Tararuas: Marking poles and signage
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.
perhaps Wilderness should publish stories about how difficult the places actually is, and what the risks are. And show pictures of what can be encountered, mist, rain, extreme winds, leatherwood, crappy tracks, mud, mist, rain, wind. etc etc. Unmarked alpine traverses, the lack of easy exit routes, How quick hypothermia can set in, the record of fatalities Instead of the glossy scenic pics of the tops, descriptions of how wonderful it is up there.
Given offline GPS apps are free, and everybody has a phone, poling is mostly outdated IMO. Darren Meyers experience was a great walk, and then he set off to do one of the most difficult traverses of the Tararuas. On Thursday morning he even confirmed his Saturday arrival. How do you stop people like this? Here's a radical idea: add a traffic light to the hut: green, orange, red. If the wind/rain/cold reaches critical levels, the light goes red. Descriptions: 1. Green: no immediate issues. 2. Orange: consider alternative routes, time will be longer. 3. Red: strongly consider staying in the hut for the weather to improve.
@TararuaHunter, I think the [DOC description](https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/wellington-kapiti/places/tararua-forest-park/things-to-do/tracks/tararua-northern-crossing/) is pretty fair. Some quotes: > It is recommended for experienced trampers only, and requires good navigation and map reading skills. > It involves travelling along the open tops. > Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned.
@Berend de Boer I think quite a few would not understand from that DOC info, that there is a high risk of death, if the take they unwise risks. "experienced" is a relative term. Quite a few incidents have involved experienced trampers/hunters. Due to poor decisions. The message isn't getting across Clubs are one place where trampers can be better educated. But its in the glossy magazines and social media where the problem lies, somewhat. perhaps hut information provided by DOC and Clubs could be more explicit? anyway, this might be getting off topic - Tops sign posting PS, problem is, people don't know what they don't know
@TararuaHunter I'm inclined very much to agree with you. Information by itself is not enough, it's experience and example that builds competency. Incidentally that's the only reason why I detailed my own mistakes in these forums. In terms of experience and skill I know dozens of other trampers and hunters way more competent than me, but being truthful about my own misjudgements is a small way to help others get a sense of what can go wrong and what to be alert to. I suspect we've all had our close calls over the years. Clubs used to be the best way to convey experience with minimum risk, but the trend to inexperienced people heading into tough terrain on their own, means you're often only one unwitting mistake away from disaster. I really agree with your thoughts about Wilderness magazine in particular.
darren myers was very experienced, in other parts of the globe. it was his first tramp in the tararuas., his experience didnt translate to the Tararuas well at all. steep slippery tussock, loose steep ground, a route he'd never done before...
@waynowski True enough. I had substantial experience in the Southern Alps and Fiordland before I ever set foot in the Tararuas, but it quickly became obvious to me that it would be smart to stick to club trips for a few years before I dared do any alpine solos in these ranges. And especially not in winter. That's the message which needs to be conveyed.
The tararuas experience is so many things to so many people. There is a large wilderness area which is quite extensively guarded against all forms of human evidence and many other areas where it is quite correct to keep proof of humanity to a minimum which would include track markers poles etc. However on the major routes and near huts markers can save lives. Theres still plenty of places that are set aside for the true bushmen
Poling will never be outdated. It is still prudent to have a system in place which isn't reliant on electricity. Something you don't have without the infrastructure. The person who is desperatley searching somewhere in adverse conditions likely has cold fingers or gloves on and won't want to stuff around with a phone.
It's the mountains people. We have to just accept this stuff will happen. You can't stop or avoid it much like you can't stop car accidents. He found arete biv. A poled route wasnt his problem. The tarrys are no joke its as simple as that.
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