Tararuas: Marking poles and signage

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This thread branched from "Another missing tramper in Tararuas" on . Explore the branch.

Darren Myers' death breaks my heart. I want to open a discussion regarding marking and signage in the Tararuas. I know there have been other threads that addressed this topic. However, Darren's death highlights the issue for me. Simply, I think all major tops routes in the Tararuas should be poled and bomb-proof signage should be at all major bifurcations. My reasons include the Tararuas are a geographically small range, sit amongst a heavily populated region, are easily accessible, and consist of complex topography that demands a confluence of many factors to allow a tramper to safely negotiate the country. We all have had close calls, and every small grace helped guide us to a safe outcome. If even one of those graces did not appear at the right moment in time, we may have had the same fate as Darren. I think that the addition of thoughtully spaced poles along the major tops routes along with robust signage able to withstand the 7,371kph gusts the Tarrys are known for could help save lives. I know there may be many in the community who may be strongly against this idea, and that's what the forum is all about. I welcome the discussion. Many trampers have a strong passion for the Tararuas and I've often heard cited that the lack of markers and signage is an enjoyable enticement. Rather, "If you don't have the skills, you shouldn't be out there." I do understand and respect those thoughts but shall we hold onto a notion of notoriety at the expense of safety? Many of us have experienced the awesome might of the Tararuas; sometimes it has been exhilarating, sometimes it has been menacing, even dangerous. For Darren on that day, it was deadly. Numbers are only going to increase: more trampers, more international visitors, more everything. Te Araroa runs through the Main Range, and all sorts will be tempted by the storied lore of the Tararuas to explore even more of the Forest Park. Increased markers and signage will not diminish the Tararua experience, but it may help to prevent an increase in the frequency of mishaps as visitor numbers increase. A glimpse of a pole or the hint of a silhouetted sign on a ridge may help a distressed tramper; disorientated, hypothermic, scared, desperately searching for any moment of grace.
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Without quibbling with the obvious merits of your suggestion, there is the less obvious downside that poled routes tend to entice people on into terrain and weather they aren't able to handle. But definitely worth discussing, I'll read other people's view with interest.
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he didnt know what he was up against, if he had a map he would have known there was a route down to arete forks, he had done a lot of tramping overseas and may have thought he knew enough to just take a straight course down, but if he hadnt dealt with slippery steep tussock and the crumbly rock of the tararuas he wouldnt realise how badly it would end... he wasnt anywhere near the turnoff, poles or signs wouldnt have helped him... if you havent experienced the severe wind of the tararuas you would be taken by surprise and may just want to dive straight off the ridge to get away from it...
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I doesn't seem that navigation was the issue, in this instance. (other than (possibly) not finding the bivvy. we don't know that for sure How often is it SAR incidents have arisen due to navigation on the tops? that question needs to be understood. The Tararuas are a bit different, in that because of plenty of alpine travel at relatively low altitude, a number of "classic" trips have evolved. These entail tops travel carrying packs on nearly all of the main ridges . the hut system supports this. so frequently the tops are high risk. and often, theres no quick exit with using these routes. In the past, there has been a strong resistance from the many tramping clubs in the region, NOT to sign post and pole the tops. As @philipW says, there is a risk off more inexperienced people taking on trips that are beyond them I am inclined to agree. Difficult to locate huts like arete should probably have the immediate routes poled. But theres very few huts like that location. Probably poles or signs on key track junctions are warranted. eg, Junction Knob, Pinnacles Spur. But even then, a simple pole or two may be adequate. There been a creeping poling of the tops, by DOC. ie Main Range, Powell Jumbo, Southern Crossing. Even warning signs at natural 'hazards' like BA Pinnacles. If tops poling is going to create the idea that the route is ok for the inexperienced, then my view is no, don't pole the tops. I think theres been a gradual increase in tramping of the interior routes, arising from the easier routes around the fringe. ie Field track, Powell, Atiwhakatu. Herepai, tauherenikau, etc Encourage more, to go further, and where does it end? In places where poling tops is irrelevant. Hypothermia can strike, regardless. PS; there were signs and poles leading to Kime, where Bennington came unstuck as I recall?
> Difficult to locate huts like arete should probably have the immediate routes poled. Thinking specifically about Arete, which is easy to walk past, would you necessarily have to pole the route? Without having thought it through, how about poling a few hundred metres of a perpendicular line to the typical crossing route, so that people wandering around that plateau in what they think is roughly the right direction have a better chance of stumbling on a line that will help to guide them back to it? I don't think it's necessarily such a big thing if the poles are considered an extension of the presence of the hut, as part of its safety role, as opposed to a fully poled route.
Good to see this topic raised in its own right and the ensuing discussion among Tararua stalwarts.
I'm not for it at all. It's the wilderness. I want as little human sign as possible. Its well marked up there. Respect nature and hopefully it will respect you.
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1 deleted post from Gaiters
@izogi "Thinking specifically about Arete, which is easy to walk past, would you necessarily have to pole the route? Without having thought it through, how about poling a few hundred metres of a perpendicular line to the typical crossing route" that's more or less what I was meaning. The approaches only
having poles near huts is a good idea. anyone who's spent much time in the tararuas will have walked in pea soup where your visibility is down to a few metres, running into a poled route near a hut greatly increases your chances of finding it. could also do it near route intersections to people dont miss signs. agreed about poling all the tops tracks, some people are going to follow the poles because it makes it easier for them and removes the doubt you have when you don.t have poles and they'll think less for themselves... you have to think about so much more when you consider your own navigation. it can help keep the less experienced people away from difficult routes if you don't mark them... the problem is today, someone reads about a route online , sees someones blog of them doing it in reasonable weather, and the reader assumes they have the skill set to do it as well. or they dont understand how much the weather will limit your ability to complete the trip. you always have to be prepared to turn back, if you're not, then you are over rating yourself or you are ignorant of what you can be up against...
From memory I think Arete Biv is really the prime hut on the tops which justifies poling in the immediate vicinity. Maybe Kime, McGregor and Aokaparangi qualify as well. All the others are on spots where a well defined ridgeline route makes them hard to miss. And of course I've only speculated that Darren turned back from heading south down the main ridge and missed Arete Biv on his return. There may have been no navigational issue at all, and he intentionally headed down Arete Creek. Although it's hard to understand why, if he did reach the Biv in those conditions, why he would leave it again. Which I have to say would have been a very poor decision in a storm and on your first trip into the Tararuas. But then again the map has little hint of how difficult that creek is, so he may well have just been lured in quite unawares. Ultimately we cannot have the adventure of going into these places, and have total safety as well. The two are just not commensurate with each other.
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Forum The campfire
Started by Gregor
On 14 June 2019
Replies 46
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