Carry a big stick…

…or to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt “Tread carefully and carry a big stick“…two concepts directly related to my summit of Mt Ngauruhoe yesterday…

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This is Stick. Stick is a little miffed that it missed out on going up Mt Tongariro last week, but that’s kinda what happens when you hide away in a dark corner of the garage. Stick is way more useful than lightweight aluminium walking poles which are too flimsy to brace your weight against. Stick is also really good as a counter-balance and a brace when descending scree slopes…

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Tuesday and yesterday offered the best weather windows for another go at Ngauruhoe; yesterday had the least wind and Tuesday was off the list when I remembered that I had to speak to a visiting Duke of Edinburgh group from Karamu School. The day opening with a beautifully clear sunset that boded well for the day’s adventure.

Mt Ngauruhoe (thrower of rocks) is technically ‘only’ a vent on Mt Tongariro but because it is now higher than its parent and such a prominent feature, it is counted as a mountain in its own right. Don’t be fooled however, it is still an active volcano and carries with it, its own unique hazards: it is very steep (a consistent 30 degrees), very smooth and covered in loose rock.

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It was pretty brisk at Mangatepopo car park with the normal number of Alpine Crossing walkers milling around. The sky was clear, and the sun beaming down but the temperature was barely above zero…the best way to keep warm: get moving…

Many walkers were way over-dressed and already shedding layers in the first couple of kilometres…a number, by Soda Springs, were already quite oblivious of their surroundings and had to be asked to allow faster walkers past…I don’t really see the point of doing a walk like the Crossing if you are going to zone out before the end of the first leg…

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A decent frost crisped up parts of the track lying in the shadow of Mt Tongariro, a good reminder that winter is drawing closer and with it, winter ground conditions. Although there was quite a bit of frost on the board-walks, they weren’t slippery but that won’t be too far away…DSCF9893

I made good time up to the top of the Devil’s Staircase, about 90 minutes. At this sign, turn right…in summer ground conditions, i.e. no snow on the ground, a trail has been worn from the sign towards the base of the volcano.

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We’re not kidding!!

Because the sides of Ngauruhoe are so steep and smooth, any rocks knocked loose – and many of the surfaces aren’t that stable to start with – can roll hundreds of metres, picking up a lot of speed along the way. On my way up, I saw two torso-sized boulders crashing down the scree slopes: if they collected anyone on their way down, the results would be serious injury and a free helicopter ride…

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As this peters out, a series of blue and orange track markers indicates the route to the beginning of the real climb…

The trick to a safe and successful ascent of Ngauruhoe is to work your way up the solid rock formations, avoiding the scree slopes as much as possible: they are really hard work going up and unstable to such a point that upwards motion, slipping and sliding, will generate lots of mini rock slides.

As a very young volcano, a lot of the rock on Ngauruhoe is very rough and sharp and this is more pronounced the closer to the summit that you get. Hard shell gloves are a good idea – your nice wool Icebreaker gloves will last about five minutes – and I’ll be digging out my leather shooting gloves before I come back up here.

Another incredibly highly recommended piece of kit for Ngauruhoe is a climbing helmet. Unless you are fortunate to strike a day when you have the mountain to yourself (unlikely to occur with decent weather conditions), there is a consistent trickle of small (and not so small) rocks coming down from climbers ahead of you. In addition some of the rock faces on the way up are quite steep with potential drops of a few metres: you may be the best rock scrambler in the world, the that mightn’t help you if you get wiped out by someone less experienced ahead of taking a tumble.

climbing helmet

Something like this…

…and, no, I didn’t wear a helmet myself…something that a. my school group from Karamu School called me on when I caught up with them at Soda Springs on my way back and b. that I intend to do something about before I return…I only saw one group up there with helmets but lots of near misses…

Stick was really useful as a brace on the ascent and there was only one time where I needed to use both hands for climbing…everybody that I saw with walking poles struggled with them: they are too flimsy to be used as a brace and, more often than not, tend to just get in the way: you do need at least one hand free for climbing. I carried a set of poles up for a young American lady who had come expecting a walk not a climb and who was reduced to throwing her poles ahead of her as she used both hands to climb…

This young lady had also been left behind by the rest of her group which is pretty untidy – if you start as a group, you go as a group and finish as a group – more so, when she did not have any water on her. I carry heaps and was happy to share, bolster her confidence and encourage her to the summit but she was not prepared for this sort of activity and was having a pretty miserable time – which defeats the whole point of doing things like this…

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It took me about two hours to the summit: spectacular views!! But all that rock is very hard and very sharp with a some big potential drops of the unwary or unsteady of foot..

