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February 2021 Issue
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The year of seeing more

A view to Mt Pillans from MacKinnon Pass on the Milford Track. Photo: Matthew Cattin

We all wait with bated breath to see what the coming year has in store.

Can we reopen our borders, relax quarantine measures and will the rest of the world be able to use vaccinations to bring Covid-19 under control?

The general feeling among my friends and colleagues is that 2021 will be much like 2020, except without the lockdowns. Overseas travel will be limited, but we’ll have unrestricted opportunity to travel New Zealand and explore the regions and wilderness areas in relative peace – a bit like some of our recent Last Weekend photo submitters have been able to do (see Paul Halkett’s image of a deserted Tongariro Alpine Crossing on p9).

2021 will be a real chance to see more of New Zealand.

That’s an exciting prospect, but I am mindful that the extra serenity and peace we may find in the outdoors this year will not be so welcomed by those in the tourism and outdoor sectors who will really be feeling the financial pinch of a second year without international visitors.

My colleague Matt walked the Milford Track in December (see p40) and heard people in Milford Sound voicing concern for their livelihoods if Kiwis don’t step up and visit the region. While we might find extra joy in being outside this year, it’s worth keeping in mind that many of the people we once shared these places with are facing extremely tough times.

So, how to see more of New Zealand in 2021? One idea we’ve borrowed from the Americans is the Seventeeners. Climbers in the western United States use the term Fourteeners to describe the mountain peaks over 14,000ft in elevation. There are 96 of them and they’re pretty high – 14,000ft is equal to around 4267m, much higher than any mountain in New Zealand (Aoraki/Mt Cook is 3724m). It is the goal of many to climb all fourteeners in their lifetime.

The Seveenteeners challenge (a tentative name – we’re open to your suggestions) is a bit more doable. These peaks are the 10 non-volcanic mountains in the North Island higher than 1700m. Ten is not a large number and, happily, many can be bagged on the same trip so it’s hardly a lifetime endeavour to top them. See p44 to get started – you may have already climbed some.

Maybe this is just the challenge for you in 2021. Or perhaps, like with me, a more simple goal is more your thing – to get outside a little more often.

Whatever your goal, may 2021 be the year you see more of New Zealand.

And please keep using the Covid Tracer App so any Covid-19 flare-ups can be brought to heel quickly without the need for lockdowns. Then we really can make the most of this year to see more.