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November 2011 Issue
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Walkshorts, November 2011

Waitaha Riverbed

Kiwis conquer Kilimanjaro for Christchurch earthquake

A team of Kiwis living in different parts of the world have successfully climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in a fundraising effort for the Red Cross Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.

The team of 12, organised by Chris Flack who lives in London and Christchurch Universtiy student Argene Montgomery-Honger, raised more than $19,000.

It took five days to climb the 5985m mountain, Africa’s highest. On the final day, from a camp at 4700m, the group were confronted with -10°C temperatures and two team members suffering the effects of altitude sickness had to turn back from the summit.

Montgomery-Honger, who experienced the February earthquake firsthand, was close to tears on reaching the summit and remembers thinking: “This is for you Christchurch, if we can climb this mountain, then we can get through any challenge life throws at us.”
Flack said the team’s message to Christchurch was one of solidarity: “Kiwis all around the world are still doing things for you and this is one of them,” Flack said. “Climbing Kilimanjaro was an extreme endurance test that 12 Kiwis were willing to go through as a sign of their solidarity with the people of Christchurch. We hope this gesture provides Cantabrians with a new hope for the future.”

Mountain bikers enjoy Heaphy Track

Mountain bikers have been enthusiastic about the first trial winter-season mountain biking on the Heaphy Track with more than 1700 estimated to have ridden on it over the five-month period during the first year of a three year trial. Trampers also have been mostly positive about sharing the track with mountain bikers.

“I think there was only one negative comment in one of the hut books,” said acting programme manager for visitor assets Jonathan Thomas. “So I would say it was heavily outweighed by the positive comments saying the bikers were courteous and added to the good company.”

The more than 1700 mountain bikers riding the track represented a huge increase in people using the Heaphy Track in winter. Thomas said the track normally received about one third that number of people during winter.

“We’re not going to count our chickens until we get to the end of [the three year trial],” he said. “But the first year has certainly shown there is a large body of the public who want to use the Heaphy out of season and we’re a public sector organisation that seeks to provide facilities for people to use, and in that measure it’s a success.”

DOC said the track surface did not suffer adversely due to the number of mountain bikers. Some sections of track were flooded, which then became muddy and boggy after trampers and mountain bikers passed through, though these sections did dry over the winter and were not considered worse for wear because of mountain bikers.

DOC’s Golden Bay area manager John Mason said most mountain bikers had made a weekend trip of the ride, but that many had underestimated the difficulty. “Some mountain bikers, especially at the start of the trial, underestimated the difficulty of the track and their journey times which meant they didn’t make it to their intended destination for the day,” said Mason. “This improved as word got out among mountain biker networks to allow plenty of time.”

On the advice of mountain biking experts the track’s mountain bike grade has been raised to grade 4/advanced rising to grade 5/expert in wet or otherwise difficult conditions.

The trial on the Heaphy Track runs from May 1 to September 30 and will continue until 2013. It coincides with year-round mountain biking trials being run on two other Kahurangi Tracks, the Flora Saddle to Barron Flat and Kill Devil tracks which also run until the end of 2013.

Request for Moirs Otago Alps information

Moir’s Guide North, The Otago Southern Alps is virtually out of print and is being updated. The New Zealand Alpine Club plans to reprint it sometime in mid-2012.

Moir’s Guide North covers the area between the Routeburn Track and Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park on both sides of the Main Divide. The seventh edition is being revised, and will be slightly larger to include some of the land that has come into DOC management through tenure review and other processes. But this will be a revision rather than a complete new edition.

The editors Geoff Spearpoint and Danilo Hegg are asking those familiar with the area to provide them with any and all information. “Both of us can be approached with info about any of the region,” said Spearpoint, “but Danilo is concentrating on the region east of the Main Divide and I am concentrating on areas to the west.

“We are interested in comments on off-track routes you have used in the guide, track conditions and facility changes, times, access information including phone numbers or e-mail addresses and names – anything you think is relevant. Then we will compare it with what everyone else says!

“Moir’s has always been a backcountry collaboration and we want it to continue that way.

“Of course we plan to spend time checking things out in the backcountry ourselves, too.”

If you have any information that can help, e-mail, or

Greenstone-Caples and Rees-Dart facilities upgraded

The Department of Conservation will be continuing work this summer to complete upgrades to the Greenstone-Caples Track, renovation of McKellar Hut and upgrades to the Rees-Dart Track and bridges.

As one of the most popular multi-day walks in the Wakatipu area, the Greenstone-Caples Track receives nearly 3500 overnight visitors each year. Realignment of the section of track from McKellar Saddle into the Greenstone was completed in May.

This new alignment sees 2.5km of new track on the Greenstone side of the saddle, easing the previously steep descent and avoiding the wet lakeside sidle and swamp crossing. The degraded original track over the saddle was an old Forest Service deer culler’s route, and was considered out of context with the rest of the circuit.

Another 3.5km of track on the Caples side of the saddle is to be realigned this summer. As part of these works a new bridge will be installed at the bush-line of the upper Caples.

McKellar Hut is currently under renovation, with capacity doubling to 24 bunks and a new toilet block is also being installed. Twelve of the new bunks became available for public use on October 17, with the complete renovation to be finished by the middle of November.

The Dart-Rees Track will also be repaired, along a 150m section of the track in the Dart between Quinns Flat and Cattle Flat. This section was damaged by floods in 2010.

A bridge will be built to span Spaniard Creek in the Dart and another bridge to cross 25 Mile Creek on the Rees is currently being designed.

Waitaha on track

If you are fit, competent, enjoy a good challenge and want to try something a bit different, try a trip to the Waitaha in the western Southern Alps.

In September 2011 a gang of four volunteers from Permolat, an online track and hut maintenance group, spent a week in the Waitaha recutting and marking the valley tracks.

Working together, they cleared the windfall and remarked the track from the hut up to the Windhover swingbridge on the first afternoon. This area had suffered some windfall in a storm not long after Permolat’s last track clearing effort a few years ago. It is now in good condition.

In the following days, the group marked and cut tracks to Chainman Creek, along County Stream to County Hut. The marked route to County Hut, which is dry, clean and tidy, is now as good as it has been in 20 or 30 years. There was plenty of snow around the hut, but it was dry, clean and tidy.

After clearing the upper parts of the valley, the team made their way to Kiwi Flat where they cleared the track entrance.

The Waitaha is still not an easy walk, but it is reasonably well marked and the track well cut up both valleys. It’s a wild and inspiring area.

See for more information.