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September 2016 Issue
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Pigeon Post, September 2016

Erik Schuetz rates this view of Hooker Valley as his favourite. Photo: Erik Schuetz

A vision

Congratulations on a terrific magazine. I really look forward to the great stories and photos each month. So it is with some misgiving I point out a small error in the Olivine Wilderness map (Wild Range, July 2016), but there is a story to it as well.

I think Mt Edward is the unmarked peak on the other side of the Dart Glacier, and what is marked as Mt Edward is in fact Plunkett Dome. You may ask, why look so closely at this? So here is the story.

Some years ago, my brother-in-law and I were walking up the West Matukituki Valley into the teeth of a howling gale to pass a few hours as my youngest daughter, her husband and a friend went up the Rob Roy Glacier Track which held no appeal for us in the conditions. No one else was silly enough to be out this day.

As we got to around Cascade Hut, with the sleet coming horizontally and actually stinging my face and tongue, the clouds parted momentarily to reveal a long section of the beautifully curved South West ridge of Mt Aspiring disappearing into cloud. At least in my semi-frozen state that is what I thought. But of course it was the curved ridge of Mt Edward, but with cloud covering everything below and above the segment exposed, it looked just like Aspiring. I thought I was seeing a vision. And of course, no camera, so no pictures. Just a memory I will never forget – and the reason I always look for Mt Edward on a map.

– JJ Mitchell, email

– Well spotted Richard; our map maker at Geographx has confirmed Mt Edward was incorrectly labelled. A NZ Natural Care package worth $90 from is on its way. Readers, send your letter to for a chance to win.

Predator plan no gain

So the government has pledged $28 million towards making NZ pest free and will match every dollar invested by interested parties up to $28 million.

At first, I thought brilliant, let’s get it set up and going. Then I thought, we already have a poorly funded DOC full of keen, knowledgeable people trying to do just that, and their funding has been slashed by far more than $28 million.

This is a loss, not the gain I was first fooled into thinking.

 – D Hammond, email

The ability to say ‘No’

Last summer was a bad one for fatalities in the mountains.  Some were experienced, like the tramper who slipped on the Mawson Glacier, others weren’t, like the young woman swept down the Young River. It started me thinking about my own close calls.

You’ll usually start in the hills with people who are more experienced, fitter, have better gear, and are more at home in the environment than you. A healthy party will look out for the novice; share their load, stay with the slowest, check people. I remember Daryl Thompson and me shepherding first-timer Philippa Smith along Robert Ridge to Angelus Hut at nightfall, and Tim Wethey returning from the hut to take her pack.

This contrasts with some memories of mine as the new chum, panting up to impatient leaders who took off as I collapsed at their feet: the strong, fit outdoor instructor charging into the swollen Rees River with no thought of helping his younger weaker mate across.

The hills are a pretty good test: putting one foot after the other until the hut, making a correct decision in spite of fear, knowing when to say ‘no’, which is not easy.

A bunch of us were heading up the Quarterdeck below Mt Aspiring in perfect weather on blue ice denuded of snow. I finally stated I wasn’t comfortable because my crampons were sticking in only a couple of millimetres, and my ice axe wasn’t going to hold me if I slipped. This was met with a chorus of “Yes, me too!” from other party members and we turned back. (The two serious climbers with us roped up and continued but couldn’t make it through even with all the gear, so it was the right call.)

Sometimes a good pike can be fun. The idea at the party in Christchurch was to go to Arthur’s Pass and fly kites off Mt Rolleston. A Southerly downpour made this unattractive (“Yes, we could do it, but would it be fun?”). We drove on to fine weather on the West Coast and had a glorious weekend scrambling around the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki and camping in the sea caves.

– Steve August

From our Facebook page

We asked readers: what’s your favourite New Zealand vista?

“The Dart Glacier from near Cascade Saddle has to be up there” – Andrei Zubkov 

“Hard to go past Luxmore Hut on the Kepler, regardless of the weather!” – Wynston Cooper

“Hooker Valley from Sealy Range” – Erik Schuetz

“West Matukituki from Red Rock, Shotover Saddle” – Ian Billinghurst 

“Seriously? In a country as amazing and beautiful as this, how can you expect people to narrow it down to just one!? We are so totally spoiled for choice. Lucky us!” – Jonathan Manning