Ended right, started wrong


Searchers saved the lives of two trampers who have been missing in Kuhurangi National Park:

The two trampers who went missing in bush north-west of Nelson say they spent nearly two weeks without food and their only saving grace was water they had found.

An intensive search and rescue operation had been underway to find Dion Reynolds and Jessica O’Connor, who have been in Kahurangi National Park since 8 May.

The pair were in a very rugged and remote part of the park when a search helicopter spotted smoke from a fire they had lit and rescued them yesterday, the police officer leading the rescue, Sergeant Malcolm York, said.

York said the 23-year-olds were incredibly lucky to have survived.

“This search was a particularly challenging one due to the remote and rugged location, it’s a long from anywhere out there and it’s a complete lack of any communication.” . . 

The trampers did the right thing once they were lost – made camp and stayed put.

However, they did two things wrong at the start – going tramping under Covid-19 Level 3 lockdown when tramping was confined to day walks on easy trails; and not taking a personal locator beacon.

A PLB costs a few hundred dollars to buy and far less to hire.

Buying or hiring one is a lot less expensive than the costs incurred by police and search parties who have to go on a rescue mission at considerable inconvenience and potential risk to their safety.

This story could have ended very badly. That it didn’t owes a lot to the trampers doing the right thing once they were lost, the perseverance and skill of the searchers and a little bit of luck.

It wouldn’t even have been a story had the couple not got two things right at the start –  sticking to the lockdown rules and carrying a PLB.

Light rail to Roys Peak?


The car park at the bottom of Roys Peak is overflowing – again:

As the resident population in Wanaka multiplies by a factor of three during the Christmas-New Year week, so does the number of cars and vans parked illegally outside the Roys Peak track car park along Mt Aspiring Rd.

Yesterday, the Department of Conservation 100-space vehicle park at the start of the one-day 16km return walk overflowed into the adjacent road verge for up to half a kilometre north.

Boxing Day is traditionally the day when boat owners launch their boats into Lake Wanaka and many used the Glendhu Bay boat ramp.

At times, cars towing boats had to drive on the other side of the road to avoid the cars and vans parked illegally on the edge of Mt Aspiring Rd. . . 

The park was enlarged a couple of years ago but still isn’t big enough for holiday crowds. It won’t help that two other popular tramps – Rob Roy Glaciar and Rocky Point – are closed.

But don’t panic, the Minister of Conservation has a solution:

On a recent visit to Wanaka, Ms Sage said she was aware of the popularity of Roys Peak and the parking congestion issues and was considering introducing a charge for private vehicles in the car park as a way to increase the use of public transport to and from the hike.

Who would police the parking and how much would parking fees and fines have to be to cover the costs of the policing?

What public transport would that be and how would it be scheduled to cope with all the people who start and finish the tramp at all hours of the day and night?

There are taxis in Wanaka but using them would double the number of trips to and from the bottom of the hill.

The only buses go to and from Wanaka to other towns, nowhere near the track which is on a no-exit road that ends at Aspiring Station.

And surely even a Green MP wouldn’t be considering light rail from Wanaka to Roys Peak.

That leaves walking, biking, running or driving. Most people will consider going up and down the hill enough exercise and still opt for driving whether or not there are enough parks.

What if you don’t have a power bill?


This is an extraordinary admission from a minister:

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage today told the Environment Select Committee that her key achievement in office is requiring New Zealanders who go tramping to carry power bills to prove to DOC rangers that they are kiwis, National’s Conservation Spokesperson Sarah Dowie says.

“This is outrageous. New Zealanders have an expectation that they have open access to the great outdoors. Instead, Ms Sage expects when we pack our tramping bags – we will remember to include our latest power bill,” Ms Dowie says. . . 

What happens to the many of us who don’t have power bills in our names?

Our bill is addressed to the farm not my farmer and me.

That will apply to a lot of people whose business is also their home.

But it’s not only home-based business people who won’t have power bills addressed to them.

Children, including adults, who live with their parents are unlikely to be the bill addressee; not all couples have bills in both their names and accounts for flats could well be addressed to one or some rather than all of the flatmates.

There could be a case for charging overseas tourists to access National Parks, but requiring us to carry a power bill when tramping isn’t the best way to sort the local sheep from the touring goats.

Quote of the day


We do not belong to those who have ideas only among books, when stimulated by books. It is our habit to think outdoors — walking, leaping, climbing, dancing, preferably on lonely mountains or near the sea where even the trails become thoughtful. – Friedrich Nietzsche.

Hat tip: Rob Hosking in a post on walking – ‘that suspensive heaven’ which is topped by a stunning photo above Lake Wanaka and that anyone to whom walking, thinking, and just slowing down appeals and noticing will enjoy.

Owners’ nationality irrelevant


The headline says: public land access restricted due to foreign ownership.

