If I could…

DSCF9445.JPG

On the trail to Oturere Hut

…what would I say to any one venturing into Tongariro National Park for a day walk or an overnighter..? I had been thinking about writing something like this after my Brutal post yesterday but this comment on my Carry a Big Stick post from my last excursion up Mt Ngauruhoe pretty much made the decision for me (thanks, Rob!)…

I would start with the weather. I would say to only check the Metservice forecast for Tongariro National Park. There may be other sites and apps that may tell you want to want to hear but only Metservice has trained meteorologists in the analytical loop. The Metservice forecast for the park is only for five days: three in detail for Whakapapa Village at 1135m and Red Crater at 1868m; the last two days in outline.

DSCF8941.JPG

Snow in December

Updates are issued each day around 7-30AM and around midday: each update may be quite different from the forecast it replaces. Do not expect the actual weather to always conform to the letter of the forecast. In the end it is your decision to carry on: if you think the conditions are taking you outside your comfort zone (perhaps too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet, too slippery i.e. icy, too cloudy, etc) stop and think about what you are doing and review your options…

The weather here is very changeable so sometimes even the five day forecast is subject the swings of extreme: unlike the South Island which has long mountain ranges that keep the weather pattern relatively stable, our weather can not only switch just like that but can also manifest itself as radically different micro-climates in close proximity to each other..a couple of years back, two inches of hail were dumped at Mangatepopo without even darkening the blue skies over Whakapapa Village…

Regardless of the forecast, be prepared for four season in one day: a good thermal layer and a good wind- and rain-proof layer, gloves and beanie but also sun hat, sunglasses and sunblock; good walking shoes or boots – not jandals or heels; enough water, at least 1.5 litres, for the day and enough food for the day: good snacky energy food…

So what if something happens…?

In New Zealand, cell phone coverage generally follows the highways : Tongariro National Park is sandwiched between four highways and enjoys reasonable but NOT PERFECT coverage – a lot may depend on the specific model of phone and your service provider – if you need assistance, for example, you are lost, injured or assisting someone else, dial 111 and ask for Police – in New Zealand, the Police are responsible for all off-road rescues. Even if it is an injury: if you are off the road, ask for the Police!!

Three safety questions

Regardless of whether you are going out for a day or overnight, there are three questions you need to ask yourself:

Does someone I trust know what my detailed plans are? Contrary to some myths, this does not have to be someone in New Zealand. It is better that it is someone you trust at home than some bloke you met the night before in the backpackers.

Does this person know when they should expect to hear from me next? Ideally this would be no later than the night you finish the walk. If your trusted person is overseas, be very clear about whose time zone it is that you will contact them.

Does this person know what to do if I do not contact them when they expect and they cannot contact me? If they are in New Zealand, they should dial 111, ask for police and say that they have  a friend or family member in Tongariro National Park on the XXXX walk, that you did not contact them when expected and that they are unable to contact them. Information that it is good for your trusted person to have ready to pass onto the Police:

Your DOC booking number if you are booked into one of the huts or campsites. If you are just on a day walk, where are you staying that night?

Your car registration number. This allows Police to check cars parked around the Park and also to check to see if you may have left the Park and then been involved in an accident somewhere else.

Your cell number – written out not just as a number in an address book: for when the Police ask for the number.

Your Personal Locator Beacon ID number, if you have one. If you do not, especially if travelling on your own, a PLB can be rented for about $10 from various locations around the Park.

Any medical issue you or anyone in your group may have that may have affected your ability to complete the walk and/or that may be useful for a search party to know.

It is quite important that your trusted person does not fall into the trap of ‘Oh, I’ll just give it another couple of hours’ or ‘I’m sure they’re OK, I’ll call in the morning‘. If they do not hear from you when they expect to and cannot contact you they should make the call.

