A man has been charged after a drone grounded eight helicopters involved in fighting an out-of-control blaze in Wanaka yesterday:

The large fire broke out on Mt Roy just before 3pm and spread rapidly on the parched hillside overlooking Wanaka. Helicopters carried monsoon buckets between Lake Wanaka and Mt Roy to douse the flames.

But  police said the eight choppers battling the blaze had to be grounded for 15 minutes when the drone was spotted. . .

Wanaka Area Response Manager Senior Sergeant Allan Grindell said flying a drone where helicopters were working was reckless and it was a timely reminder for drone operators to think before they flew.

“Not only did the grounding of the helicopters cost money and valuable time in the efforts to extinguish the blaze, it put the safety and lives of the helicopter pilots at risk,”  Sgt Grindell said.

Stronger words than reckless could be applied to this.

366 days of gratitude


I spent the weekend in Wanaka and decided to make the most of two spare days by improving my fitness.

On Saturday I went up Mt Roy (that’s what the locals call it but maps have it as Roy’s Peak).

I was wearing walking shoes rather than tramping boots with decent grip and after about 45 minutes in snow and 20 or so minutes from the top decided that even with walking poles it was too slippery to continue.

The view from there was still pretty good.


Mt Roy

Yesterday I walked to Glendhu Bay and back, a distance of nearly 30 kilometres which took about 6 1/2 hours.

Today my legs are letting me know I’ve had a pretty good workout but the endorphins that come from it more than compensate and I’m grateful for that.


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.

In training


Mount Roy stands guard over Lake Wanaka.

It’s  1,578 metres high and those who climb it are rewarded with panoramic views across the lake and up the Matukituki Valley to Mount Aspiring.

My first ascent of Mount Roy was with my best friend and her family when we were about 10.

A hundred or so metres short of the summit we were ready to give up but her father fed us chocolate and talked us to the top.

I’ve walked up several times since then, the last time was New Year’s Eve, 1999. I’ve contemplated climbing it again since then but never got further than good intentions.

However, those good intentions will translate into action soon because the friend with whom I first climbed the hill and I are planning to tackle it again this summer.

I’m taking my training reasonably seriously. It includes a walk up Mount Iron every morning and some days it feels harder than others.

That encourages me to keep training because it’s just 240 metres high and takes me about 30 minutes from the car park to the top. Last time I tackled Mount Roy it took about 3 1/4 hours and as I gaze across to it from Mt Iron I get the feeling it will have got stepper and higher since then.

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