Training Weekend

24-25 February

The location of the training weekend had been advertised by giving two intersecting map grid bearings from other hut locations and it was hoped this  might encourage participants to think about compass use.     For some the weekend was at a mystery location, while for a couple of others  the actual location had been determined.   

  Seven participants came in the club van that departed Pukahu around 8am  Saturday, with one more to make their own way early the following day.     The first stop was the Blowhard Bush reserve off the Napier – Taihape road.     Here participants were put into small groups and given an enlarged section of a  scaled topographic map of the area and had to find marked pest trap locations  along existing tracks, recording the trap designation. Hopefully this might  have conveyed the idea of distance and contour lines.     On completion of finding pest traps, a refreshment break was had at the main shelter  built by the Forest & Bird conservation group.    

 From the Blowhard Bush we relocated to the main Kuripapango campsite reserve,  a further 10 km in the direction of Taihape.     Tents & tarps were setup in supposedly sheltered positions on a slightly  overcast day of light winds and warm temperatures.     

With tents & tarps setup, it was down to Ngaruroro River below the campsite.  Here at the river with boots & day packs containing items in a supposedly  water proof liner we discussed the options in crossing a river individually  or in a group.     If in doubt don’t cross due to swift flow, depth and the noise of rocks rolling  below the surface.     Group crossings were made forwards and backwards:     holding under arm onto adjacent pack straps     holding over shoulders onto adjacent pack straps     linking arms while holding onto a common pole      Following, a demonstration of pack-floating, feet first on ones back, down a moderately  flowing section of river through a small rapid, there was the option for those  willing to get totally wet, to test the bouyancy of their day packs.    

 Later Saturday, after drying out, further discussion was had about:    topographic map contour lines, understanding map symbols, map grid north, magnetic north (and where to find the variation between it and grid north on a map.) , orientating the map to reflect the landscape features seen, using a compass, and  confirming the compass bearing of a landscape feature matches the bearing derived from a map.   We then tested walking along a compass bearing to remain headed in the right  direction: a bearing was taken on a large dead tree about 200m away over rough  ground and beyond light bush. One person using a compass directed another to  walk ahead and move left/right as required while still visible.  Then the person having the compass would move forward to the other person.  The process of using a person as a marker was repeated several times showing  one can walk maintaining a compass bearing.    

 As dusk approached the food, cookers and warmer clothing came out of packs  for a meal around the campsite. The club van turned out later to be a warmer  place to talk and play cards.     Overnight the campsite was battered by very strong changeable winds and rain that  made a mockery of our tent & tarp positioning.     

On Sunday morning after breakfast and packing up amongst drizzle and rain, further  discussion was had about basic handheld GPS use in navigating to predetermined  locations. As a fun exercise orange flag tape had been positioned in different  places within 200m of the campsite and waypoints saved on the GPS unit. Use was  then made of the GPS unit to navigate to and locate orange flag tape.     One final discussion was had about Personal Locator Beacons (PLB’s) and covered:  the need to register the PLB serial number with against owners details, battery life, the steps needed to activate it (no activation actually took place), the need to stay put once PLB activated, positioning on person/tramping gear for easier use in an emergency.     If possible further mark out location with objects that draw attention to your position.     

Next it was back to Blowhard Bush for lunch and to investigate the Troglodyte track that took us  amongst large rocks and under rock overhangs.  Nearby there was also small cave where you had to be a contortionist to enter and  where wetas filled the roof.     All too soon the training weekend was over and we were headed home, arriving mid afternoon.     

Just a reminder, the Federated Mountain Club of N.Z. has published a waterproof book,  Safety in the Mountains, which covers these topics and more.     Thankyou all for contributing and making it a helpful weekend.     Participants during the training weekend:     Jude H, Glenda H, Peter B, Paula K, Denise D, Lindsey D, Simon W, Michael H and Susan L

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