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The top of the cloud was sitting around 1400 metres but all the good stuff was visible, looking here across Red Crater to Blue Lake; lower centre, you can see the Tongariro Alpine Crossing heading up towards its highest point of 1868 metres, and the trail to the summit of Mt Tongariro. climbing off to the left…

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There are active vents (fumaroles) on Mt Ngauruhoe and steam was clearly visible from this one on the summit: you can just make it out at four o’clock from the left-hand figure on the skyline…

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Without wanting to repeat myself, this volcanic rock is hard and sharp…about three steps into my descent, I slipped and slip a couple of metres and have some nice skin to grow back on my left wrist…slow and steady is the way…

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The easiest and safest way to descend Mt Ngauruhoe is down the scree slopes to the west of the rock that you climbed up on. Avoid the rocky surfaces: they are not very stable and you WILL set off rock slides!! Stick to the channels of already disturbed scree where there are less rocks.

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Stick was really useful for bracing myself on the scree…this is soft and loose…if you are wearing ankle boots or runners/trainers (really?), gaiters would be a good idea as you will be sinking into this stuff up to and over your ankles. Don’t be an idiot and leap your way down the scree slopes: not only are you kicking loose a lot of loose material that hazards those below you, but if you strike a fixed rock beneath the surface, you are likely to lose your balance and become your own rock slide…you can descend quickly and safely without being an idiot…

Be aware of your surroundings…I spent a lot of my descent time watching behind me for rocks knocked loose by other people…not everyone calls ‘rock’ when they set one loose…think a couple of steps ahead as to where you will go if a rock comes in your direction…

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…and finally back on the trail just before the junction with the Alpine Crossing…I was tempted to carry on up to Red Crater, across to Mt Tongariro and come back down the way I went up last week but I didn’t fancy descending down through that cloud on an unmarked trail…

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A final shot from just short of Mangatepopo car park…perversely the view was clear with that little cloud rolling in in the time it took me to get out my camera…

Total time was about 6 1/2 hours but that includes a decent break for lunch, assisting the young American lady and stopping to talk to groups along the way. My total walking time, with just breather breaks would have been in the region of 5 1/2 hours…

Insights

  • Gloves – a good set of well-fitting leather gloves will save you skin
  • Helmet – may save your life.
  • Decent sturdy footwear – not runners! Consider gaiters to keep the scree out of your boots/shoes.
  • If you must take walking poles: either take only one of have a backpack that will let you carry them if you don’t need them.
  • Tread carefully: be sure you are stepping onto firm ground before you transfer your weight…
  • Jeans make the climb – and it is a climb not a walk – hard work. I was comfortable in shorts and an Icebreaker T-shirt all day BUT I had good clothing for cold/wet weather on me if I needed it…

BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS – YOUR SAFETY IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY!!!

It was disappointing to observe the number of people who were physically and psychologically unprepared for Mt Ngauruhoe…many thought it was just a walk and struggled with the climb and the height – one loud American complained the whole way up about his fear of falling – others got up all right but had no idea how to get down…here’s a hint: it’s easy to climb UP the rock; climbing down the same way is not nearly as easy and you’re making people still coming up work around you…

This, I think, puts a lot of the responsibility back onto us locals to ensure that we are setting visitor expectations appropriately in all our contact with them, and through our websites, and social media engagement…Mt Ngauruhoe is not a place where ‘just do it’ is a good or safe philosophy…

 

 

Fission chups

…as our Australian frenz might say…fish and chips to the rest of the world…

One of my challenges in my green journey is slowly purging the house of legacy foodstuffs…I got in early and disposed on the all the processed snacky food like chips/crisps and chocolate bars (too much 4 for $4 at the New World checkout!) before Christmas. Even if the way I disposed of them was not particularly healthy, it got the job done.

I am now working my way through the big freezer in the garage where I have been stashing loads of ‘reduced to clear’ meat. The last 5-6 nights I have been watching movies while peeling and dicing this years take of cooking apples before stewing them for long-term storage over winter: in making space for them in the freezer, I found even more meat packs that need to be disposed of…so dinner selections are becoming a bit of a lucky dip until they are all gone…

Sunday night, two large hoki fillet surfaced – easily enough for two meals for me + as it turned out, a late night snack as well…I probably could have gotten two decent meals from each fillet. Needing to also dispose of the large bag of potatoes in the back pantry, I opted for a traditional serving of fish with chips over a curry or such. I don’t do deep frying any more so the fish had to be baked or pan fried, while the chips would go through the air fryer…

Preparing the chips is pretty simple:

Rinse the potatoes – I don’t bother peeling them

Slice them about 3-4mm thick and about 10mm wide.

