Foggy | The Daily Post

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate?

via Foggy | The Daily Post

P71116-201332.jpgIt felt quite strange, finishing work with daylight to spare…just not that many people out and about this evening…but worth it for a view like this…

…the fog fills the valley and you can imagine a great lake extending from Raurimu north past Owhango towards the great flat top of Hikurangi…

Scale | The Daily Post

Experiment with placement and scale to show how big (or small) you can feel in a photo.

Source: Scale | The Daily Post

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I’ve spent a bit of time at sea on small warships, frigates and the like, and been on board baby carriers like Ark Royal and Jeanne d’Arc…

…I visited the New Jersey on a liaison visit to Philadelphia in 2011…the sheer size of everything just blew me away. Ive driven past the Wisconsin at Norfolk a few times but that’s not the same as standing under these massive barrels…knowing that each turret weighs more than each of our old (pre-ANZAC) frigates…

…easy to feel small…

This class of ship represents a pinnacle in naval design that we may never see again…sheer brute force in offensive and defensive capability…built to dish it out and take it too…

Glow | The Daily Post

This week, share something that glows. Maybe you’d like to experiment with some Golden Hour photography, or perhaps you know someone with a glowing smile. We’re excited to see what you share.

Source: Glow | The Daily Post

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A couple of nights ago, Mt Ngauruhoe glowed pink in the setting sun…

I didn’t check the image til later and so couldn’t reshoot when I fumble-fingered this impressionistic view…

We often get spectacular sunset views of the volcanoes on clear days…

Respecting the Maunga

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The Manawatu Standard has commented on DOC’s plans for the Tongariro National park this summer…(PDF)

First up, Stuff.co.nz, it’s not a two hour plod and that comment itself is disrespectful: it’s a proper climb in an environment that is nor forgiving. Mt Ngauruhoe deserves respect for that alone.

Secondly, referring to Mt Ngauruhoe as Mt Doom is equally disrespectful; more so when the request not to use this reference is a specific part of this summer’s campaign.

Thirdly, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is not a “…20-kilometre journey along one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks...” The TAC is not actually one of the nine Great Walks at all, although it shares part of the trail with the Tongariro Northern Circuit – which is one of the nine Great Walks.

I mean, really…? Did you even think about this before publishing it…? Even after the scorchings you have had for similar errors in the past..?

Mt Ngauruhoe, as with the two other summits, should be respected for its cultural significance. Some days it looks like an ant’s nest with unprepared visitors swarming over the north face. Just because they aren’t man-made structures (like pick a famous church) goes not mean they are worthy of any less respect.

People will still climb them – that genie is long out of the bottle – and the challenge now is to shape their behaviour towards one of greater respect. Being safe is part of that respectful behaviour: there is a risk in placing rangers to discourage visitors from the most popular route up the north face. This is an action that DOC specifically stated it would not take at the public meeting on this issue in Whakapapa two weeks ago.

That risk is that, by discouraging people from the most popular and safest route up the lave ridge on the north face, DOC will be encouraging them to select other routes. These other routes won’t be, for the average visitor, as safe as the north face route. In addition, the concentration of most climbers on the north face means that the very clear start point for search and rescue operations on Mt Ngauruhoe may no longer exist and that visitors in distress may be on any one of a number of less safe alternative routes.

Concentrating visitors on to one route or area also minimise the visitor impact on other areas of each mountain. That impact is not just the literal impact of pairs of feet, but of human waste (ewwww), rubbish, lost gear, and walking poles (each pole is like another foot striking the delicate volcanic surface).

The situation is aggravated by publications like Wilderness Magazine advocating alternative routes without differentiating them by risk or difficulty level, or information centres, with the best of intentions but perhaps not the best knowledge, recommending routes based on what’s looks OK on a map, or second-hand invalidated information from other visitors.

In a perfect work, we could all sit back and enjoy Tongariro and Ngauruhoe from afar, respecting their significance to local communities. But we’ve over-hyped and -marketed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing for decades – and all involved need to share responsibility for this. We need to look to the future though – leave the past behind – and consider how we ALL can best play our “…guardian role in protecting not only Tongariro and his peaks, but also the safety and wellbeing of visitors to the region…?

