Image of the September 2012 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
September 2012 Issue
Home / Articles / Pigeon Post

Pigeon Post, September 2012

Letter of the month

Gift lifts spirits in hour of need

After being an avid reader of Wilderness for more than 10 years, I have never been such a huge fan of it as I was recently whilst unexpectedly spending a night out under the stars.

Poor research and a couple of early morning hold-ups prevented me from getting onto the track until later than intended. The plan had been to meet friends who were walking from the other direction at a designated hut. It was my first solo tramp, but, as I was meeting others later that day, I was only a little apprehensive.

I had figured I would be at the hut around 4pm, however, I’d underestimated the terrain and by the time I came to a river crossing, it was on darkness and I’d lost the trail markers.

Realising my predicament I began to panic as I had not intended sleeping out by myself under the stars on a cold, winter night. However, I began to consider what I had in my pack to help keep me as warm and dry throughout the night as possible. I knew I had a great down sleeping bag I’d purchased the previous autumn but I also joyfully realised that I had a survival blanket, received with an issue of Widlerness ac ouple of years earlier.

It was still in its packaging and had come on many sea kayaking and tramping trips with me. I never thought I’d actually have to use it, though.

It made the perfect ground sheet and once I had laid it out with my down bag on it, propped up a couple of branches against the bushes and draped my rain coat over the top, the panic still niggling away at me subsided.

Even though the ground was a bit hard and I woke up with icy frost on the end of my sleeping bag, I had a superb night out under the stars.

Thanks so much for the thoughtful free gift – I will continue to take the survival blanket with me on every trip as it weighs next to nothing and takes up no space.

– K Metcalf, email

* Our letter of the month correspondent receives a Vaude Badia 24 day pack worth $129 courtesy of Readers, send your letter to the editor for a chance to win.

Still missing, but search thorough

My name is John Reynolds. Ed Reynolds, the missing tramper who was the subject of the article ‘No Trace Found’ (June 2012), was my son. After reading the article I emailed the author some comments, to which he responded by posting a follow-up article on the website (also published this issue in Walkshorts). While my comments were intended to generate additional discussion concerning the disappearance of Ed Reynolds, they could possibly be interpreted to mean that we have a negative view of the police, which is certainly not the situation.

I want to make sure that your readers understand the high regard that we have for the New Zealand Police, as well as the search and rescue community.

During the entire active search phase, the police conducted a very thorough, timely, and professional investigation of all possible leads in parallel with the SAR effort. The SAR group made an extraordinary effort to locate Ed, working many long hours to search vast areas, including the area in which a watch matching that used by my son was found. The SAR group, believing the watch find was a relevant clue, went back into the area when the river levels had receded after the snow melt and conducted a thorough two-day land and water search which included dogs, unfortunately with nil results.

Thank you for the opportunity to express our gratitude to the police, the members of the SAR community, and the citizens of New Zealand for their support in the effort to locate Ed Reynolds.

– John Reynolds, USA

Rope has its uses

It was good to see Geoff Wyatt advocating the use of the rope by trampers when negotiating bluffs (April 2012). For a number of reasons rope doesn’t often find its way into tramping packs these days.

I recently carried out some research that improved our knowledge of fording rivers and which led to the development of a refinement of earlier methods.

For the rope that is essential to the success of the new method, I was happy to come across 7mm polypropylene marine rope that is cheap, light, and floatable. Both its lightness and its inability to soak up water will be of interest to trampers who are conscious, like me, of every extra gram. The floatability is a bonus when fording; an advance over all other rope or line.

– Brian Wilkins, Wellington

DOC eyesores

Leave only footprints, take only photographs. Someone should mention this to DOC.

I make sure I get my nature fix regularly and get out in the bush every weekend, so I get to see a fair amount of tracks.

What is it with DOC’s obsession with covering up a nature’s mud with boardwalk and slopes with stairs?

To do this, I’ve noticed tracks being unnecessarily widened with the result of even more bush being cut down. Isn’t DOC meant to be undoing the damage that the pioneers did to our natural surroundings?

I’m starting to wonder if DOC has lost its grasp on appreciating nature and why it is there. Perhaps it has become more of a job than a vocation.

People who get out into the outdoors do so because they enjoy nature. Mud is part of the fun and experience of tramping

What’s more, after they’ve created these unnatural fixtures empty plastic bulk bags, tarpaulins, drink bottles, plastic buckets, big piles of extra gravel and spare planks are left behind, creating quite an eyesore.

I appreciate that it would’ve been a hell of a mission getting these supplies to these remote places, but hey, if you brought it there, you’re responsible for taking it away as well. Surely that’s part of the job, too.

Adam Roys, email

Overseas GPS use

Recently I won the Last Weekend reader photo competition in Wilderness and got the latest MapToaster Topo50 software. I already had the earlier version of MapToaster for the NZMS260 maps. For those thinking about buying the current software; you will be pleased to know that all your stored waypoints using the NZMS260 grid come directly across in the Topo50 grid coordinates with the new software.

While on the subject of mapping software, for those who go tramping in out of the way countries where you have the topo maps but your GPS doesn’t have the position format and map datum attributes loaded or they aren’t available; Gartrip ( is a useful free downloadable software. It enables you to enter waypoints in advance onto a scanned section of the map then load these onto the GPS. Ditto downloading afterwards. I used this software when I went to Mongolia and found it very convenient. For anyone heading off to Mongolia, I now have the format and datum attributes for loading onto GPSs for the 1:100,000 topo maps which are the best you can get for tramping and climbing over there. Contact me ( if you’d like them.

– Terry Crippen, email