Rinse them in the colander from a  Tupperware steamer set and then dry the pieces in a clean tea towel.

Place the dried chips in the base of the Tupperware steamer, pour over a tablespoon of your choice of cooking oil, a good shaking of salt or other flavour – my chip flavour of choice at the moment is Cajun spice mix – place the lid of the steamer on and shake them all about..

Place the oiled and spiced chips into the air fryer basket.

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Turn the fryer to high and set the timer to 20 minutes. Every five minutes or so, take the basket out and give the chips a good shake-up.

DSCF9915I had seen online a recipe for parmesan baked fish but my search couldn’t bring up one that I like so I just ran with the idea and combined what was left of the parmesan in the fridge, grated finely, with parsley and breadcrumbs – both products of home, and 3 cloves of garlic and a little sea salt. I blended this in the Tupperware Terminator and would have had enough for both fillets if I hadn’t knocked the bowl into the sink…

Two eggs, blended by hand, provided a gooey take for the crumb mix and I applied this twice to each piece to get a good thick layer. I poured the little bit of remaining egg over the fish in the pan and followed this with the last of the used crumb mix…one of the recipes I had seen recommended cooking the fish in butter with a lemon’s worth of juice in the pan as well – a great idea!

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The lemon juice made a real difference to the taste – I’ve never been a big fan of squeezing raw juice over my fish – and blended well with the flavours in the crumb mix.

Last night, being a little short on the same crumb mix, I beefed up the surviving mix with more bread crumbs, garlic, parsley and fresh coriander, blending this time in the blender to get this cool Hulk-green colour…

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They might look a little odd in the pan…

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…but tasted beautiful…anyone for a Hulk Fish Burger..?

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Still quite a healthy meal with only a small quantity of butter and oil used, mainly herbs and spices with homemade wholemeal breadcrumbs…I’m quite a way down my green journey so the quantity of potato was probably n the limit for me know but the small quantity of parmesan added good flavour but no weight…

AS I SEE IT (22 April)

By Terry O’Neill.

Many sports involve physical contact and often only a faint margin exists between physical contact and violence.

Alleged rugby player violence in a game is under initial scrutiny by the referees/umpires who control the game. Once cited, a player is then brought before the sport’s local ruling body which is charged to come to a decision on the alleged violent incident.

Punishments can range from a warning to suspension for a number of playing days up to virtual banishment from the sport, whether the person is a player, administrator or, importantly, a spectator.

How spectators conduct themselves is particularly relevant at the onset of the winter sports season noting that violence is not exclusively a winter sport issue. The NZRFU has initiated a campaign on its policy to deal with violence that will be mirrored by other winter and summer sports.

Violence from the sidelines is usually vocal. Unfortunately incidences arise there amongst spectators and also involving players.

And where are these aggressive loud-mouths? Attend a Saturday morning winter sport and in due course they’ll cut through the air, often parents exhorting their protégées to greater heights, a loftiness the parent never achieved themselves if they had indeed played the game.

Most parents/grandparents are the great models to youngsters they should be, and are sincerely commended.

Positive support at games is the focus in “My Parents Are Ugly“, a NZRU booklet, and it reaches beyond “advice” to players. Surprisingly referees/umpires are abused by critics sometimes basing comments on aged rugby laws now obsolete.

The percentage of abusive spectators is low but their impact can be out of proportion to numbers. Fun for the players, and for their parents, is the essential element in sport. And it’s the referees, those people giving up their time, who ensure everyone else can enjoy the game.

And who at the game moans each referee rule against their darling’s team? Some spectators, and even team officials who should know better, scream “not straight, sir“, “offside, sir“, “knock on, sir“, “hands in the ruck, sir“, with a derogative title substituted sometimes, and could be forty to sixty metres away. And there are the “off-side shouters” who encourage a mob not always in a position to judge.

We welcome the pleasant banter between supporters of competing teams as part of the game. However some sports websites spell out what is, and is not, acceptable and, I hark you, they offer an electronic form to register complaints about bad behaviour.

