Friday, June 20, 2008

Pukeamaru's 'riverteering'

Riverteering is a new sport halfway between boulder hopping and canyoning, requiring less equipment, skill and dedication than the latter and less agility than the former. It primarily exists of finding a likely creek and walking your way up it shrieking and jumping in pools and lying in the sun. This particular adventure took place in the Pukeamarus on the East Cape and starred four very absurd people Steve, Kathryn, Penny and Jamie.

Absurd is my word for the month. Theres actually quite a coherent philosophy called absurdism. Heres the crux:

For Camus, the beauty that people encounter in life makes it worth living. People may create meaning in their own lives, which may not be the objective meaning of life but still provides something for which to strive. However, he insisted that one must always maintain an ironic distance between this invented meaning and the knowledge of the absurd lest the fictitious meaning take the place of the absurd.
Anyway some reasonably absurd photos.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dairy and Deforestation

I sent a letter to the listener today with the general subject of deforestation, dairy and biofuel. Somethings been bugging me recently about how high and mighty NZ can be about its world leading agricultural systems...and now our sustainable biofuel source through tallow. I reckon its only a quirk of fate and timing that has given us this opportunity, and we should be grateful for it.

"It's not that I support the importation of Kwila or deforestation of the worlds last 'paradises'. But isn't it time we get to grips with the irony that the Kwila deck chairs we laze on while downing our favourite lagers often rest on rimu floorboards and boxing. Just as our 'booming' dairy industry and wider agricultural sector rest on the gross deforestation of our country in the last one hundred and fifty years.

When Paul Kerr (letters) and Sarah Barnett (ecologic) discuss the true cost of dairying and the tragedy of bio-fuels, they could continue to note that both the dairy industry and our government are harvesting the proceeds of deforestation through 'dairy pay-outs' and 'sustainable' bio-fuels created from agricultural waste. In a globalised world, it is perhaps the treasures, biodiversity and carbon of places like West Papua that our government and largest company should seek to protect rather than our milk prices and false carbon conscience."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Alpine Mountain Marathon

I just wrote this up for Endurance Sport magazine. I am deliberately trying to break the adventure sport reporting mould. Lets just call it a more holistic approach.

Competitors in the Inaugural Alpine Mountain Marathon traversed the rugged edges of the newly formed Hakatere Conservation Park, ploughing up the slopes of Mt Somers, twisting through the streams of the Stour and the Swin before cascading from the slopes of the Clent Hills to the finish on the glassy Lake Heron.

Mountain Marathons can best be described as competitive tramping races. Teams, self sufficient with shelter and food, journey through wild terrain using their endurance, cunning and bush skills to edge ahead of rival teams competing to reach the overnight campsite first, and then the finish. It's orienteering writ large, rogaining with racing, adventure racing without the complications.

With the success of the government's tenure review programme huge new areas are being opened to the public in the back-country of the South Island. Opportunities for tramping, hunting, mountain biking and 4WDing are expanding quickly, while the potential for more exciting events whether they be commercial or not for profit, that can help to alert the outdoors community to these new possibilities is massive.

The Alpine Mountain Marathon set out with this purpose to showcase the brand new Hakatere Conservation park a vast area of rugged hills, rivers and wetlands centred on the Ashburton Lakes Region famous for its high country stations such as Erewhon and Mt Potts. The Hakatere conservation park includes the popular Mt Somers Area; replete with its unique geology, startling canyons, and startled skinks but unfortunately without its once famous sauna; as well as the nationally important O Tu Wharekai wetlands.

However the brave competitors didn't know this when they rocked up to cathedral square on a rainy Saturday morning. The location was a mystery only to be revealed by a nervous bus trip (shouldn't all event organisers internalise the transport costs and ensure environmental efficiency?). As the bus headed south the skies quickly cleared and by Rakaia the foothills could be seen clearly with a light dusting of snow. As the bush headed through Mt Somers and hung a right the Woolshed Creek start was revealed. A quick briefing and the teams were off into the beech forest.

They were soon to find this was a navigation event with an interesting twist. The organisers had chosen several interesting areas to map in fine detail, an old mining area, a giant cascade of boulders (otherwise known as the water caves), and the scenic environs of a hut where an interesting feature was an array of 44 gallon drums fashioned into dog kennels. It was straight into the old mining area, with checkpoints scattered through the flotsam and jetsam, and trolleys and sluicings.

Courtesy of course planner for the day, adventure racing world champion Chris Forne, it was then straight up the tussocky talllused slopes of Mt Somers, although not before the depths of Watershed Creek had been plummeted for a waterfall control. Out of the blocks quickly were the favourites, Aucklanders surprisingly. Phil Wood of Lactic Turkey fame is one of the countries best navigators while Ross Rotherham has been known to do well in the odd multisport race, including that little one in February they call the Coast to Coast. They were followed by a bevy of top outdoors people; the Prince family was out in force, West Coast nut bar Tim Sikma was grinning and suffering, while World Rogaine Champion Dennis de Monchy was looking mean.

