Sunday, September 30, 2007

Death by Day Hike - Part 2

Many on the Tongariro Crossing have never experienced scree before.This month's Wilderness magazine carries a short article that makes a good follow-up to my recent post about the Tongariro Crossing. It seems that the Department of Conservation is looking for new ways to convince people not to take this hike too lightly.

The country's most popular one-day walk is getting a name change to better
reflect the nature and terrain of the track. From October, the Tongariro
Crossing will be known as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
They go on to describe how serious the problem of unprepared and inexperienced walkers has become:

There have been 22 search and rescue events already this year. The track has a
high point of 1886m, but because people can drive to the start of the track
at 1200m, many people underestimate how tough it is and how quickly the
weather can turn.

In addition to the name change, they are adding signs at key points suggesting
that hikers turn back if their fitness is failing or the weather is getting bad.
They are also realigning a particularly tough climb called "The Devil's
Staircase" to make it less demanding.

Another option under consideration is allowing commercial guiding concessions on the track, as a way to ensure public safety. Of course that will only work if the people who are too inexperienced for the walk are aware that they need a guide - and most tourists unfortunately live in a state of denial about these things.

It's times like these I wish New Zealand wasn't so good at marketing it's great outdoors. A quite spectacular walk has now become more or less a tourist concession.

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