This will only work if we do this together…

…to sow the seed of visitor expectation as soon as there is the faintest glow in the light bulb of “Let’s go Tongariro

…to must be consistent on our messaging and at time put aside, direct personal benefit…

…to make visitors feel welcome and safe…and informed…

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#westisbest

MHAW Photo-a-day Challenge – Oct. 13 – Spring

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Not very “springy”…cold and wet…not much interest for anyone in doing much outdoors today…stay in and be warm…sadly the beginning of the last weekend of the school holidays…

After 14 road deaths in the last fortnight, with this weather, people will be taking the discretion option and heading away a little earlier, avoiding the logjam of Saturday and Sunday…

The Challenge

Mental Health Awareness Week in New Zealand is 9-15 October this year. Each year, the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand runs and sponsors a number of awareness activities.

The MHAW Photo Challenge runs from 1-15 October  Each day participants post an image that is their take on that day’s theme:

Oct. 1 – My view
Oct. 2 – Gratitude
Oct. 3 – Light
Oct. 4 – Water
Oct. 5 – Small treasures
Oct. 6 – Nature indoors
Oct. 7 – Bush walk
Oct. 8 – Art
Oct. 9 – Pop of colour
Oct. 10 – MHAW Lockout
Oct. 11 – Papatūānuku (Mother Earth)
Oct. 12 – Creature
Oct. 13 – Spring
Oct. 14 – Love my backyard
Oct. 15 – Nature is key to…

#MHAWNZ

MHAW Photo-a-day Challenge – Oct. 7 – Bush walk

A looong day today…a busy day with the ambulance followed by a night at Schnapps, getting into a new role…

…I’ve had to dive into the archives again and still will barely post with time to spare before it’s time to start thinking about tomorrow’s challenge…

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The Ridge Walk, Whakapapa Village

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Tupapakurua Falls, National Park Village

The Challenge

Mental Health Awareness Week in New Zealand is 9-15 October this year. Each year, the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand runs and sponsors a number of awareness activities.

The MHAW Photo Challenge runs from 1-15 October  Each day participants post an image that is their take on that day’s theme:

Oct. 1 – My view
Oct. 2 – Gratitude
Oct. 3 – Light
Oct. 4 – Water
Oct. 5 – Small treasures
Oct. 6 – Nature indoors
Oct. 7 – Bush walk
Oct. 8 – Art
Oct. 9 – Pop of colour
Oct. 10 – MHAW Lockout
Oct. 11 – Papatūānuku (Mother Earth)
Oct. 12 – Creature
Oct. 13 – Spring
Oct. 14 – Love my backyard
Oct. 15 – Nature is key to…

#MHAWNZ

Star Trek – Discovery

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In addition to Tight-As Ribs night, Tuesday night at Schnapps Bar in National Park Village, it is also Quiz night – so long as the crowd looks ‘quizzable’…it’s a challenging combination as patrons smear rib sauce over their answer sheets and struggle for a decent grip on their pens…

I wasn’t quizzing last night – in fact, the questions looked way too hard for this former member of the triumphant 2003 Trentham Tote Quiz War team – as I was a bit pushed for time…busy busy busy…an intended quick shop after my ambulance shift turned into a very productive chat with a local Council member…and had plans for the evening at home…

I was probably 6 for 1 in the Name this Event round as I mowed into my caramel sundae (watch this space for a future item on the perfect commercial sundae) and Round Two started up. I think the theme was Who Am I? and the clue started off “I am a TV series that premiered in 1967 and only screened for three seasons but spawned three TV movies” + some other stuff that I can’t remember. I think the actual answer was Gunsmoke but my first thought was – naturally – Star Trek

That random question reminded me that the latest in the long line of Star Trek spin-offs of TV series (6), fan series (2), and movies (13) had been hyped on Netflix for the previous month or so….so much for plans for Tuesday night…

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So, three episodes in [NO SPOILERS}, what does Discovery look like..?

Very flash graphics. Possibly a little too over the top and for their own sake; a distraction from the story.

Alien subtitles. Suck. Total distraction from the very flash graphics and vice versa: the viewer must choose between following alien conversations OR watching what’s happening on the screen, Very annoying. The subtitles add no value. Whatsoever.

Pretentious and bloated. The pilot (episodes 1 and 2) is not much more than the worst angsty bits of the Abramoverse all mixed in together. You could skip the first episodes and dive straight in at Episode 3 without missing too much. Everything prior is covered by statement or implication in Episode 3.

In the ‘verse. Discovery seems to be set around the same time as the Abramoverse Star Trek, or maybe between this and Enterprise (there are some unsubtle references to Spock). The ships seems more angular that those of Kirk’s era and the alien ship designers seem to follow the spiky bumpy school of alien spacecraft design.

Peacenik philosophy. Federation thinking seems to be of the same ‘we come in peace’ as the Abramoverse or the early period of The New Generation. None of Kirk the Original’s “we come in peace – shoot to kill” philosophy here.