If your trusted person does not speak good English, it is a good idea for you or them to write down what they want to say in English so they can just read it out (www.translate.com is your friend)

If you are the trusted person for someone, don’t waste time playing amateur detective trying to find someone. Under New Zealand law, companies and agencies cannot release information on who may be booked with them or not. All you are doing is wasting time – call the Police and let them do this.

Mt Tongariro Summit Back Route April 2016-005.JPG

New Zealand is a beautiful place and we all want everyone to come here to enjoy it but…

We don’t close things if they might be unsafe: we rely on visitors to make informed decisions against their own experience and equipment. If in doubt don’t…

Don’t believe everything you read on Facebook or hear in the backpackers about what is or is not doable…

Take responsibility for your safety and that of your friends and family…

Have a Plan B…and C and probably D…

There is no view worth a free helicopter ride…

 

Brutal

dscf0650

My temporary office/shelter at Soda Springs, about 1200m ASL

A few weeks back, work was pretty slow, so i decided to go for a walk up to Red Crater to check the ground conditions: even though the rest of the country might have been enjoying Spring, Tongariro weather is always changeable  and even now, almost into December, the forecast promises gale force winds and snow to low levels…

metservice-tnp-27-nov-2016

The original forecast for my day in the Park looked quite nice but turned for the worse overnight…I almost gave it a miss but decided to go up to see how many people also decided to ventured into the mess…I’m always interested to learn where our visitors get their information from and what decision process they apply (or perhaps not) when deciding to venture out into the Park when the weather is less than its best.

The first leg up to Soda Springs was quite pleasant, drizzly but not really cold and just a light wind. I made good time as they were only a very few people on the trail – a stark change from the ant farm of a decent weather day…a few hundred metres short of the Springs, there was a distinct temperature gradient and the light drizzle changed into a quite brutal sleet shower: not pleasant at all. It was clearly snowing further up and I didn’t see much point pressing on…

dscf0651

A guided group preparing to head further up the trail – going with a guide in these conditions adds an extra layer of safety

A group of three that I had passed on my way up stopped for a chat. They had checked the forecast before departing but were unaware that the first morning update comes though about 7-30. The previous forecast had been for nicer weather and improving as the day progressed: the guy leading them had fixated on this improvement and was expecting this ti happen as they worked their way up the Crossing. One of the girls only had a light jacket and was only wearing tight-fitting track pants: it wasn’t hard to see the early signs of hypothermia…dragging feet, slurred speech, diminished motor control…. I suggested that perhaps they might to turn back and get her dried off and warmed up…

I walked back with them to make sure they made it back alright. The guy, Eric, was quite a good bloke and we chatted on that walk back: Chinese he had attended high School in Hamilton and had considered himself reasonably experienced in the New Zealand bush: many weekends he and his fellow boarders had been dispatched  on bush tramps and walks. He was quite annoyed that no one at the lodge they were staying at had warned them about the weather or told them to wait until the morning update before checking the weather.

As we descended towards Mangatepopo car park, and away from tat temperature gradient, the weather warmed up and Eric’s friend improved along the way. Misinformation about conditions and hazards in Tongariro National Park is common. Where information does exist it is more often of a tourism promotion ‘ happy happy joy joy’nature and less of the simple easy to understand bullet points that should be shaping visitor expectations from the time they first consider visiting New Zealand.

All’s well that ends well and Eric and his friends came in the next day to say thank you for the assist.That notwithstanding, there have been some gnarly rescues in this area of the Park, most of of which have been caused by the rescuees aspirations getting a head of their capabilities…

Come visit but be safe…

If we were having coffee

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how great it has been having Mum and Dad come to visit for the last week…we even got some halfway decent weather…

DSCF0485

DSCF0486

Leaving on the Northern Explorer, heading south…

DSCF0464

Louie found a new walking buddy

DSCF0467

A quiet spot in the sun

DSCF0471

Can’t keep some people out of the garden

DSCF0474

Dad discovers the media centre remote…

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how great it has been having people to cook for the last week. Breakfast and lunch are pretty much self-help here but our dinner menu was pretty on to it:

Day One: Roast Baby Armadillo on a potato, kumara, parsnip mash. This is quick and easy. I only made half the recipe but added the full cup of milk to the bread which made it a bit gooey. I fixed this with a half cup of almond coconut meal (left over from almond coconut milk) which a. worked to soak up the extra milk and b. added an interesting flavour and texture twist to the meat loaf.

