Tramping in New Zealand

So here we are…. In winter… yes, I know I’m a genius. At this time of year a lot of people are out mesmerised by the stunning scenery created by snow being around..

Of course sometimes it’s beauty with a bite.  We read in the news about events in our mountains that havent turned out as planned.  From my experience I would say that news is the tip of the iceberg in what is happening out there.  for every serious accident or missing person there are numerous near misses that don’t get reported.  It can be a fine line between things going right and things going wrong.

Enthusiasm can overrule intellect or common sense to take unecessary risks.

People who havent had a major adverse outcome in the mountains may think it won’t happen to them, they will get their way out of any tight fix.  They may have a lot of experience and have managed to get themselves out of many tight fixes in the past.  Their experience gives them a great deal of confidence. But even these experienced people may still one day end up in a serious situation resulting in being lost, seriously injured or heaven forbid, dead.

I was on the Tongariro Crossing last year in March..  the forecast was for 40k winds and cloud, that was in the weather threshold for the shuttle companies to take clients to the Tongariro Crossing.

It was  a forecast. It wasnt a guarantee of what would actually happen with the weather.

I had a new anemometer (wind meter) with me that day.

as we walked up the Mangetepopo valley the weather was pretty mild.  It was a bit windy and cool but pleasant, as we climbed up to South crater the wind all of a sudden ramped up to storm level, blowing in a heavy mist.  By the time we started the climb up the ridge from South Crater up to Red Crater the wind was up to gale force, I measured it at 60k gusting 80k, one gust was 90K. the temperature was ten degrees.  I ended up in full storm gear to stay warm.

Looking around I could see dozens of worried looking people struggling to walk in the wind, a lot of people didnt have many clothes, no wet weather gear, just a wind breaker, no insulation..  At least one person was crying.  I asked a few people knew where they were on the Crossing track.. none knew, no one knew what was ahead, I had to explain to them they still had hours of very exposed travel ahead.  This was all news to them.

Our groups plan was to head to the top of Mount Tongariro which was still at least half an hour away. Given the bad weather we decided to turn back below Red Crater summit.  I wouldnt have been surprised to read about people needing rescuing that day due to hypothermia.  But there was no rescue needed.

There still would have been hundreds of very cold and drenched people walking off the Tongariro Crossing that day. Some of them may have even been in the early stages of hypothermia. Their lives may have been saved by getting into a sheltered vehicle at the end of the trip.

I wonder if the Crossing were a few k’s longer or climbed a bit higher would that tip a lot of people over the edge, and the no of casualties from the crossing go up exponentially

As I write, I’ve just seen a blog writing about preparing for the Tongariro Crossing, so it’s relevant to include this link for further reading

4 thoughts on “Tramping in New Zealand

  1. I think that the point you raise is key — that “I’ve been OK in the past so therefore I am making good judgements.” It’s the same logic as somebody who reverses out of their driveway every day at high speed…right up until they hit a child. We’re not very good at dealing with unlikely events, especially ones that have never happened to us before.


  2. On that, it’s not uncommon to see people, including media, use the word “experience” when they should really be using the word “skill”. Frequently when someone goes missing, media report that they’re experienced, sometimes even only based on what family have said. Experience just means you’ve done the same thing over and over, and perhaps learned (falsely) that it’s safe.

    So, if self-perception is part of the problem, how does one identify that they’re being unsafe before they’ve had an accident? Are there any good objective metrics out there?


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