In fairness, Star Trek series, on large and small screens, traditionally start from a  weak position. The pilot for The Original Series had to be reworked; the first series of The Next Generation were quite boring and uninspired; Enterprise, well, I only last about two episodes on my first go-round; Voyager picked up with Seven of Nine (there is much to be said for lycra uniforms in certain circumstances) and the stronger Borg story arc; and, despite my best efforts, Deep Space Nine remains on the whatever list…

Apparently, 15 episodes of Discovery have been filmed to date and will be weekly drip feed on Netflix. It has potential but we will have to wait to if this is realised or not. Binning the subtitles will be a tremendous step forward but it remains to be seen if the story will mature or remain a trite collection of what has gone before…

In meantime it can’t hurt to remember the spirit of Star Trek as it was…

Better than the beach…

As we near the end of the 2017 snow season, I took the opportunity for one last run on the free bus that has run from National Park Village to Whakapapa skifield this season.

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Signage is still non-existent: even with the special restrictions on signage in the Village, this is a little too minimalist. There was no indication where to go from SH4, and no sign that this was the right place to be for the bus – nice coffee and cake inside while waiting for the bus though…

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The car park still needs work. Even for a transport ‘experiment’, this is pretty rough – at least it’s not still covered in ice.

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The bus was a nice new 22-seater with rear bins for skis, poles and boards which otherwise might become hazardous inside – people have to be encouraged to use them though, otherwise it defeats the purpose.

It’s about a 20 minute drive from National Park Village up to the ski field – sit on the right side of the bus for great views of Ruapehu. One of the best things about catching the bus is that it drops you right at the top of the road and you don’t have to worry a. about navigating up from the car parks, b. getting skittled while navigating up from the car parks, or c. finding the car parks have filled and the road has been closed after you’ve departed National Park Village in the car.

Get the bus!should have been the RAL mantra this season. I’m not sold on the idea of the free (with caveats) bus although I’m most happy to use it while it’s there. It’s not clear what RAL was trying to achieve with this experiment when there is already an existing solid transport infrastructure  on the western side of the Mountain. If the problem it sought to address was inexperienced drivers on the approach roads, then reducing the number of car parks at the Top of the Bruce and allowing the existing transport operators to carry the load (literally) would have mitigated this hazard, especially if coupled with an effective information campaign.

Enough with the logistics though…a glorious bluebird day…and not too busy on a Friday, although everybody was bracing for a big weekend…!

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Lorenz cafe and Vertical Retail front, ticket sales and lost and found (more on this later!) on the right. getting a ticket was fast and painless – the big screens over each counter display most of the information you need…

The first lift up to Knoll Ridge cafe goes from the left of the shop/cafe building…an easy walk in the snow…regardless of the day, though, be warm for the lift…

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Looking back at the top of the first (Rangatira) lift…

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…and walking towards the Waterfall Express lift for the final leg up to Knoll Ridge…

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There’s a short slope from the top of the Waterfall Express down to Knoll Ridge cafe…this needs a little care if it’s icy and also being aware of skiers and boarders around you in various states of control…

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Coffee!! Yes!! And, contrary to much of the social media cry-babying, prices are reasonable…in fact, no much different from those at the Station cafe while I was waiting for the bus…

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Just plant a chair in the snow and enjoy the view north…

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…and over my right shoulder…I think I dropped my lift pass when I paid for my coffee – you don’t need one to get back down but you do need one for the bus home to stay free – no drama, the young lady at the counter just smiled and handed me another: I am probably neither the first nor the last…

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Starting back down on the Waterfall Express – an image cleverly cropped to eliminate the fingers that filled most of the frame: I may have been a little worried about dropping my phone…I could happily have stayed another hour but I had a mission to complete before heading home…

A fried had been skiing with a mate a few days earlier…”post-ski beers” had prevented her mate clearing his gear from his locker in Happy Valley…could I please see if I could recover it for him? Armed only with my wits and what might have been the locker number (it wasn’t), I set off…

Happy Valley is the big success story from the Whakapapa 2017 snow season. The beneficiary of a multi-million dollar investment, it was able to open a month earlier than the tradition first week of July (and that usually with crappy rock-studded snow). The enabler for this early opening was a new-tech snow-maker that’s able to operate effectively in temperatures up to 24 degrees C. Thus not only was snow guaranteed for Queen’s Birthday Weekend, it was guaranteed to be rock-free…

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Looking down into Happy Valley from the plaza area in front of Lorenz’ and Vertical…the new elevators on the left and a far sharper means of ingress and egress; rentals at the base on the left and the revitalised Bistro cafe on the right; in the left distance is one of the new magic carpets to bring punters back up to the top of the Valley, on the right is the old chair lift that will hopefully disappear over summer.

