“I don’t know”


via The Wisdom of Saying “I Don’t Know” | On Being

The Wisdom of Saying “I Don’t Know”

I was recently reading a book about a medieval saint. Every day, people came to ask the saint questions about life, the world, faith, the heart, the path, politics, and more.

One person came and asked a question about the law. The saint simply answered, “I don’t know.” Another had a philosophical question. The saint, again answered, “I don’t know.” All in all, 29 people came and asked questions. To each and every one the saint answered, “I don’t know.” It was when the 30th person asked a question that the saint said: “Oh, I have something to answer about this one.”

One out of 30. The rest of the time, the saint realised that silence was an improvement over words.

Many many years ago, when I first stumbled into the world of knowledge management, lessons learned, best practice knowledge transfer, rah, rah, rah, I subscribed to a lot of feed and pages and sites. The sole survivor of all of these is David Gurteen Knowledge Letter. Monthly, it drops into my inbox and I have a quick scan…some months, I can just flick it off, others there will be a little nugget that strikes a chord…such was the case this morning…


That lead me to Omar Safi’s blog post on saying “I don’t know“, the opening paragraphs of which are quoted above…sometimes strength is not in knowledge but in ignorance; strength is being able to say “I don’t know“, strength is not feeling that internal pressures or external influences are compelling you to provide a response when the honest answer is “I don’t know“.

In searching for an appropriate image to open this post, I found the “I don’t Know” post on the Friday Food for Thought blog which also gelled with my thoughts and the ‘Inkling theme of today’s WordPress Daily Prompt…basically, if you haven’t an inkling that just shut up…

No one expects everyone to know everything. In most case, people respect more someone who can say “I don’t know” instead of presenting ignorance as knowledge. this is particularly true here in the way we manage our visitors, domestic and international.

Tongariro National Park is probably one of the most accessible national parks in the world. It is only a four to five hour drive from the international terminals in Auckland and Wellington: you can land in New Zealand and be in the Park in less than five hours. And on the rescue helicopter thirty minutes later. OK, that’s an extreme example but it’s happened. Because it is so easy to get to the Park, sandwiched between four state highways (1, 4, 47, 49), visitors often do not naturally feel that it offers a great deal of risk, compared to expeditions in the south of the South Island where you definitely feel that you are leaving the safety and security of civilisation behind you.

Visitors ask for information. They seek it from websites and via email before they leave home; they seek it over the counter and by phone once they are here. They ask in Visitor Centres and i-Sites – credible sources of information – but also in accommodation, in bares and in restaurants, where they person they are asking may not have been here much longer them, or have much more knowledge than them – but can still respond with a misplaced aura of confidence. They may not know at all, they may think they know, they may be simply regurgitating something they heard, they may just want you to go way. If they don’t know, they should say “I don’t know“.

And if you’re in the information game, be prepared to offer the same advice “I don’t know”. You may be able to to steer them towards a source that may be able to assist, you may just have to leave them to consider their own options, lacking the information they seek. Then their actions are their responsibility. Once you offer information, you (and your organisation if you’re at work) become part of that responsibility chain…like it or not…

There’s little helping someone who doesn’t ask for advice but those who do should be assured of either getting a credible accurate and relevant response to their inquiry, or be told “I don’t know“. Consider perhaps the example of Suzannah Gilford, who was rescued of Mount Ruapehu just before Christmas last year. Her account of her experience is well-written and a good read. Inspired to ascend Mount Ruapehu, still carrying an icy cap, she did seek information to support her decision-making…

Arriving in Whakapapa Village, I received mixed advice on climbing Mt Ruapehu… “You need an ice axe and crampons…”, “Sorry no guided tours yet, but there will be in 2 years time…”, “The mountain is sacred so we’re asking people not to go to the crater…”, but encouragingly the lady at the foot of the mountain explained, “You can go wherever you like… there are no signs yet, but everyone just makes their own paths in the snow.” She couldn’t advise how bad the snow was, nor how long it would take to reach the crater, and had no maps to sell, but suggested people were up there trekking and I couldn’t wait to see for myself!