The story starts:

One of the country’s largest farms is the latest to be snapped up by foreigners, in this instance a North American investment group.

The massive property near Oxford is the size of Christchurch, the sale figure is undisclosed. 

Outdoors enthusiast Stewart Hydes wanted conditions put on the sale, but says his appeal to the Overseas Investment Office was rejected.

He’s worried about the loss of vehicle access as more and more landowners are closing private roads, locking up the public land beyond. . .

The video follows with a couple of examples that back up the idea that foreign ownership is the problem.

But the third example is a New Zealander and he restricts vehicle access for good reason – he’s had too many people who’ve abused it.

He’s not alone.

the owners’ nationality is irrelevant. Anyone with high country land could write a book about problems with people who disturb stock, leave gates open, damage fences, leave rubbish and human waste . . .

We’ve got a hill block with a paper road though it but it stops short of the boundary with the DOC estate. Hunters with DOC hunting permits ask permission to get from the end of the road to the DOC land and we’re happy to let them walk across the paddocks – it’s only a few hundred metres.

If people ask for permission to tramp on our land we give it but we’re not going to let strangers drive all over the farm, for the sake of our paddocks and stock and their safety.

The last visitors who drove beyond where the paper road ended, in spite of warning not to, had a very long walk back and their vehicle had to be retrieved by a bulldozer.

Life’s changed from a few decades ago when few people could get off-road except on their own feet.

Lots more people own four-wheel drive vehicles. Not all of them have the skill to tackle off-road driving and even if they do few farmers – Kiwi or not – would trust people they don’t know to give open access to their properties.

It’s nothing to do with the nationality of the owners, it’s too many bad experiences with visitors who have no for respect private property and don’t follow the request to leave only footprints and take nothing more than photos.

Ending year on high


My first tramp up Mt Roy was with my best friend, the youngest of four in a family of keen trampers, when we were 10 or 11.

We started lagging when we were near the top but her father fed us chocolate and talked us up the last stretch.

I’ve done the eight kilometre walk up the 1,578 metre high peak several times since then but in spite of good intentions for the last few years the last time had been New Year’s Eve, 1999.

Those good intentions finally translated into action on Saturday. In the company of my farmer, our daughter and niece I tackled not only Mt Roy but neighbouring Mt Alpha and the skyline route down to the Cardrona Valley.

We started the ascent at 6.30 am, had three brief stops and reached the top at 9:20. That was about 20 minutes faster than I’d managed 13 years previously.

On a fine day, as it was when my my farmer did the tramp a year earlier, you can see Mt Aspiring:

mt roy hp

When we did it on Saturday it was cloudy, but the views were still impressive.

mt roy hp

The ridge track between Roy and Alpha starts with a steepish descent before it climbs again.

My farmer warned us it was hard and he was right.

The track was narrow, steep and in a few places a bit scrabbly.

mt roy hp 5

As I was going slow step by slow step up a particularly steep stretch I was beginning to think if there was another bit like this it would be a bit too far when I reached the top, about an hour and 15 minutes after leaving Mt Roy.

mt roy hp 4

mt roy hp 2

The forecast had promised temperatures of 24 degrees in Wanaka but at an altitude of 1630 metres and with a chilly wind it was less than half of that on the top of Alpha.

We sheltered in the lee of the peak for water and a sandwich then began the descent.

The track starts down through snow tussock then gets narrower and overgrown but it wasn’t nearly as steep as the ascent had been.

There were a couple of downs and ups near the valley floor,. By this time I was thinking I’d had enough up and our feet appreciated the chance to cool down when we had to ford a couple of streams.

Soon after that a sign told us we were crossing private land and it was an easy walk from there to where we’d parked a car on the Cardrona Road about 10 kilometres from Wanaka.

The whole trip had taken 8 hours and 15 minutes.

We passed several people doing the tramp in the opposite direction. It would be less strenuous going up but much harder going down – especially the first stretch from the top of Alpha.

When we got back I consulted The Lake Wanaka Region by Neville Peat and read:

Mt Roy: 8 km, 3 hr, hard.

To enjoy this one you need to be fit. Here’s why, with it’s ziz-zags stretched out, the track measures 8 km, and from the foor-of-te-mountain starting point to the summit you will climb more than 1,200 m (4,000 ft). . .

Skyline route: For really fit trekkers; an alternative route back to Wanaka involves following the summit ridge south through Mt Alpha and down Spotts Creek to the Cardrona Valley . . .

I wouldn’t say I’m really fit but if I hadn’t been walking regularly and included hills most days I wouldn’t have even contemplated doing the tramp. I could have done a longer distance on the flat with no problems but  was at the upper end of my tolerance for hills.

I took walking poles for the first time and found they helped.