Ever watched a game without a referee/umpire? I haven’t either. The question asked sometimes is why those public-minded individuals bother when they have to deal with yahoos and mean-minded grandstanders of ignorance.

A prerequisites for referees is not that they can walk on water. They make mistakes. Just like you, just like me.

ENDS

Sadness and gladness of the Last Post

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This was an editorial in one of the national newspapers for Anzac Day 1997…I can’t find any notes I may have made identifying the paper or the author…

The Last Post always makes me cry. I can’t help it. There is something in those crisp clear notes ringing out in the sharp-edged air of ANZAC morning that takes my breath away. It sets up a curious chemical reaction in the soul, where sadness and gladness are fused together and one is lifted out of oneself and into the unending reverberations of history.

The bugler speaks to the dead – the “glorious” dead – inscribed on countless cenotaphs and roadside memorials from one end of New Zealand to another. Not that there is anything glorious about dying. In the paintings of our country’s battles, the death of young men, far from home, in agony and fear, is seldom portrayed with much accuracy. We spare ourselves the horrors of war – and rightly so. Veterans of the real thing seldom speak of what they have seen and heard lest their words conjure up again the screams, the blood, the shattered flesh, the cries of “Mother!”.

The Last Post speaks to the silence beyond death; the space in which we contemplate the meaning of the final “sacrifice”. The Last Post asks us to ask ourselves “What did these young men die for?”

When I was a little boy, I would spend my ANZAC Days drawing pictures of soldiers climbing up the rocky hillsides of the Dardanelles. And, over the vivid colours of the battle scenes, I would print in the laborious hand of the young: “For King and Country”.

I do not think that there are many today who would die for the House of Windsor. But, in the silent crowds of young New Zealanders – more every year – who join the old diggers on ANZAC morning, I sense a longing to serve, to sacrifice, to give something back to their country.

The generations of New Zealanders born after World War II have been spared what the United Nations charter calls “the scourge of war”. It is a mixed blessing. To be sure, we have never had to hold our friends in our arms and watch them die or receive a telegram informing us of the death of a loved one. But neither have we experienced the powerful sense of unity with which a nation at war is infused, not the bonds of comradeship forged when men and women from all walks of life are brought together and transformed into a  fighting force.

Most importantly, the post-war generations will never know what it feels like to play for history’s highest stakes – when the issues of ultimate significance hung in the balance.

I often ask myself: “Is political activism a substitute for war?” “What is it that we go on protest ‘marches’?” “Why do we seek out those moments of ‘confrontation’?” When we see that line of helmeted police officers, their long batons drawn; when we experience that lonely thrill of fear, that sudden rush of adrenalin, are we not, in our own way, playing soldiers?

People often ask me: “What’s wrong with today’s young people? Why aren’t they protesting like we did?” My answer is brutally simple: “Because of what we did” Our generation has reduced those “issues of ultimate significance ” – Roosevelt’s “four freedoms” (freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom from want, freedom from fear) down to just one: the freedom to buy and sell. Once a year, on ANZAC Day, we call forth the dead and invoke the myths that animate our nation. In the half-light of dawn, as the bugler draws out our tears and we “remember them”, remember the living also, and never forget that there are greater things to die for than a balance sheet.

And remembering other young soldiers in other wars…

Abstract | The Daily Post

This week, snap a picture either so close or so far from an object that it stops being what it’s normally seen as.

Source: Abstract | The Daily Post

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Something retro perhaps..? Part of a Golden Age appliance..? An old heater, or fridge maybe…? Shiny…most definitely… Precious…possibly to some…

Challenges like this are a fun way to examine how we perceive objects when they are isolated from their more common associative reference points…

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Like this drain…or is it part of a washing machine SmartDrive…?

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Or the exhaust of the engine that punches this D-21 drone to well over Mach 3…?

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An F-111 of the Royal Australian Air Force performs possibly the last ever “dump & burn” at the 2010 Brisbane Riverfire Festival in Australia. This is the only aircraft with the fuel dump nozzle positioned between the two engines at the back, and with afterburner on, the fuel dump switch is flicked resulting in a giant fireball.