One systemic informational failure after another. Pretty much every one of those statements was incorrect at the time (the ice cap is now substantially reduced). Locals are quick to apportion 100% of responsibility for rescues on those needing to be rescued but here is a smart young lady who knew what she didn’t know, who asked the questions and received in return a bewildering mishmash of inaccurate information. Who cares whether it was the DOC Visitor Centre or the Ruapehu District Council i-SITE, that she visited? Whoever she spoke to, if they could not respond credibly and authoritatively, just had to say “I don’t know

One would like to think that both parent organisations have a regularly reviewed FAQ for such every day questions in and around Tongariro National Park; a document that protects the individual, the visitor and the organisation. In the absence of such, a simple “I don’t know” may have been the safer option for Suzannah and the Ruapehu Alpine Rescue Organisation (RARO) rescue team that assisted her off the mountain…

It’s not quite as simple as the some would have us believe “…try as I may I could never explain, what I hear when you don’t say a thing…”

Sometimes you just have to say “I don’t know“…

If the Beatles lived here…

snow snow snow

Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
And I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold rainy winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
And I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
And I say it’s all right

Snow, snow, snow, here it comes
Snow, snow, snow, here it comes
Snow, snow, snow, here it comes
Snow, snow, snow, here it comes
Snow, snow, snow, here it comes

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear

Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
And I say it’s all right
Here comes the snow, here comes the snow
It’s all right, it’s all right

And with the snow, come the Darwinists, people who are just too dumb to be allowed outside on their own…

jul 16 emerald lakes rescue


severe 31 Jul 16

…with more to come…

…winter is here…

Woke up to snow at home this morning…mainly windblown but nice to see it making the effort…slushy snow on Raurimu Bridge and then increasingly realer snow into National Park Village and then down SH47/48 to Whakapapa…

All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

Even though the plough and grit trucks are out, temperatuires are still below zero in most places…with the ski fields and ski field roads being closed, I’d really suggest people want to stay off the roads unless they really need to be somewhere…

Today’s post as been brought to you by the number 4 and the letters W and D…


All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com


All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com


All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com


All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

Clouds | The Daily Post

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt: Clouds.

Source: Clouds | The Daily Post

Mt Ngauruhoe Summit climb April 2016 -015

As the sun climbs, dew on the slopes evaporates and cloud form beneath you. From the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe.


Early morning cloud rests in the low lands around Raurimu.

Tongariro Apr 04 - 1

Mount Ruapehu from the Desert Road


Mounts Ngauruhoe and Tongariro taken from the beginning of the Taranaki Falls track in Whakapapa Village.


Mount Ngauruhoe from the Chateau golf course.


Cloud forms off the slopes of Mount Ngauruhoe. This is taken from the summit of Mount Tongariro: 15-20 minutes later we were greyed out.

Disaster | The Daily Post

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.

Source: Disaster | The Daily Post

…sometimes the measure of success is how well you respond…

That was my parting shot in The magnificent seven ride again…, the tale of a 2011 pub crawl against a backdrop of NATO’s Libyan ‘intervention’ and the  lone wolf terrorist attacks by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway in July 2011.

Mt Tongariro Summit Back Route April 2016-013.JPG

Five years later, those are still true words although I see response from a different perspective now…once, response was force projection, rapid deployment, targeting; now response is something we manage every day…

Today’s prompt is disaster…the biggest disaster to hit this region in the last 2000 years was the Taupo eruption around 182-300AD, depending on whose book you read. Of course, if disaster strikes and there is no one there to suffer from it, is it really a disaster or just a large scale natural event..? I mean, we’re talking seriously large scale here: the biggest explosion that the world has experienced in the last two, possibly more, millenia.

When we talk eruptions here, it is always in the context of when, not if: we know that the three volcanoes – Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro – will erupt again. The iffy bits are when exactly and how much…questions that can only be answered after the fact. Predicting eruptions is much like predicting earthquakes: often we can see a shift from what’s considered normal, maybe an increase (or decrease) in gas emissions, a cooling (or warming) of a crater lake, more (or less) volcanic tremors: but what it means is very difficult to determine.

Because prediction is problematic, a lot of resource goes into response. The timelines are pretty tight. A lahar (big volcanic mudslidey thing) coming down the western side of Ruapehu will hit Whakapapa ski field in about 90 seconds…that’s not enough time to check your phone  for directions, call a friend or update your Facebook page about the big black shadow coming down the mountain…part of the disaster response on the ski field is to ensure that people know what to do beforehand…

Further down the the hill, residents of Whakapapa Village have a whole twenty minutes to evacuate everyone from the danger area along the Whakapapanui Stream, essentially the Holiday Park and the housing area across State Highway 48 from the Chateau. Twenty minutes doesn’t sound like much time but after a fortuitous (probably didn’t seem like it at the time) series of false alarms in 2015, Whakapapa residents know they can do this at nine at night, in winter, after dinner and maybe a few beers.


