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January 2016 Issue
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Rebel with a cause

Erik Bradshaw has no plans to ‘coddle’ his children.

Erik Bradshaw won’t let age or large corporations stand in his way.

When the public were told they wouldn’t be allowed to use an access road into a popular recreation area while a private company undertook construction work on public land, Erik Bradshaw made sure he stood up and was counted, in protest.

His efforts to rally others to the cause and stir up public sentiment saw him labelled a ‘vigilante’; a description that didn’t bother him too much.

Erik, and others in the Queenstown outdoor community, were stirred to action when DOC allowed NZ Ski, which operates Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields, to close the road to the Remarkables Conservation Area while a new base building was being constructed last year.

Erik believed the decision to be morally and legally wrong. “The thing that bothered me was that it’s very precedent-setting.”

While there was a lot of local support about the issue, the challenge was to organise that support and get it cohesive, says Erik. “People can email and put things on Facebook, but to physically turn up and be counted is incredibly important.”

Eventually, a compromise was reached in which the company provided a free bus service up and down the mountain at weekends. Recently, things have improved, says Erik. He has since developed a positive relationship with the chief executive of NZ Ski, which he hopes will deliver improved results for recreationalists.

Getting outdoors has always been a part of Erik’s life, right from being backpacked up the Homer Saddle in Fiordland as a baby with his parents. As his love of the wilderness grew and evolved, Erik became intrigued with the question of just how far the human body can be pushed.

It’s a question he has tested extensively on himself. BradsErikhaw was the first to do a ski traverse of the Southern Alps four years ago; an 850km solo trip in 43 days that involved the equivalent height gains and losses of climbing Aoraki/Mt Cook from sea level every three days.

Last year, the 48-year-old did his third one-day climb of Mt Aspiring, skiing from the summit via the Northwest Couloir and French Ridge. The annual trip has become something of a benchmark and a birthday tradition he intends to continue until he’s 65, in what he says is “a rebellion against society’s view of getting old”.

“A lot of people my age are saying ‘oh, my knees are crapped out’, or other kinds of self-fulfilling excuses, but I’m not going any slower than when I was young and I have a lot more stamina now. I am also more experienced and make better judgements.”

He thinks modern society has produced people with “a coddled view of ourselves”.

“Many people think to walk for three hours is exceptional, but that is what everyone should be doing every day.” It wasn’t that long ago it was normal for people to walk 16km to get to work, he says.

When Erik first dreamed up his Southern Alps winter traverse he thought it would be physically impossible. “Even when I started I was very unsure whether the human body could handle such an adventure.” There was a “huge question” if he would get too skinny and weak, but a little over halfway through the traverse he had a “revelation” about just how capable the human body is.

“It was an amazing experience and a lot of fun. It opened my eyes to how fit you can be.”