Day Two: South African Curry with brown rice. This can be made with meat or not but I had 500 grams of mice left over from the baby armadillo and, due to my currently congested fridge space, this was a good way of consuming it.

Day Three: Fruit Salad Curry with brown rice.

Day FourChicken and Potato Chowder. My plan was to have this with homemade bread but I got a bit careless and put into too much water. The result was a bread with a heart so hard it burst out of the when I tipped up the breadmaker bowl.

Day Five: Beets and Goat Feta on Black Rice. This was the first time I’ve made this with raw beets. These worked as well as if not better than the precooked one I snagged form the supermarket last time by accident.I did go over on the olive oil and had to up the honey and balsamic to compensate…it all worke don the day though..

Day Six: Curry Kumara Hash Browns with Salmon and a neat salad. These hash browns are really nice but I’ve never been able to find a decent side to go with them. In the past I have relied on a dodgy rocket salad but I’m not really a big rocket person. Last night I tried a bit of an experimental salad and sauce that worked really – both of them…more to follow on that soon…

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you how impressed I was when the train arrived 15 minutes early on Friday…but then it was almost 15 minutes late this afternoon – life balances out but the lesson is to wait in the cafe with your coffee and the crispy fire until it actually pulls up…

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m humbled to have gained a seat on the National Park Community Board. Elections aren’t until October but the position wasn’t contested so it’s done and dusted. I’ve probably just signed myself for even more work but I’ve got some catching up to do getting into this community. I’ve lived up here since 2004 but it’s only been since I started to work in the Park that I’ve started to get involved…yes, I do miss the Defence travel sometimes but it doesn’t outweigh coming home each night…

If we were having coffee, I’d be telling you how excited I am to be getting into some new ventures in the Park…

Share Your World – 2016 Week 32

Here is the basic Share Your World format:

  • Answer three random questions each week.

  • Respond to a fourth item (I will randomly chose from this list)

  • Answer the bonus question which is always the same  “What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?”  Because we all need to be reminded that there are many things in our lives to be grateful about.

 

If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?

Coconuts. They don’t grow here so it’s not like I can grow my own and they are still pretty pricey at the supermarket but with a guaranteed supply, I’d be making all my own coconut oil, flour, milk etc even more than I am now…of course, in a few months I’d be over it and want an endless supply of something else…

What is the worst thing you ate this last recently?

DSCF0406

Tough question as I eat pretty well, if I do say so myself…I’ve been working to perfect a good (great would be awesome but I’ll settle for good) dairy-free latte. Non-dairy milks won’t ‘pull’ the same way as real milk…this is due to to a lack of protein so adding a half- teaspoon or so of protein powder lets coconut or almond milk froth up nicely using a mechanical frother. Last week, during the trial phase, I made an error in assuming the frother would also serve as a mixer for the teaspoon of protein powder in the bottom of the cup. It didn’t and my coffee was spoiled by a sand-like grit (it was pea protein not dairy) in the dregs  – normally the best bit where the final swirls of coffee and coconut combine…

Are you are comfortable doing nothing? For long stretches of time?

Yes…years of practice…something called ‘hurry up and wait’…it’s easy to zen into a ‘park’ mode, still aware of what goes on but conserving effort and energy ’til whatever happens/arrives/departs/whatever…

List of Jobs You Think You Might Enjoy: Even if you aren’t thinking about a career change, it can be fun to think of other jobs you might enjoy.