There may be no warning. An eruption may occur on a beautiful blue sky day, or in the middle of a black, freezing, sleeting, icy night. Luck ran twice when the Te Maare craters erupted in August 2012. Lucky once because an eruption at 11-30PM meant there were no walkers on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing as rocks hammered down onto the track. The biggest of these weighed three tonnes, enough to hurt if it landed on your toes. Lucky twice because, even though it was night, the bunk room at Ketetahi Hut was unoccupied as a rock slammed through the roof.

It’s been many years since we have had a disaster in Ruapehu – some tragedies, yes – but the last real disaster in terms of loss of life and damage was probably Tangiwai in 1953. Once of the reasons that we haven’t had any real disasters since then is our ability to respond. The March 2007 lahar had potential – it was certainly much larger – to be as deadly as its 1953 predecessor : that potential was mitigated, some might say neutered, by a effective well-planned, well-practised response. In fact, between exercises and false alarms, the disaster response was so well-practised that when the main event event occurred, it all seemed a bit boring…

So, when  you visit our maunga, take a moment to read the signs and be aware of what’s happening, what might happen around you…if you’re here for your fifteen minutes of fame, don’t let it be in 5000 years when some alien archaeologist chips you out of the remnants of the great Whakapapa Lahar…

Ridge Track, Whakapapa Village

The Ridge Track is a nice short – about twenty minutes/1.2km each way – walk right in Whakapapa Village…great for a quick leg stretch at lunchtime…


It starts here at the public shelter, just up the road from the DOC Visitor Centre, and opposite the Whakapapa Holiday Park. The trail itself is just up from the shelter , where you can see the DOC sign on the right of the picture…


The trail winds behind the shelter…


…across the bridge and into the forest…


…past a nice resting spot about halfway up (the forested part)…


…before you break out into the open and continue up through the tussock.


Not all of the trail is in tiptop condition and sections like this can be a little more challenging, especially after a good downpour…


…and your’re there…


No one is quite sure why there is a big table here but there is…be nice ofr a picnic, better if there were seats…


Further up the ridge line, on a clearish day, you can often see the very top of Mount Ruapehu…


…to the north, there are often great views of Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro…


…and below, The Chateau and Whakapapa Village, with SH48 winding back down towards SH47 and civilisation…

Wear sunscreen…


…and other handy things to know…

Yes, winter has finally hit the Central Plateau…and with it, the usual outbreak of idiots…

Handy tip #1. Snow is wet, hard and cold. Just because it is sunny, does not mean it is warm. Dress appropriately and, yes, that does include wearing sunscreen…

Handy tip #2. Your big 4WD does not make you immune from the laws of physics, or the road.

Sub-tip 1 to #2: when you crest a hill on the ice-covered road and you see the flashers on the Highway Patrol car at a breakdown, don’t hit your brakes. Score SH47 3, 4WD idiots 0.

Sub-tip 2 to #2: Chains are not equal to 4WD, nor do they make you a world-class rally driver. If you are not used to driving on ice, get the bus. If you miss the bus, get out of bed earlier.

Sub-tip 3 to #2: The absence of signs saying ‘slow down’ does not equal a defence when you are in the ditch. Use of the defence may justifiably be taken as provocation by the guy you hit on your way into the ditch.

Handy tip #3. Your quad headlights that can blind a possum at five kilometres will not melt ice on the road. Bridges and shaded corners may be treacherously slippery all day – drive appropriately.


DSCF8580 DSCF8579 Cautionary tales and idiots aside, heavy snow fall often sucks all the moisture out of the air and makes for beautiful days…The lower level tracks in the Park are all accessible and walkable but the higher levels of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing remain restricted to those with equipment AND experience above the snow line – those without should seriously consider signing up with one of the guided tours because a. it is safer, b. the Crossing in winter is a totally different experience to the Crossing in summer, and c. it is an experience not to be missed.DSCF8583DSCF8584DSCF8585 DSCF8586


…and I don’t mean the magic spice that overcomes all food preparation shortcomings…


I was driving back from town yesterday and could not help but notice that both Ngauruhoe and Tongariro had had some decent dumps of snow over the last two days…couldn’t tell you about Ruapehu because that is under that big mass of cloud where the fence line meets the skyline…DSCF8391

Compare Ngauruhoe with the shot I took of it at sunset a couple of posts ago...