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The top ends of two of the carpets…very smooth, very slick…

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…looking back up the elevator tower…

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…and the outside dining area in front of the Bistro…

So…my mission…onwards…actually it was pretty simple. I explained my challenge to the nice staff at the rentals counter in Happy Valley – again, not the first time they’ve managed this issue – once they were satisfied with my bona fides, senior staff member bypassed the locking mechanism to open what we had determined was the actually locker in question. I was soon in possession (thankfully temporary) of a Hunting and Fishing top, and some stinky sox and runners…

Getting the bus back to National Park is a little more complex than getting to Whakapapa…there aren’t any more signs but the staff are really helpful and make sure everyone knows which bus to aim for…

The Transit bus back to National Park was packed, not even standing room only. With the weight of skis, boards, boots, etc on a busy day, I wonder how close they get to overloaded..? I also wasn’t too fussed about the number of people carrying their ski/boarding gear on the bus with them: untidy in the event of an accident…

Strangely after all the hype about needing a valid pass for the day for the return bus to be free, there were no checks at the ski field or the transit stop in Whakapapa Village. I’d heard that this was the case with some drivers and I wonder why a ticket check is a. hard and b. how much this added to the total loss generated by this season’s ‘free’ transport experiment…?

As days go, my day on the mountain was great…blue skies, no wind, good coffee and awesome views… #betterthanthebeach

(…in fact, so much better than the beach, I’m seriously considering a an early season ticket for 2018…at the current early bird price, it would pay for itself just coffeeing @ Knoll Ridge…)

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Winter Office 2018..?

 

 

Alpine guide frustrated at casual attitudes – Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Truly awesome to see that the national media have picked up this story…the full text of Andrea’s story can be seen here with the current safety messages for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in winter here

We need to see more of the guiding community telling their stories and sharing their experiences on the Alpine Crossing as part of educating visitors to the Tongariro district.

Year-round this is a beautiful place, one of the only areas in New Zealand that you can explore an active volcanic, but it is always a place to be respected. Respected for its cultural heritage and because it is unforgiving towards to the unprepared, ill-informed and complacent…

One of the best sources of current information on the Crossing is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing app that was released this year…available in the Google Playstore and iTunes…is your life, and the lives of your family and friends worth a small fee…? We would hope so…

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Get the app…

This pic is, of course of the Crossing in summer. In winter, this is what you will encounter:adrift fb winter 4.jpg

Know Before You Go

If You Don’t Know, Don’t Go

or

Go With A Guide

Field observations TAC 26/8/2017

Yesterday afternoon, I received this email from a  good friend who is an experienced guide in Tongariro National Park. The initial target audience was the visitor information centres around the Central Plateau – that audience has now grown…

To whom it may concern,

I am an alpine guide, currently working on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This is my fourth season on the TAC. My primary duty of care is to the safety and well-being of the clients on my trip, however I am often asked by freedom walkers for information and advice. Far too many people recreating in Tongariro National Park are uninformed about the hazards on the TAC and are unprepared for the conditions they will encounter. In some cases, people are putting themselves in harms way or endangering those around them and I feel obliged to intervene. This is actually quite common, but most of us guiding in Tongariro see that we act as kaitiake for the people and the land and don’t hesitate to offer assistance. This is an ongoing problem and the number of people putting themselves in danger increases exponentially each season. This is a problem that many people involved in tourism, recreation, and the outdoors community in Central Ruapehu are well aware of.

I would like to make it clear that I am not against freedom walking the TAC in winter, but that I am against trail users getting bad advice or no advice, going unprepared, and exposing themselves to unnecessary risks.

I am writing this letter because of what I saw while I was guiding on the TAC on Saturday, 26 August 2017. The number of people walking the track in completely inappropriate gear with no clue and no humility was SHOCKING. People dressed only in sneakers and blue jeans, without rain jackets or warm hats and gloves. There was a much higher than average number of freedom walkers on the track that day. At a guess, I would say that there were a few hundred. Tongariro Expeditions were operating their transport only service that day, as well as a large number of groups both large and small providing their own transport.

It is my opinion that when transport only services operate in winter, the public is watching. They see “no risk” when in reality there exists a “low risk”. Understanding that difference is critical. It is also imperative that people understand the difference between a forecast and a guarantee. Weather in New Zealand mountains is unpredictable and rapidly changeable. I believe that the greatest danger to people on this day was the weather, and the perceived risk.

