugely in age, fitness and leg length.

I’ve concluded that tramping from point A to B takes a little longer now that I am 70 compared to when I was 20. I have realised why that is: it has to be the result of tectonic plate movement, stretching the land and thrusting the mountains ever higher.

– John Walsh, email

– For offering some clarity around track times, John receives a Backcountry Cuisine food pack worth $100 from Readers, send your letter to for a chance to win.

Hard to find, but amazing

I was surprised to see MOW Hut featured in Wilderness (‘Off the radar’, April 2020).

My friend and I were there earlier this year. It’s an amazing place with very few visitors – only one or two parties a year.
We flew to outside the exclusion zone and were dropped off a couple of kilometres from the hut. We’d been told ‘It’s a bugger to find’, and it was.
It’s a lovely wee hut. It has no long drop, but there is a shovel, and water can be collected from a trickle a few metres away. There’s also resident weka.

We walked out in rain and 15m visibility, thankful for a GPS track, although there are bits of tape and cairns occasionally. Mostly we were in open tussock. After 3.5hr we emerged at the Blue Shirt Creek bridge and the Heaphy Track.

– Brian Bowell, email

Lightweight tramper

There are many reasons for going light with your gear on a long-distance tramp. Ieva Laucina could not bear the thought of carrying a heavy pack (‘Te Araroa with a daypack’ May 2020). But another reason is necessity. If you are over 70 and wish to walk the Te Araroa, a light pack is essential.

With 40 years of tramping experience behind me, I knew this trip was well within my capabilities. But my pack had to be under 10kg. My gear included a Z pack (650g), single person Terra Nova tent (700g), Marmot sleeping bag (890g), Therm-A-Rest mattress (340g) and a Jetboil stove. All food was dehydrated at home and mailed to accommodation along the way.

What a joy to have so much lightweight tramping gear now available. Age does not have to limit ambition.

– Roger Parsons, email

The Wilderness 100

The Wilderness 100, gave us an entertaining hour or so over a glass of wine (possibly two!) to see how we measured up. Our final tally was 61 of the 100.

I have 56 years of tramping behind me and Jennie has 50. This gives us an average time span of 53 years or 1.15 years for each of the 100.

Visiting Ivory Lake is reserved for a helicopter visit, possibly to scatter ashes! To complete the other outstanding 38 would require another 43.7 years at our current rate. In 43 years I will be 115 years old and Jennie 118.

Might have to up the ante.

– Euan and Jennie Nicol, email

We did a quick count of the number of trips we had done of the Wilderness 100. It was interesting that much of our tally was because we were accompanying our parents who were then the inspiration for us to take our own children tramping.

So our tally was 20. And we would be interested in comparing that with other readers.

Here’s to looking forward to the new times of exploring our own backyard and sharing our finances with local communities rather than large corporations.

– Phil and Sue Roberts-Blyth, email

– Thanks for sharing your tallies. Readers, how many of the Wilderness 100 have you done? – AH

Filthy huts

The majority of backcountry hut users appreciate the shelter huts provide and will clean a hut before departure.

But on a visit to Longview Hut in Ruahine Forest Park earlier this year, I opened the door and entered a room full of acrid smoke and found the hut in a deplorable state. The woodburner had an excessive amount of tin foil, plastic drink bottles and cardboard crammed into it. Hot embers from the previous nights’ fire remained. Removing the rubbish and extinguishing the smouldering cardboard and plastic bottles was not a pleasant task. A lengthy clean -up ensued.

What is it with people who leave their overnight accommodation in such an untidy condition? No respect has been shown for the use of the facility that’s given them shelter. A brief set of rules is displayed in every hut, so I am at a loss as to why people would leave other people’s property in such disarray.

Perhaps visitors should be given a ‘Hut users guide’ pamphlet when purchasing hut tickets to remind them of their obligations.

On this particular trip, I carried over a kilo of rubbish from the hut.

– Roeland Pootjes, Hastings

What’s not in your pack

What never ceases to amaze me when I eagerly read the list of pack contents that your various experienced guest writers provide in the ‘What’s in my pack’ article, is the lack of a spare set if clothes for the times when you get soaked after tramping all day in the rain, even with the best waterproofs.

To have a set of warm dry clothes to pull on when out of the rain at the end of the day can literally be a life saver.

We all want to carry as light a pack as possible, but I believe this is an important safety issue.

– Janet Downs, Dunedin