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September 2015 Issue
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Pigeon Post: September 2015

In defence of Greg Ross

I have read the second scathing letter to the editor on the folly of Greg Ross. Give me a break, Ross started in the hills long before PLBs and has a history as long as your arm of successful completed forays into the mountains.

Ross would have started with his boots on at about the same time as I did and it was entirely possible to be in the hills for over six weeks and not see a soul. There were no PLBs, no radio scheds unless you were at a designated base camp and the last comment from the person you knew was “see you on … (date)”. I remember one trip into the Wilberforce which was supposed to take two weeks and I finally got out after 10 (I did have a companion who I saw periodically). No one came to look because no one would ever think that anything was wrong unless the alarm was raised. My companion was involved in a couple of emergencies in his time in the mountains, one which took 24-hours of hard slog to raise the alarm out of the Arawhata.

While technology has developed around us, I purchased a PLB, not because something could go wrong, or because I wasn’t confident in my own assessment of risks, but on the basis of a promise to my friend’s wife that I would not take any risks and I would bring her husband back home safe from the mountains. I now take my PLB when I’m mountain biking, working on my own and on my motorbike. I think that’s sad but we now have technology and I’m getting older.

Greg has learnt to utilise technology, he was a lucky one. Top marks for surviving and I expect he was under huge stress (do you make good decisions under stress), beat up and broken. I am absolutely sure he would have taken some gear with him had he been capable but at the end of the day dry and warm means less requirements for food. Cold and wet is most likely terminal.

– Paul van der Voort, email

A memorable evening

I can shed some light on the group which hosted a party at Siberia Hut and which host has been the subject of a couple of letters in the August and June issues.

Our group of four arrived from Gillespie Pass on the partygoer’s second night. We’d heard some grumblings while we were at the top of the Gillespie PAss about a big group who weren’t friendly and were monopolising things.

So I broke the ice when I arrived at Siberia Hut first and greeted them with “your reputation precedes you all around these mountain tops”. After a moment of uncertainty, we all had a laugh and proceeded to have a wonderful night. Shared wine and food meant we didn’t need to cook. We had a beautiful evening sitting on the deck as the sun disappeared.

The ‘partygoers’ had walked to Crucible Lake that day which is a decent walk.

Noise was nothing more than I have had in many huts over the years. It was a memorable evening in a fantastic setting for our group.

– Stewart Brown, Auckland

Onwards anyway

The warning scratched into the green paint of an official DOC sign said ‘Go Back (Track = Bulls**t)’. But a challenging valley walk was precisely what we were looking for at this time of year. We decided to observe the riposte scratched below: ‘Don’t be a P**sy’.

Ultimately, we made it to Lake Adelaide and back, revelling in the spectacle that was man versus nature. We could see how the track might seem impassable, but the problem, we supposed, had more to do with expectations than maintenance.

DOC does an excellent job of maintaining a huge network of tracks and, while this one would have benefitted from a tidy up, its existence meant the difference between a two day and two week round trip.

I want to take a moment to thank all those who share reliable information about our backcountry. In this end of the country, Moirs Guide, Southern Alps Photography and Wilderness are the top sources which I know of. This community of knowledge helps trampers to select trips for our own aims, avoid disappointment and obey the old scout’s motto of Be Prepared. So thanks, and keep up the good work!

– Benedict Armitage, email

Hut rubbish

I agree with Eef de Boeck (‘Foreign walkers not to blame’, July 2015), regarding the state of huts with easy access.

Almost without exception, the grubbiest huts with the most rubbish, wine bottles and discarded gas canisters that our group have ever found have been the ones close to road ends or the sea. Huts that particularly spring to mind are Martins Bay Hut (with easy access by either boat or plane) and some in the Ohau area that are easily accessed by 4WD.

Fortunately, when we walked the Hollyford, we had a flight arranged to take us back to Gunns Camp and were able to take out a substantial bag of rubbish that others had unkindly left behind.

– Chris Green, Lake Tekapo

Plantar fasciitis treatment

In the NZ Trail Runner supplement (January 2015), Vera Alves wrote about the sometimes painful condition Plantar Fasciitis, which is basically an inflammatory injury to the tissues on the underside of the foot.

I developed this condition two years ago. All the conventional treatment methods described by Alves failed to alleviate my condition. What did work was a golf ball. This was placed under the tender site underfoot, and some of my weight was applied while rolling the golf ball back and forth with enough pressure to induce acceptable pain. This was continued for a minute or so. The foot was rested and massaged by hand for another minute and then I repeated the process two more times. This treatment was repeated morning, noon and night for one month. Around 70 per cent of the swelling and pain was gone by the first week and the foot completely OK by the end of the month.

My podiatrist was most impressed and I hope this may help others with similar foot injuries.

– Mike Jasper, email

Poem for mountain lovers


They stand majestic in command

While travellers walk a scenic tarn

Catching clouds and winds that pass

From the skies go swirling past.


Bringing rain and hail and snow

How much? No-one will ever know!

Forging patterns before our eyes

The humans see, then live short lives.


Slowly wearing down with rains

Washing out into the plains

They grind away and make the dust

That later on becomes our crust

And anytime a quake can come

And shove ’em up another ton.


Mountains brave, they take what comes.

– Peter Clark, Hawarden