The forecast on Saturday 26 August 2017, according to Metservice, called for fine conditions and light winds. On paper, truly a beautiful day! My observations on track told a very different story. The lenticular clouds capping Ngauruhoe meant winds were much stronger than the 15km/h in the forecast for the Red Crater. Metvuw charts showed rain to the northwest of Tongariro, so I knew that those stronger than forecast winds would also bring clouds. In spite of the forecast I could see that we were in for a cold day, with no sun, strong winds, and white-out conditions. Which is exactly what we got. The Red Crater was being hit by 50km/h winds and the wind chill was hovering around -8. Cloud in the Central Crater caused poor visibility, fluctuating between 50 meters and 500 meters of visibility. These are challenging and hazardous conditions.

One unprepared (cold and scared) freedom walker was rescued (from Shelter Rock) by other hikers on their descent from the summit of the TAC and given extra gear and guidance back to the start of the track (Mangatepopo Car Park).  People were observed walking on cornices on the Red Crater, walking out onto the ice on the Emerald Lakes, onto the ice on the Blue Lake, and were advised of the dangers they were putting themselves into. Many people without proper attire continued to walk into worsening conditions in spite of warnings from myself, other guides, and members of a local tramping club.

Waikato Tramping Club was on their annual winter Tongariro trek and spent lot of time and energy trying to warn people of the risks involved in trekking in alpine conditions without proper gear or know-how. They attempted to turn around many people on this day that were unaware of the danger they were putting themselves in and unaware of the hazards on the TAC. I have reached out to the club and encouraged them to write a letter with their observations.

I am passionate about the outdoors. I love Tongariro. I love creating safe experiences that are fun and memorable. If I can, I want to help more people come home safe and happy after a day in our mountains. I am reaching out to your organisation with my field observations because I believe that we are allies in this goal. I have provided below descriptions of the hazards, risks and consequences that are common on the TAC in winter, as well as the MetService forecast for the day. I personally observed people exposing themselves to each of the hazards below on this day. It is my sincere hope that this letter is useful in some way.

Thank you for your consideration,


TAC 26 aug 17 - 2TAC 26 aug 17

Below is a list of some hazards that exist on the TAC in winter. I have omitted to speak about avalanche hazards, as the Backcountry Avalanche Advisory does an excellent job of detailing the risks and hazards on a daily basis.

Walking on cornices

-large cornices exist around the rim and summit of the Red Crater. There are many others throughout the TAC but these are the cornices that are easiest to walk onto without realizing what you’re doing

-the risk is that by walking onto a cornice you will cause it to break and you will fall

-the consequences of breaking a cornice are VERY HIGH and potentially life-threatening, as you would fall 50+ meters and likely be buried in snow from the falling debris

Walking on the ice covering the Emerald Lakes

-the lakes are not well frozen and are currently thawing, so the risk of breaking the ice and falling into the lakes is VERY HIGH

-consequences of of falling through the ice into the lake are SERIOUS and potentially life-threatening, as both drowning and hypothermia are likely outcomes

Walking on the ice covering the Blue Lake

-the risk posed by walking on the Blue Lake is precisely the same as the Emerald Lakes, but the consequences are higher, as the size and depth of the lake would pose much larger problems for rescue

Not having the appropriate gear

-sunglasses, warm hats and gloves, boots, rain jackets, and intelligent layers are a must in an unpredictable alpine environment such as the TAC. To venture out unprepared is to risk frostbite or hypothermia, or in the case of not having sunglasses you are risking snowblindness

Not having the appropriate equipment

-at the very least it is necessary to carry a topographic map and compass (and know how to use them), the risk is that you will get lost. Poor visibility and featureless snow-fields (such as the Central and South Crater) create navigational challenges. Additionally, the summer track is generally considered unsafe in common winter conditions and an alternate track exists, many people aren’t even aware that they may encounter more than one track and this creates confusion

-often it is necessary to carry (and know how to use) crampons, ice-axe, and helmet. Without this gear you risk sliding down steep and long icy surfaces. Sliding can carry high consequences.

The feelings expressed here are shared by many of us who live up here: as much as we want people to come here and enjoy this wonderful location, we want them to do it safely.

Many of our visitors – and not just the international ones – don’t have any frame of reference for the hazards of an alpine environment…the closest many of them will get is watching Cliffhanger or Everest in FullHD with the woodburner fully cranked up…

Know Before You Go

If You Don’t Know, Don’t Go…

…Or Go With A Guide