Now that I’m back on the Mountain, I gaze longingly at the snow-covered slopes and wish I could ski or climb again…cold injuries are such a bitch and they never really go away…

DSCF0300

These are my favourites…Ruapehu’s too over=populated…

I’d like to have my own cafe…paleo-themed but not pedantically so…I drive past Ferguson’s Cafe in Whakapapa Village every day and the lost potential rubs me so badly…

DSCF0118

I’d love to fly but not for a living

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

Last week, I’m grateful I finally took the plunge and applied for the next Pre-Hospital Emergency Care course. I’ve been avoiding getting back into this game for a while but the more I get drawn into the Park and the District, old flames rekindle. I enjoyed the debate during the Outdoor First Aid course last year and much as I’ve tried to steer away, I think now why not..? So a lot of study to get my head back in this…

I’m also grateful that I took the plunge to run for the National Park Community Board. Again, as a result of being drawn more and more into the District, I’m looking for ways to engage and contribute. Earlier this year I joined the Village Business Association and the Community Board seems like a logical next step…

Next week…I’m looking forward to my parent’s coming to visit for a week…the first time they’ve bee up here in quite some time…been a few changes to this place…DSCF9706.JPG

Also looking forward to some good outcomes from a tactical planning meeting with my lawyers on Monday…one way or another, the battle with the bank hasn’t got long to run…how it will go I don’t know but the new evidence we uncovered in the last week or so looks promising…

 

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

Finally…

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…

DSCF0345

All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

DSCF0346

All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

DSCF0347

All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

DSCF0348

All images (c) sjponeill.wordpress.com

Look Up | The Daily Post

This week is all about taking a moment to check out what’s going on above you. For this week’s challenge, take a moment to look up. Whether it’s the fan above your head at work, your bedroom ceiling, or the night sky, what do you see? Is it familiar? Or does it show you a new perspective on your surroundings?

Source: Look Up | The Daily Post

DSCF0236

Looking up

This dead tree towers over State Highway 4 as it snakes under the Makatote Viaduct between Horopito and National Park Village. I’ve driven this road hundreds of times and only noticed it when i was driving back from my physio appointment yesterday. I’m not sure if it’s the result of a lightning strike but it surely is a candidate for one now…

DSCF0231

DSCF0232

Looking across

The viaduct has been undergoing some serious maintenance the last year or so and the plastic shrouds are to prevent sprays and dust contaminating the environment around the viaduct.

DSCF0248

Looking down!!!

Someone’s clearly had a party!! And dumped the rubbish at the lookout by the viaduct. Most of this is recyclable: bottles, cans, and pizza and beer cartons. That just goes to show how lazy some people are: there is no charge for dumping recycles at the transfer station. Some of the good lads from Downers were there tidying this mess up. A highlight of their day – not!

DSCF0251

One of the problems we have up here is campers who can’t get their heads around the fact that when the bin’s full, the bin’s full and that doesn’t mean they can just stack the rest of their rubbish beside it. A rubbish bin does not denote a dumping site and this is why all the rubbish bins have been removed from places in the Park like Whakapapa Village: put one out and half an hour later it’ll be buried under a pyramid of rubbish bags.

DSCF0252 These apples were dumped at the side of the lookout car park. Sure, they will eventually break down but that still doesn’t making this blatant dumping OK…

As you drive around the Park, and you see dumping like this, take some pics and report it…even better, if you see someone doing this, take their pic and report them…

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.

Raurimu-008

Early morning cloud rests in the low lands around Raurimu.

Tongariro Apr 04 - 1

Mount Ruapehu from the Desert Road

Whakapapa-005

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

DSCF8343

Mount Ngauruhoe from the Chateau golf course.

DSCF9856

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.

Untitled.png

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…

Earth | The Daily Post

Share your vision of our magnificent Earth through your lens.

Source: Earth | The Daily Post

DSCF9880

Red Crater, Tongariro National Park

Yes, I need a camera with a wider angle lens…!

DSCF9985

Tupapakurua Falls Lookout, Erua Forest

DSCF8890

Mounts Tongariro and Ngauruhoe, Tongariro National Park

DSCF0765

Native flax sunset, Tongariro National Park