Object | The Daily Post

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

Source: Object | The Daily Post

Draw a picture of a chair by looking at a real chair not a photograph. ~Pre-instruction drawings; Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain; Betty Edwards

I had thought the original task was to draw a picture of any object by looking at it but it was 1999 that I started this so I may be excused for a minor memory lapse. This was the period that I was working closely with Wingnut Films and the Lord of the Rings crew and my uber-latent arty side was being nudged daily. Drawing and screen-writing were the two main areas in which I took an interest up to the day that people started flying planes into buildings…

Being much more comfortable with writing and story-telling, these became my comfort zone and while my interest in drawing remained, my discipline for the exercises waned. I unearthed my drawing pad recently during a clean-out and then, only a week or so, stumbled across the subject of one of those early exercises.

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Wow…seventeen years ago…so much water under the bridge since then…I’m quite keen on restarting this programme…it’s all based on the book so no enrolments or administration necessary just some willpower and motivation…

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Today…

This is the original on which the drawing is based. It has some history.

Until July 1989, this chair was occupied by the Officer Commanding, Charlie Company, the First Battalion, the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, or, in military shorthand, OC C Coy, 1 RNZIR. From this seat, that individual dispensed justice, ‘offered’ guidance to young officers, and oversaw with ruthless scrutiny, the development and training of a hundred or so lean and keen infantry soldiers.

Near the end of 1987, the New Zealand Government decided it was time for its own version of ‘nothing east of Suez’, announcing that the New Zealand force based in Singapore, aka NZFORSEA, would be withdrawn to New Zealand by the end of 1989. This was called OP(eration) KUPE.

The force in Singapore was a legacy of the Commonwealth intervention into Malaya in the 1950s, Borneo in the 1960s and, for Australia and New Zealand, Vietnam. For over three decades, in various incarnations, it had contributed to the secure and stable development of the states of Malaysia and Singapore: rightly or wrongly, the Government felt it was now time to for New Zealand to focus more closely on its immediate South Pacific neighbourhood. Perhaps lost in the political mix, were the second and third order effects of our presence in Singapore, particularly in providing access to prime jungle training areas in Malaysia, and opportunities for young New Zealanders to experience and mature in a foreign culture.

While we didn’t quite get to the stage of pushing helicopters off aircraft carriers – all our helicopters were safely repatriated to serve faithfully for another quarter century…

ABCA Executive Council visit to ATG 001

Still going strong in 2005…finally retired in 2015…

…many items deemed non-essential were fated to remain in Singapore, many destined for the ignominious end of the rubbish fires…

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Burning off pre-RTNZ rubbish

When a whisper on the rumour advised that the company office furniture was due to be hauled away to the tip, there was competition to secure anything worth securing for repatriation as personal effects. the only time I have moved faster was when Trevor Sexton chased me down the final leg of the Burnham fitness circuit threatening to do me an impropriety with his pacestick if I didn’t pick up the pace – that was the first and only time I ever broke nine minutes on the required fitness test 2.4km run.

I seized possession of the chair seconds before company clerk, Steve Carrick, burst into the office, much miffed at missing out. I should point out, in all fairness, that, as company clerk, he already had a pretty nice chair in his own office; as a private rifleman, my issued seating was a camouflaged foot-square piece of rubber thermal mat used in the field.

The OC’s chair served me well through various roles and homes in Palmerston North, Linton, Trentham and Wellington…

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The chair of power in front of the mighty Amiga 500

…but got misplaced in a house move over a decade ago. It has clearly seen better days but I was rapt to find it clearing out a storage unit last week…an object of days gone by history…

 

Fog | The Daily Post

Today’s one-word prompt: Fog.

Source: Fog | The Daily Post

Clouds can form at many different altitudes. They can be as high as 12 miles above sea level or as low as the ground. Fog is a kind of cloud that touches the ground. ~ SciJinks

These one word prompts from WordPress always strike me as quite lazy: if the muses can’t be bothered putting any effort into the prompt, I feel less inspired to apply myself to any response…all too often my response is graphic (graphic imagery-wise, not graphic colourful in the semantic sense!) but while I am set-a-foot for the next week or so, I’m determined to write something once a day, even if it is not in response to that day’s prompt….