I wasn’t stiff on Sunday but my legs were tired when I did the Waterfall Creek – Ironside Hill walk that afternoon and I was a bit slower than usual going up Mt Iron on Monday.

But it was good to finish the year on a literal and figurative high. As I write this, three days after the climb, the endorphins are still flowing.

DOC information on the tramp is here and says it will take 10 – 11 hours.

It’s alpine country and anyone doing it ought to be prepared for all weather.

Second best day walk


If you’re back at work you might want to skip this.

Labour Weekend hasn’t finished for me yet. I’ve sneaked an extra day in Wanaka and yesterday as part of the get-fit-enough-to-climb- Mt-Roy-before-year’s-end campaign* I walked up to Rocky Point.

It took an hour and seven minutes which is five minutes slower than it took when I last did it in January. Mount Roy is about three times higher so the need for more training is clear.

Rob Roy Glacier is my pick for the best day walk in the country and Rocky Point is the runner-up.

The track starts at a car park about 12 kilometres from Wanaka. It follows an old road to Diamond Lake then the track gets much narrower and steeper.

About 10 minutes from the start, the track divides allowing you to take the east or west route.

The west route goes through bush then into tussock country, the east route is more open all the way. We usually go up the west side and down the east.

Either way you’re rewarded with stunning vistas at the top.

Looking westish up the lake and Matukituki Valley you can see Mount Aspiring:

Looking eastish you get views across West Wanaka Station to the town:

*A friend and I agreed we’d climb Mt Roy (or more correctly Roy’s Peak)  this year – I wasn’t fit enough until mid January by which time it didn’t suit her. For a variety of reasons we haven’t been able to find a day which suits us both since then and we’re rapidly running out of year. We’re both still determined to do it and have pencilled in a day in December. I don’t want to hate every step, hence the get-fit campaign.

Diamond Lake – Rocky Point


Diamond Lake is a 500 metre walk from the car park on the Mt Aspiring Road.

Ashort,  steepish climb up a track from there gives you a good view over the lake:

If you carry on up the track you get to Rocky Point which gives wonderful views across Lake Wanaka:

There are also good views up the Matukituki Valley and had the weather co-operated we’d have been able to see Mt Aspiring which is somewhere under the cloud:

It took us an hour and two minutes (and 19 seconds if you want to be precise) going up the west track.

Last time we did it we took an hour and 10 minutes up the east track – I”m not sure if the difference in time is due to the walkers’ condition or the different route.

Moke Lake


Wildrerness magazine which introduced us to Moke Lake said it would take 1 – 2 hours to walk the circuit.

The DOC sign at the startof the track said it would take 2 1/2 hours.

We got round in an hour and 10 minutes and still had time to appreciate the scenery:

The turn-off is Moke Lake Road is about 6km from Queenstown on the road to Glenorchy.

The best day walk in the world


The road from Wanaka travels up the side of the lake, past Glendhu Bay then past Treble Cone, Cattle Flat Station and on to Aspiring Station, into the West Matukituki Valley to the end of the road at Raspberry Hut.

After a fifteen minute amble along the side of the river we came to a swing bridge across the river and in to the bush to start the Rob Roy Glacier walk.

rr hp 2

rr hp 4

After a  good hour’s climb on a clearly marked track we came out of the bushline and less than 10 minutes later we reached the end of the track.

rr hp

One of the signs at the top has an extract from a book written by Maud Moreland who did the walk in 1908.

We were now at the entrance of a gorge that looked as if the mountains had been cleft by some terrific force: on one side they rose black and precipitous with trees clinging wherever they could find a little soil but generally they were sheer walls of rock. On our side the mountains were clothed to within a few hundred feet of the top with dense bush.

Leaving the horses tied below we began a toilsome ascent through a belt of tutu – a stout herb growing as high as our shoulders. This bit was very steep, followed by a belt of fern, then across screeds of slate, shale and faces of bare rock with only cracks for footholds when we clung by our fingertips.

The heat grew greater every moment and the glare from the rocks scorched us and made us terribly thirsty as we worked our way from gully to gully.

After a tedious climb we at last saw the head of the gorge – a wonderful sight on which not many eyes have gazed. It is closed by a semi circle of cliffs, precipitous and black. And wedged as it were between three mountain peaks lies an enormous glacier. Not a long river of ice, but a mighty mass of ice, breaking off sharp at the top of the stupendous peaks.

How much easier it was for us today, on a well formed track and not encumbered by the clothes a young woman would have had to wear in 1908.

This is the fifth time I’ve done the walk, although the first time in winter. Each time I’m awe struck by the beauty from the river flats, through the bush to the view of the glacier.

A friend reckons it’s the best day walk in the county.

In my – biased and parochial opinion – I agree and that puts it up with the best day walks in the world.

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