Track Talk – August 2010

track talkWith Amanda Wells – Chief Guide

Lately I’ve been thinking about relative risk. We might assume that our perception of danger is based on objective assessments of quantifiable facts, but experience generally teaches otherwise. I participated in Snowcraft 2006, which concluded with a lengthy descent from a snowcave through gale winds and poor visibility. “Worst experience of my adult life” was not an uncommon description. Five or six months later, I froze crossing an easy Aspiring pass that was coated in fresh powder. My assessment of the risk presented by snow had gone off the logical scale.

Last month, a few of us went up to the club’s Ruapehu lodge for some “alpine refreshing”. Some were practising with ropes and ice tools for climbing purposes, while others were relearning basic crampon and ice-axe techniques. My group went up to the crater lake, and during the long plod upward I realised that snow no longer frightened me in quite the same way, even if I still had no ambition to become an alpinist.

When I come to a river, it’s useful to remember that others in the group might see a challenging crossing in the same way that I saw snow. Or when crossing a tricky bit of rocky exposure, that not everyone will react in the same way. People also react differently to the same obstacle at different times, depending on their fitness, level of sleep deprivation, and how stressed they are. At Queen’s Birthday weekend, I went over the Tararua Peaks (twice, but that’s another story…). On my only previous crossing, they had seemed terrifying; this time just slightly challenging and almost enjoyable. Extensive cabling has been added before and after the ladder since my first trip, but the amount of exposure remains unchanged.

Sometimes you need to push your tramping boundaries, because it’s the only way to find out that the monster-under-the-bed isn’t as sharp-toothed as you thought. Your confidence grows when you attempt things at the edge of your ability range, not when you only do trips that you’re confident you can complete. The trips I remember most (for positive reasons!) are the ones about which I felt a slight edge of fear on the way to the railway station.

This month we’re looking for leaders for the Spring schedule, which contains its fair share of exciting and challenging trips. But they won’t happen without leaders. We have found it difficult to get anyone to lead “leader required” trips on the current schedule (of which there were many). So we’re really intent on getting people to sign up to lead before the schedule is printed. If you’re a member, please consider leading one or two trips, so we can spread the load around. If your leadership skills feel a bit untried or rusty, it’s no problem to set you up with a buddy leader – just get in touch with me. You can find a link to the schedule in the forums at www.wtmc.org.nz or email me at .

And if you haven’t been tramping since you had a child or three, now’s the time to climb up into the loft and dust off your boots and your pack. Because there’s a family trip heading down to Nelson Lakes on August 26-29. It’s time to back up those tall tales that you tell your kids with some real experience of our great outdoors, and build the next generation of trampers!

We’ll be basing ourselves in St Arnaud, and doing daytrips or easy overnight trips from a lodge with dorm and private room facilities. For members it’ll only cost you $167 per adult and $85 per child – a bargain for ferry, transport by club van to St Arnaud, and three nights accommodation all included.

If you are keen or would like more information, please contact .

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