The temperature dumped as soon as the sun disappeared…it was a beautifully clear and starry night…so still and so bloody cold…down to 0 at midnight and -2 at first light with a good frost…


The sun is dealing to the frost already and it will be a ripper day til the sun goes down…I think we will get snow here as soon as we have a cloudy night…it’s been trying the last couple of days…

It’s safe to say that winter is here so if you are visiting up this way, think about putting some warm clothes, maybe even a sleeping back in the car, with some sensible footwear, gloves and a warm hat…just on case…it’s this time of year when drivers are still in summer daze and don’t think of shady corners and the risks therein. No matter how good a driver you may be, it might be the other guy that makes the mistake that gets YOU…take care out there…

Tongariro by air


One of the really great things about working for DOC on Mount Ruapehu is that opportunities arise to participate in some of the activities available around the Park. Last month, my planned trip to the rim of the crater lake on Mt Ruapehu was foiled by poor weather so when Mountain Air called to say they had a spare seat if anyone was interested, I was on the road immediately…DSCF7897

Even by midday this bank of cloud was still sitting just short of the base of the Mountain and more importantly for the day’s unplanned activity, just short of the end of the Chateau Airport runway.
DSCF7899Our destination…DSCF7900

Our chariot…

DSCF7903 The Mangatepopo car park in the lower right, the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing…DSCF7909

The other side of the Alpine Crossing on the long descent from the Blue Lake to the Ketetahi Carpark which is the finish point of the Crossing…DSCF7907

A small patch of cloud mingling with steam from one of the volcanic vents on the north side of Mt Tongariro…DSCF7911

A closer look down on those steam vents…


Looking west over the Blue Lake which is a bout the halfway point on the Crossing walk…DSCF7932

The Blue Lake with the Emerald Lakes on the lower left and the majestic bulk of Mt Tongariro in the background…DSCF7926

Looking closer at the Emerald Lakes with the Crossing track running from top right to lower left…DSCF7928Looking over the Emerald lakes and Red Crater towards Mt Ngauruhoe (aka Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy). Just to the right of Red Crater, you can just make out the Crossing track: Red Crater marks the highest point on the Crossing at around 1780 metres, a good half kilometre above the 1200 metre start point at Mangetepopo…


Mt Ngauruhoe …you can’t see them but on a good day like this, there were dozens of ambitious visitors clambering their way to the summit – they said that they waved but I didn’t see them. The journey to the summit of Mt Ngauruhoe is probably the most challenging of the three peaks in summer as the slopes are very steep (a constant 30 degrees), covered in loose material so that you may spend as much time sliding back as you do pushing forward, and there is always a risk of getting clocked by a rock or stone dislodged by climbers ahead of you….DSCF7968

Between Mts Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu lies Whakapapa Village, home of the Chateau Tongariro the main DOC base for administering the Park. The light coloured roofs on this side of the Village are the Skotel accommodation complex, and the tracks to the north of it run to Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls…DSCF7993

Last but not least the splendour of Mt Ruapehu, with a glimpse of the Crater Lake. In a few months this will be covered in metres of snow but at the moment it is still relatively easy to trek up to the crater rim as a day trip form the Village.

Just after taking this picture, i switch my camera to video mode and recorded the remainder of the flight back around all three mountains and back to the airfield. I meant to convert it to MP$ and upload it to Youtube before I came away this week but I am afraid that you will have to wait until the weekend for me to get that down…

I’d really like to thank the lads at Mountain Air for taking me up. I’ve been in and out of aircraft of all sizes over the last three decades and i would have to say that their presentation and performance was as good as any other top-line aviation activity that I have been involved with. If you visit us on a nice day (and most of them are), Mountain Air offers a great way to see the Park and its attractions in a way that  a ground based perspective simply cannot match…


So who didn’t pay the subscription for summer??

So here we are….only the fourth of March, with only two really summery days all year (a really summery day being one where it feels too hot to do anything), and already we have had our first snow for 2014…I guess the ‘crust’ on the water in the wheelbarrow from yesterday’s rain and the brittle white grass on the lawn should have been a clue at home this morning….


Well, that wasn’t there when I went home last night…


Not as low as the office yet but it was hailing when I left this evening which doesn’t bode well for this summer thing…


…and a good dusting on Ngauruhoe and its offsider, Tongariro…

OK, so, yes, perhaps we were a little spoilt last year with a three month summer aka drought but SNOW IN MARCH! REALLY?

At a guess, this dusting won’t last long – although more is forecast for tonight – and normal summer services may be resumed but if you’re planning on visiting the Park, pack an extra layer of woollies, some really warm sox, good gloves and a decent beanie and take a few deep breathes before opening the door to step outside…