Down off Mt Somers and the Aucklanders maintained a slight advantage having mastered the maze of the water caves. At Woolshed creek hut organisers were ensuring all teams were disinfected for didymo before they headed off west into the Stour catchment and around the fringes of the O Tu Wharekai. The metaphorical journey began here; a change of horizons from the wide deforested expanse of the plains to the flickering golden mountainous basin. Te Wari of the Waitaha trod this land once spreading the Mana of Aotea Roa, forging the connection between the people and land. An age ago, but a moment ago in the vast landscape that greeted teams in the setting sun.

The long traverse of the Manuka range took its toll on competitors, many greeted the moon before they finally collapsed at the idyllic campsite and warm fire of Double Hut. By moonlight the silhouettes of the mountain ranges fringed the horizon and as the sun rose the first rays of light struck the Arrowsmith range across the valley on the other side of Lake Heron. Teams brewed up again for breakfast or just sat watching the sunrise. The Aucklanders still lead the long course “the Classic” while Colin and Chris Dixon were in front in “The Charmer”.

The idea was that the Classic would challenge even the most hardened teams, with cut-offs available for those who couldn't handle the pace. In the event no team finished the full course, creating a challenge for future years. The Charmer on the other hand was meant to be, well charming. A navigation challenge in rugged and beautiful terrain for older, younger and less confident competitors. An opportunity to smell the rosehip if you wanted to. From the get go on the second day this was achieved. After teams recovered from the surprise of micronavigation at the start, the Charmer teams traversed towards the mouth of the Swin while the Classic teams quickly thought up strategies to make the most of the time available. Many completing a loop along the Longwood range before returning to Double Hut and ascending the steep ridge to access terraces high above the Swin.

Early movers were the team of DeMonchy and Robert Jarvis. A bad error early on day 1 had reduced them to also-rans but they were determined to make ammends, opening up a 10 minute lead through brute physical force. High up the Swin river as it narrowed and Clent Hills saddle loomed teams were forced to make choices over which checkpoints to chase, the highest checkpoint carving across the scree at about 1800metres intimidating many. Jelly legs from the day before forced many to retreat tumvling down the true right of the Swin joining the Charmers on the alluvials fans and terraces feeding into Lake Heron.

To the finish and it was the mornings leaders who held their nerve to be greated first by the stink of the BBQ then by the happy organisers. Also worthy of mention were Aaron and Lara Prince mixed winners of the Classic course and second overall. After a relaxing afternoon, complete with a "mountains" and "marathons" quiz to decide the spot prizes provided courtesy of Montrail. The bus rolled off back to Cathedral Square, leaving the lake and the mountains lying in the sun. To check more photos and results look at

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Goth Party

The guy is my flatmate, and the girl on the left, I think thats Kenny Pane...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Karyn's Christening

Some of my favourite people: Aaron, Sara and Baby Karyn at Karyn's christening during February at the Arthurs Pass Chapel. They're off to Sweden now, Aaron via the Primal Quest in America. Friends dispersing over the world is a sad part of life these days.

The chapel at Arthurs Pass is a very spiritual place integrated into the surrounding bush with the light and sound flowing in from the bushy cascades through the nave.

I don't often notice many cultural differences with Sara (maybe its because I am blind to it!) but there is definitely an interesting different relationship between the Church and the people in Sweden, largely perhaps because the Church and the State were only seperated this century. Swedes like their religious ceremonies: "68 percent are baptised, 60 percent are married and 87 of funerals are held in church." even though less than 1% attend church regularly. I couldn't find the figures for NZ but would suspect despite much higher church attendances that the baptism (or christening) figure would be much lower...

A highlight ofthe ceremony apart from the smiling Karyn was Sara's brother in law Anders singing very well the traditional Swedish hymn's that go along with this occasion.

The christening and the gathering at the bach afterwards was a great occasion with a nice mix of family of friends who will be part of Karyn's community as she grows up. And also doubled as a celebration of Aaron and Sara and their relationship in lieu of the wedding in Sweden in September which many will be unable to attend. Good luck guys we'll miss you heaps.

Guatemala Blog Link

My rationalisation is now complete. Was thinking I might reload all our Guatemala blog onto this new site, but a link will suffice I reckon kiwis chasing quetzals!

The Barker Hut Fiasco

Have been meaning to write this up for a while....

Basically got myself wrapped up in a little storm in a teacup a few months ago when walking into Barker Hut we found a few dudes who had tried to call a helicopter....the full story can be found on the great website run by Graeme Kates. The facts on this site are all good, except that the climbing party, which I was a part of failed to climb Murchison cause I was too wussy.

You can read about Graeme's issues but the one that has really stuck in my mind is how the situation illustrated the disconnection between the mainstream news media and the outdoors community in Canterbury. The Press just didn't have a clue. As most people who have been around for a while know, there will always be punters in the bush, but you don't go putting them on the front page.

Seeing these guys described as top mountaineers, really hit home to me how little the general public knows of the exploits of some of the fantastic outdoors people from this province. In fact the only time they hear about them is when they die, or when they are rescued. Its a pretty sad state of affairs.