Fog here, just is…it is more common than not in the morning, often beautifully so, filling in the low ground and giving rise to impressions of great inland lakes, around which the road skirts – or sometimes descends into…

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On the mountains, it is common for fog to form rapidly, catching out the unwary walker or climber. Often visibility will deteriorate to a point where the next marker pole on a track is no longer visible; or the landmark you are using as a point of reference of exploring off-trail just disappears…

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It is actually quite cool to be sitting up high and watching clouds and fog form in front of you, or below you…often around mid-morning as the sun burns off dew on the rocks from the previous night, the water vapour created will only rise a few metres and then drift off, slowly (sometimes not too slowly) thickening into a thick mist…

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Sometimes it is only a matter of minutes before clear skies are obscured, and navigation is hindered + it is cold in the cloud as well: another trap for the unwary…

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…and from there to here, on the summit of Mount Tongariro, where walkers are wisely waiting for the fog to clear enough for the poles marking the trail back to Red Crater to be visible again…it normally doesn’t take too long…best to wait than to wander off and find you cannot see any sign of civilisation when the fog clears..!

 

AS I SEE IT (15 April)

bronson ross aisi

By Terry O’Neill.

Rugby scrum front row activities can ensure many rugby props do not compare with an internet dating Adonis due to cauliflower ears and noses not centred. But one rugby prop who doesn’t fill these bills bolsters the front row for Ulster, that former local broth of a boy, Bronson Ross.

There’re those with perception who recall the former Irish Bar now known affectionately as Fat Sally’s. The original proprietors were Eugenia and Rob Ross. Eugenia is one of the McGeown clan headed by Anne and the late Jimmy who migrated to New Zealand from Belfast, Ireland, to settle in Oamaru where Bronson was born in 1985.

Bronson left St Kevin’s College and eventually made his way to Dunedin and played for the Dunedin Club, and aged 22 embarked on his OE to Europe. After two years with the Scottish Boroughmuir club, he represented the Spanish Guernica club, and joined the English Coventry club at the start of the 2012/13 season. Bronson’s form came to the notice of Ulster coach Mark Anscombe who attracted him to join the Irish club which included eminent players like Jared Payne, Ruan Peinaar and Franica van der Merwe in its ranks. He made his debut against the French club, Toulon, in January last year, and has currently played 26 games for them. Bronson, now 30, plays tight or loosehead, and is 1.83 metres and weighs 118 kilograms.

But Bronson’s rugby aspirations deviated slightly when online he met Belfast girl, Leanne Reilly. In March last year Bronson and Leanne, on a romantic getaway, stopped at Dundrum castle at Bronson’s insistence. At the top of the tower Bronson got down on one knee. Just tying up his shoelaces, thought Leanne! After their wedding the pair discovered an earlier family connection – their respective grandfathers, Jimmy McGeown and Bobby Reilly, both played for the local hurling club, Davitts GAA in Belfast.

Bronson relishes the opportunity to play top level rugby. “I have always wanted to play at this level and I’m delighted to be part of the best rugby operation in Europe. And my mother is from Belfast, so it’s almost like playing for my second home.

His first start for Ulster against the much vaunted French club, Toulon was significant.

They don’t come any more difficult than against Toulon. When you’re doing the hard yards in the pre-season and you are working your way up, they are the games you dream of playing in. The lads are great, there’s a good vibe, good banter, great facilities, a great place to improve my rugby . . . to earn those starts and to climb the pecking order by right rather than opportunism.

Props are often known for their longevity, uncompromising attitude to their code.

So Bronson, when Ulster has lost its attraction, there could be a place in the North Otago front row!

ENDS

Tongariro – the back way

Wow! I haven’t had such a good day on my own for a long time…

I have two weeks off to consume accumulated public holidays and time in lieu…with three days of fine weather forecast this week, normally I’d be working on the Lodge but this week I’m letting my muse drive me…

Today – and I am trying to write this while the memories are fresh and before I face-plant the keyboard as I am  just a little jaded – to venture up the ‘alternate’ route up to Mt Tongariro from Mangatepopo, across to Red Crater and then back down the Crossing trail to Mangatepopo. It’s probably a by-product of my green journey and its muse that I feel attracted back to the outdoor environment; that, and wanting to get some me time away from people ( natural enough when you work with hundreds of visitors every day).

An early start to make sure I could get a park at or near the Mangatepopo car and I was legging it towards Mangatepopo Hut by 7-30. No pix of the car park: although it wasn’t nearly as chaotic as it can be there were still heaps of people milling around and I just wanted to get underway.

The hut is only about fifteen minuets from the car park. I made a quick stop there to enter my trip into the hut book – you can never be too careful – and away I went…

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Mangatepopo Hut

There is quite a well-formed track that heads off north-eastish from the hut down to the stream. Some parts of the track towards the stream are quite heavily eroded and you need to be a little careful especially when it is a bit damp/slippery, as some of gouges are a metre or so deep. I followed that across the stream and up the opposite slope where the track is still pretty clear. From the sign it is fairly well-used.

