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Walkshorts, July 2016

An NH90 helicopter moved the Mt Fell Hut 250 metres to its new site Photo: NZDF

Mt Fell Hut takes flight

Mt Fell Hut has been plucked from its precarious home and relocated to more stable ground.

Thanks to a group of trampers, DOC and the New Zealand Air Force, the six-bunk hut in Mt Richmond Forest Park was recently airlifted from an unstable slip area to a new spot just 250m away.

DOC has been monitoring Mt Fell Hut for years; 15 years ago the area was deemed relatively unstable, and about 18 months ago, DOC officially closed the hut because of the slip danger. Since then, Matt Flynn, supervisor of recreation and historic in DOC’s Wairau-Renwick office, has been working with Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) and the Air Force to come up with a plan to save the hut.

Since the official closure, Flynn said trampers continued to use Mt Fell Hut, which he said inspired him to find a way to save the hut. DOC couldn’t pay for the relocation outright, so Flynn rallied local tramping groups and the Air Force to undertake the project.
Tramping clubs from Marlborough, Nelson and Waimea, together with FMC, secured $16,000 in funding from the Outdoor Recreation Consortium to pay for the supplies and costs associated with relocating the hut.

The Air Force shifted the 1700kg hut in early June. Flynn said the cost to have a commercial helicopter do the heavy lifting would have been upwards of $20,000, however, the Air Force carried out the work for no cost, recognising the operation was provided real-world training for its helicopter crew.

Flynn said without the tramping clubs offering their help and the Air Force doing the heavy lifting, the hut would likely have been removed.
“These days, our priorities are more focused on the high-use, high-end kind of stuff,” said Flynn. “It is getting difficult for us to manage and fund the lower-use huts.

“I’m very relieved. It gives us hope that there is a way forward, we’re not going to be forced to start removing stuff all over the place, which was potentially where we were heading with this hut.” He said in areas that have a number of backcountry assets, it’s tough to maintain the funding and care required to keep huts open.

“It’s reinforced our need for groups like FMC and tramping clubs to come and help us, because without them this wouldn’t happen,” he said.

Club volunteers still have some work to do on the hut before it reopens in early summer. They’ll be securing the new foundation, building a porch, installing a new door and fireplace, and will paint the hut.

Lost and found in the Tararuas

Rachel Lloyd with members of the search and rescue teams and the US Embassy, visiting her in hospital

Rachel Lloyd with members of the search and rescue teams and the US Embassy, visiting her in hospital

An American woman who recently survived five days lost with her mum in the backcountry is now working with New Zealand outdoor safety groups to promote safe tramping.

Rachel Lloyd, 22, and her mum Carolyn Lloyd, 45, became lost while on a day-tramp on the Kapakapanui Track in Tararua Forest Park in April.

Rachel came to New Zealand in February to study at Massey University for one semester, and her mum was here on a short visit. While they’re experienced trampers in the United States, Rachel said the unfamiliar trail markings were the primary cause for confusion.
They followed orange markers to the Kapakapanui summit, but on their descent they lost sight of the orange markers and began following blue markers. However, the blue markers are intended for possum traps and the pair became lost after descending some steep terrain. They spent four nights in the bush, but were eventually found by search and rescuers.

Rachel spent eight days in hospital, recovering from malnourishment and hypothermia. Since her ordeal, she’s been promoting tramper safety by working with LandSAR and the Mountain Safety Council. She’s spoken to school groups and at gyms about outdoor safety, and is also working with Massey University to create a safety informational video that will be shown at future student orientations.

One of the best ways to stay safe, Lloyd says, is telling people about your intentions.

“The number one thing is just letting people know where you’re going, because you never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “You can put [the intentions form] on the dashboard of your car, so people can know how long you’ve been gone.”

In addition to intentions forms, Lloyd said she now understands the importance of bringing a printed map of the area prior to setting out on any tramp. She and her mum had originally planned to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, but changed their plan at midnight the night before setting out. They’d done research on the internet, but didn’t have a map of the area where they were going.

“We rely so much on GPS, that having an actual printed-out map of your trail and knowing how to read a topographical map is important,” Lloyd said.

Trashed Kathmandu gear was faulty

Discarded gear from the Takapuna branch of Kathmandu. Photo: Nicole Barratt

Discarded gear from the Takapuna branch of Kathmandu. Photo: Nicole Barratt

Kathmandu has come under fire after employees at the Takapuna, Auckland, branch were seen slashing and throwing away faulty gear.
Auckland journalism student Nicole Barratt discovered the employees had thrown away tents, backpacks and clothing. One witness reported seeing staff cut up a six-man tent before tossing it. Images of the destroyed gear show a cut-up backpack, footwear and a sleeping pad.

The news sparked an outcry amongst those who believe the store should be donating the gear, not trashing it. Kathmandu released a statement saying it had done an investigation into the disposed gear, which they say was faulty. Some gear was former display stock, which was badly damaged, or gear returned by customers.

