Newsletter, March 2016


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PRESIDENT's PIECE > Keep Your Powder Dry


A couple of recent trips in the hills provided me with some reminders of the pleasures and follies of our wonderful pursuit. Here are a few gems of wisdom that I have gathered from these trips and others. I offer them in the spirit of instruction, not destruction. Some of the follies are my own; others by tramping friends who shall remain nameless.

It is axiomatic that some of our trips will be conducted in less than ideal weather. Even careful prior study of weather maps cannot preclude all risk of wind and rain for multi-day trips. I believe an unduly cautious approach to trip planning detracts from the totality of our experience in the hills. The changeable New Zealand climate indeed offers challenges and also some rewards. But we should always follow the Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared.”

The generally clement weather in Nelson does tend to lull us into sloppy habits that can come back to bite us on trips in the Western ranges. Here are some elementary points to reduce the pain and increase safety on multi-day trips under persistently wet conditions:

Pack liner – an essential item but wear and tear leads to small cuts and pinholes that are disastrous under heavy rain. A full pack functions like a lung: your walking motion ‘breathes’ water into the compressible pack and items therein. Replace your liner frequently, even when it appears okay.

Sleeping bag stuff bag – standard nylon bags are not water proof and even a little water getting into a pack is drawn like a magnet to the bag. (Trying to snuggle into wet down is not nice.) A heavy duty plastic bag can be bulky and difficult to seal. A better option is a kayaking wet bag. These are now available in sturdy but lightweight woven material and have an effective but compact sealing system.

Parka – Modern parkas based on Gortex or other proprietary membranes are lightweight and breathable, but tend not to be completely waterproof under persistent rain, especially in the bush. Clean and
re-proof your parka regularly and replace when useless.

No cotton – Cotton underwear and tee-shirts quickly absorb rainwater and sweat, are slow to dry and provide little insulation. Hypothermia can arise under mild conditions, especially with wind. The core body is the key to keeping the extremities warm. Make sure you use wool or synthetic layers, even in summer, as these provide some insulation when damp. And carry some spares.

Tenting – it is a challenge to keep gear dry in wet conditions including the making or breaking of camp. Modern nylon tents with flies do not generally leak much if in good condition. But care and discipline are essential so tracking of water into the tent and gear is minimised. A pack cover is excellent, so the wet pack can stay outside the tent. Minor leaks and condensation lead to water pooling on the tent floor. Use your parka as an extra sheet to protect the foot of your sleeping bag. Have a small dish cloth to wipe up damp surfaces, including skin.

Food – A diet that suffices for a summer day trip won’t provide adequate energy for a multi-day trip, especially in adverse conditions. Always carry some extra food to allow for an extra day’s delay. Surplus muesli bars should suffice for further days.

Navigation – this can be very challenging on untracked routes in poor conditions. A map and compass are always good but the map should be in a sealable plastic bag with the key area visible. A GPS can also be useful but it is essential to be able to use it properly. Carry enough spare batteries. GPS apps for smart phones have similar features but battery life is short and they are not waterproof. Plan the route in detail and set up key way points before venturing out into the storm. Microscale navigation in difficult terrain is still dependent on individual experience. Finally, key decisions should be shared with the party.

Happy tramping, rain or shine!

Pat Holland,


PUB NIGHT @ The Honest Lawyer

Date: Monday 7 March. Place: 1 Point Road, Monaco, Stoke.
: 7.00pm

Catch up with club members and talk about upcoming trips.

Bring along maps and ideas so that we can fill the programme for the next couple of months.

Email: Kate Krawczyk for info.

CLUB NIGHT @ Nelson Intermediate School

Date: Monday 4 April. Place: Nelson Intermediate School staffroom, Titipahi Street, Nelson. Time: 7.30pm. Speaker: Mark Graesser

To the Dragon’s Teeth with James Mackay in 1856: exercise in vicarious tramping

James Mackay Jr, then in his 20’s, explored the mountainous hinterland of Golden Bay on three expeditions in 1856 & 1858. During these trips, Mackay named such features as Mount Olympus, Clark River, & the Diamond Lakes. This talk will focus on the first trip, to the headwaters of Aorere River, based on a close analysis of Mackay’s reports in relation to today’s topographic knowledge, with computer mapping & display tools. There will be a briefer account of two subsequent trips to the headwaters of the Takaka.



The filmmakers set out to make a film of the 2014 Everest climbing season from the Sherpas’ point of view. Instead they captured a tragedy that would change Everest forever. At 6.45am on 18th April 2014, a 14 million ton block of ice crashed down onto the climbing route, killing 16 Sherpas. This movie tells how the Sherpas united in grief and anger to reclaim the mountain they call Chomolungma.

Tickets are $20 each. All profits from ticket sales support the Himalayan Trust. Book on-line or at State Cinema Nelson.


WEEKEND 16–17 April / Flora Hut

Graeme Ferrier & Ian Morris are busy with planning, negotiating with DOC & ordering materials for the next stage of the renovation of this historic hut during March. Silvano has generously agreed to line the second bunk room.

We need a few volunteers to do the painting & clean up.  Even a half-day contribution will be welcome.

Contact Ian Morris for further info.
Phone: 546 478


It is imperative that we fool-proof a few systemic loopholes in our policies. So: If you’ve borrowed our PLBs for a club (or private) tramp:

Email your trip intentions to:

Pat Holland, Lawrie Halkett AND Chris Louth before leaving.

They are the SAR contacts, especially if the hire shops are closed, (e.g. after 4pm.) In a SAR situation, the police will want to know the names and details of your party.

SAVE TIME... don't re-invent the wheel:

Download & print out the Intentions Form PDF from our website.

SNOW TRIPS... here's the rule:

In snow, all members of the party must carry ice-axes & crampons, and know how to use them.

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