I've gotta say. Robin Judkins autobiography "Mad Dogs...A life on the edge" is a pearler. Finally dug it out of a mates bookshelf up at Arthurs Pass recently and curled up on the couch to read it, while the others went Coast 2 Coast training. It was raining.

You can't help but love and hate the guy (more on his character later) but the narrative captures you and as an adventurous type you can't help but want to be there at his imaginative early events, the Alpine Ironmen, the Xerox Challenge and the early days of the Coast 2 Coast. Through these events Judkins challenged and changed the populations perspectives on adventure sports events. It was possible to go Coast to Coast in a day and it was possible for everyday people to travel the length of the country in a month by foot, bike and kayak. Judkins busted down the door for adventure sports events.

Judkins presented the multisport dream to the masses. TV adds, documentary, news. It was at one time common to see Judkins and his sporty sidekick Gurney, doing something ridiculous to promote multisport and themselves. The doco made about the 1987? Alpine Ironman is priceless. Skiers, kayakers and runners wiping out to the Chris Rea soundtrack. It can now be found on youtube, falsely? labelled the 1981 Alpine Ironman. I remember as a kid watching in the evenings as Gurney battled with John Knight in the Xerox Challenge. It was brilliant.

Now theres plenty of people who think Judkins is a bastard (this is the character bit)and that the Coast to Coast is ridiculously overpriced (these two concepts are often related) but heres my take, for what its worth having never met the guy.

1) the people who express this are often self important athletes who have probably asked him for a free entry too early in the morning

2)Judkins and the Coast to Coast have created an industry. Both directly through the Coast to Coast and the outdoor event culture he blazed the path in. Kayak manufacturers, retail stores, other event organisers, arthurs pass hoteliers, cycle stores, etc have all made a killing off Judkins.

3) he has given countless people new ideas on what they are capable of

4) Judkins deserves the money. Wealth should go to wealth creators, not those of us who drag on their coat-tails. The Coast to Coast is fairly priced, other newer events are far more dubious, and theres a few retailers around who should definitely be boycotted

Good on you Judkins for showing us the way and also for filling in the time it took for my friends to run the Mingha/Deception, kayak the Waimak, cook dinner and bring me a Speights from the fridge. At worst you're an interesting bastard.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Crossing the Ditch

Those boys deserve their kudos and great to see the people of Taranaki get out and welcome them. The journey made the front page of national papers around the country, for web coverage from the Herald see here.

I have been one of an estimated 500,000 people checking up on their progress on the expedition website, with the video logs and gps expedition tracker providing amazing coverage.

I think this coverage, probably combined with the tragic death of Andrew McCauley, so close to Fiordland last year, helped capture the publics imagination. This is definitely a lesson to learn for contemporary adventurers. Gone are the days when odd news flashes and an expedition book down the track are going to build a fan base and attract sponsors.

The Aussie boys also did the small things right, website footage of them, training, designing/making their vessel "Lot 41" and otherwise preparing reflected well on them. Likewise transtasman relations were improved by their kiwi friendly references to Phar Lap, Kia Kaha and Sir Edmund Hillary. They seem like humble, strong young adventurers, great ambassadors of the Aussie adventure community. Good on youse diggers.

(I have since discovered another interesting write up on the "crossing the ditch boys" at Bob McKerrows blogspot)

Sir Ed and how lucky we are

Sir Ed was not my hero. I remember a childhood spent scrounging around the bookshelf in the hall devouring the adventures of Herzog on Annapurna, Charlie Upham during the war and Dingles expedition on Jannu's "Wall of Shadows". The blue bound statuesque copy of "Nothing Venture, Nothing Win" was always there, but never won the battle for my attention. Sir Ed was mainstream. He was in the newspapers, on the TV, and in the every day discussions around our dinner table. My reading was devoted to escapism, to heroic figures on the edge of society, to myth. Sir Ed was very much real.

I finally read some of Sir Ed's books in the last few years. The experience was nostalgic, familiar, like the smell of a favourite old armchair. His narrative voice echoed my conscience, reminding me of the ideals I am directed to strive for as a New Zealander. Be humble, Be strong, Accept new challenges and Give passionately to those in need. Sir Ed inherited the roughcast of these values but through the actions of an amazing life, beset by great tragedy and adversity, inadvertently sculpted them into something beautiful.

Through his humility, Sir Ed is an inspiration to all those New Zealanders at work unseen in their communities. Through his strength he is a benchmark for all those toiling to achieve their goals. Through his willingness to accept challenges he gives hope to our innovaters and adventurers that a kiwi can do anything and through his work with the people of Nepal he is a figurehead for New Zealanders out there in the world helping those less fortunate.

Sir Ed is now my hero. I am now prepared to accept his moral compass. How lucky we are to have a hero, that lived to a great age and fulfilled his lifes work, layering his early achievements with humanity and wisdom. How lucky we are to have a hero disassociated with political, religious and corporate power structures who can be a shining light on our future path. How lucky we are to have a hero that will only grow in stature as he charges hellbent into myth, god-willing and crevasses permitting.

(this and the next few posts are from another blog I started that faded out quickly)