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Target for today: Mount Tongariro

The climb up is pretty easy but already the day was warming up well past the forecast 0-5 degrees.

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I had dressed for the the forecast and was already feeling a tad warm so converted my trousers into ‘shorts’ with some judicious folding. Much more comfortable.

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It looks pretty but…

Why do people persist in build cairns in the Park, especially things like that that are purely decorative? Do they not get that it is a national park and the whole is to do no harm. The environment here is very delicate and even moving one rock exposes fresh soil to the elements and leads to the erosion that already devastates parts of the Park.

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Oh, great, people!!!

I was looking forward to some quiet introspection time so the sight of a group following me up was not welcome. I stopped to let them pass me but we ended up pacing each other and then travelling together. They were a group of Duke of Edinburgh students from Thames High School whose objective this week was four summits in four days. They’d missed out on Ruapehu two days previously as the weather had closed in and they’d decided to pull the pin – good move – but had summitted Taranaki and Ngauruhoe successfully.

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The lava flows from the more recent eruptions on Mt Ngauruhoe are very clear from across the valley. When (not if) Ngauruhoe erupts again, the historical lava route has been down the north-western slopes and we’ll need an alternative route like the one I walked today to keep the Tongariro Alpine Crossing open.

You can also see cloud forming off Ngauruhoe as the morning sun evaporates dew off the rocks. The same thing was happening on the other side as we walked up. Many people are surprised by just how quickly cloud can form up here and how thick it can be. As people found once we were on the summit, when the cloud is so thick that you can see the trail properly, the best thing to do is just sit it out.

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How erosion starts 101

I encountered a number of gouges in the surface like this as I climbed further up. There were clearly man-made as some of them ran perpendicular to the flow of water off the slopes. Some of them looked like campers had carved out a little drain to divert water around their campsite; others looked like rocks had been rolled or dragged down the slope. The surface up here is that delicate that interference like this will channel rainwater and cause serious erosion in a very short time.

There is not a trail all the way to the summit but the route is fairly intuitive with only one significant scree slope just below the summit. The trick is to aim slightly left as you approach the peak and this will take to directly to the summit. The climb itself is pretty Goldilocks: not so long that you get into ‘are we there yet?’ syndrome but not so short that you don’t feel like you haven’t done any work. Cresting the summit is really “OMG, we’re here!!”

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Thames High DofE group

 

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The cloud closed in as soon as we reached the summit…

…restricting views to just the top of Ngauruhoe.

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Lunch

Lunch for me was one of my bannofee smoothies and a couple of Jen Rice’s chewy apple spiced cookies – Jen says that two of these cookies are a meal and she is absolutely right: even after walking for three hours, two were more than enough to fill me up. I would have brought one of her turmeric coconut and pineapple smoothies except I’m out of pineapple until my next trip to civilisation.

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As I finished my lunch the cloud closed right in…while we waited for it to clear as it usually does relatively soon, I enjoyed talking with other waiting walkers about the Park, Lord of the Rings – always a safe subject – and the volcanoes.

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A minute ago this was all cloud

Even quicker than it had appeared, the cloud disappeared and it was off down the marked trail to Red Crater

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Skirting around the rim of South Crater down to Red Crater…

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Looking down into Red Crater

Most Crossing walkers had already passed this point so I didn’t encounter too much traffic in the other direction heading down towards South Crater

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A late walker heading up to Red Crater…the route is quite steep and uneven but easily negotiable in either direction so long as walkers take care and watch their foot placement.DSCF9887

Looking back across South Crater: the route up to Red Crater runs about halfway up the ridge line that runs out the left edge of the image…

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Looking down from the top of the Devil’s Staircase, over Soda Springs to the beginning of the Crossing. Mangatepopo Hut can just be made out centre left. The route down the Staircase is quite windy but easily negotiated at speed over most of its distance.

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From Soda Springs to the hut is very flat with many ‘highway’ quality board walks. I always hate this leg as it is, IMHO, quite boring and rather administrative in nature.

Today was the first time that I have been out in the Park for a couple of months. Although the solitude was not as I expected, I enjoyed meeting and talking with other walkers and exploring a path less travelled.

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Target for tomorrow..?

That will probably depend on whether I can get out of bed in the morning…some joints are having a bit of a bitch tonight…