“Faulty product is product that has been evaluated and deemed not fit for purpose,” the statement said. Kathmandu said all products returned by customers is checked to determine whether it can be repaired or sold as seconds through outlet stores. Used product from Kathmandu is sometimes sent to charity and community groups such as Red Cross and Salvation Army.

The disposal of the gear was also criticised in light of Kathmandu’s ‘zero waste’ environmental strategy, with a stated goal of eliminating its landfill waste by 2018.

In light of the recent gear slash-and-trash, Kathmandu said it would be setting up a team to “look at any improvements that can be made to our processes, specifically around faulty goods”.

Everest avalanche photos on display

Trekking guide Pasang Sherpa searches for survivors among flattened tents moments after the avalanche at Everest Base Camp. PHOTO: Roberto Schmidt

Trekking guide Pasang Sherpa searches for survivors among flattened tents moments after the avalanche at Everest Base Camp. Photo: Roberto Schmidt

Images from the immediate aftermath of a devastating avalanche at Everest Base Camp are on display in Auckland as part of the World Press Photo Exhibit.

The avalanche struck on April 25, 2015, killing 22 people and injuring many more. The avalanche was triggered by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 8000 people elsewhere in Nepal.

Photographer Roberto Schmidt recorded the avalanche and its aftermath. His images are now part of the World Press Photo Exhibition, a collection of the year’s best photojournalism, on display in Auckland at Smith and Caughey’s, Queen St from July 2 to 24.

Nelson environmentalist gets national recognition

Andy Dennis at Cascade Saddle, Mt Aspiring NP in 2010. Photo: Shaun Barnett

Andy Dennis at Cascade Saddle, Mt Aspiring NP in 2010. Photo: Shaun Barnett

A longtime Nelson conservationist and environmental steward, Andy Dennis, has been nationally recognised for his efforts. In honour of his many years of service to the outdoors, he’s been made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Dennis has devoted his life to championing the outdoors, according to his friend and tramping partner Shaun Barnett. “I think it’s long overdue recognition for how much Andy’s selflessly given to conservation in New Zealand,” Barnett said.

Barnett credits Dennis for helping instigate a shift in the way national parks were observed and designated. Before the 1980s, New Zealand’s national parks were created around classic landmarks, such as Milford Sound and Tongariro. Dennis helped broaden the scope for national park designation by lobbying for Paparoa National Park.
“We were shifting from thinking of national parks as just big iconic places with either volcanoes, or glaciers, or massive fiords, or huge mountains,” explained Barnett. “It was instead looking at biodiversity in more subtle places. It was a real shift in thinking – we don’t have to think of these things just in terms of scenery, we need to think of them in terms of geological diversity and natural values when creating a national park. He was really at the forefront of that.”
In addition to writing many books about conservation and the outdoors, Dennis is also passionate about marine conservation; he helped establish the Horoirangi Marine Reserve near Nelson.
“He’s given an enormous amount and made quite big sacrifices: he’s spent countless hours writing submissions, attending meetings, doing all sorts of things on a voluntary basis,” Barnett said. “It’s well deserved.”

Dennis was in hospital being treated for cancer and could not be reached for comment.

FMC’s Pathways to Adventure

A group of nearly 100 outdoor enthusiasts and environmentalists met in Waihi in late May to discuss backcountry recreation in the Kaimai Ranges.

Pathway to Adventures is a new programme developed by the Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) and aimed at helping local groups promote recreation growth and infrastructure of the backcountry. FMC invited recreation users, DOC and environmental groups to speak at the one-day meeting.

“It’s to get the trampers talking to the hunters, talking to the mountain bikers, talking to the canyoners, about the things they have in common – their common vision for the Kaimais, and what the recreational future of the Kaimais will look like,” said FMC president Peter Wilson.

Attendees heard from representatives from hunting, canyoning, mountain biking and tramping groups, who spoke about their use of the backcountry and the challenges they encounter in the region. Members of the Kaimai Ridgeway Trust presented their current efforts to further develop tracks and huts in the range, and DOC took the stage to discuss the ongoing work to balance the needs of outdoor user groups and tourists.

An important part of the workshop included breakout sessions for three groups: recreation users in the Coromandel Ranges, users from the Kaimai Ranges, and those interested in kauri dieback efforts. Over the course of two sessions, each group came away with several key recommendations for the future.

The Kaimai Ranges breakout group came up with an action plan that involved a focus on building and maintaining more huts and tracks, and developing stronger relationships with local iwi to promote joint partnership in recreation promotion.

“It’s one of those cases of, ‘build it, and people will come’,” Wilson said. “I actually think we need to get the huts and tracks in place – we can’t promote the opportunities until we have the huts and tracks there – we’ve got to start with the infrastructure.”

Wilson said more workshops will be planned for places like Queenstown and Wanaka.