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July 2022 Issue
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Take the winter plunge

When we asked skilled outdoors people for their advice on getting outdoors in winter we weren’t sure what they’d say. But that most suggested avalanche awareness and upskilling shouldn’t be surprising. Winter is, after all, a more challenging time to be outside, especially in those areas where there’s snow. 

Teacher Joe Nawalaniec’s comment on why he took his students into the hills during winter struck a chord with me. 

He says: “I think doing something outside their sphere of experience – something they would never normally do – gets them hooked. Winter tramping and climbing is the ultimate in adventure…. And for many, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.”

When I think back over all the trips I have done, it is the ones in winter that seem to stick in my head. A near sleepless night camping on Mt Ruapehu’s Summit Plateau in -10conditions has been seared into my brain. I was on a winter skills course that time, which gave me the ability to do other winter trips (you, too should do one), such as the Tongariro Northern Circuit where I’ll never forget the thrill-slash-terror I felt in bowl-you-over winds while slowly cramponing to Red Crater on near-impenetrable ice. That was another time the mercury plunged to below zero. 

I don’t seem to have these same uncomfortable, pushing-my-limits moments in summer. Maybe it’s because winter is purpose-built for Type Two Fun – an adventure that is not fun at the time, but is in retrospect. In both these examples, I wished I was anywhere but there. By the time I got home, the discomfort and fear had all but been forgotten, replaced with new confidence and a belief in myself

That’s the beauty of the outdoors, no matter what time of year you enjoy it. You demonstrate to yourself, time and again, that you are capable. You can do it.

Another thing about tramping in winter is that if you can do it in those colder and more challenging conditions, then summer tramping is a comparative breeze. 

Let’s not forget the fact that a snow-buried landscape is more beautiful than the dry, rocky summer version. Tongariro National Park is undoubtedly a more visually stunning place in winter than summer. And just look at Neco Wieringa’s photo of Mt Aspiring National Park’s Brewster Hut for another example. I’ve seen dozens of summer photos of this hut and none have matched the beauty of this winter scene. 

So, if you’re umming and ahhing about getting outside this winter, take inspiration from Nawalaniec and the others we’ve interviewed. You may just have the adventure of a lifetime.