Friday, July 18, 2014

Dragonflies and TedX

What do these two have in common? Not a whole lot really but Dragonfly Peak can be found in the Mt Aspiring National Park (close to Wanaka) and Wanaka also just hosted their very first TedX event. As a fan of Ted talks ( I had a look around at Ted events that I might be able to attend. First up for consideration was the Ted Global conference to be held in Brazil next year. Sadly the conference ticket price was USD$6,000 – with flights, accommodation and meals to add to the cost that was definitely out of reach. A colleague happened to mention a TedX event coming up in Wanaka and the ideas started to grow. Wanaka? Hmmmm, close to loads of climbing opportunities.

Before long a plan was hatched, a couple of days annual leave booked, climbing gear packed and we were off to Wanaka via Dunedin. We arrived late at night in Wanaka for a sleep and repack before heading off to the East Matukituki valley on the Thursday morning. Lugging our 20kg packs (ugh) we crossed the (cold) river and set off up the valley with the intention of climbing to below the Albert Burn saddle before setting up camp for the night. That day saw us crossing farmland, wandering through bush and over streams then climbing up through bush and tussock for around 1000m before finding a relatively flat spot by a partially frozen tarn to set up camp for the night as the sun went down. I can safely say it was freezing that night. The ground was quite frozen and there were a few patches of snow around. Luckily we had our alpine sleeping bags and slept in most of our clothes so had a snug night before an early start the next morning. While getting our gear sorted I realised how cold it had been – water stored inside the tent had frozen as had my sunscreen.

Campsite on the first night

A cup of tea and bowl of porridge was appreciated before climbing up to the saddle and the Whare Kea chalet. We positioned ourselves in front of the chalet’s webcam while getting geared up for the climb up to Dragonfly Peak.

When we got back to civilisation we found there were two images of us online from the chalet’s webcam – mission accomplished!

 Whare Kea webcam photo – Mt Aspiring in the background

View of Mt Aspiring from Dragonfly Peak

The climb to the peak was relatively straight forward. We had a couple of stops along the way to take photos including some pictures of a couple of chamois who casually wandered past us. At one stage my climbing partner headed off to clamber over some rocky bits while I found a different route up a snow slope. I thought I had found the easier route until halfway up when I realised the snow quality wasn’t the best and it was a lot steeper than I had first thought. At that stage it seemed a good idea to carry on instead of retreating which I did. We regrouped on the summit and had a break there, taking photos and enjoying the view.

Heading towards the summit of Dragonfly Peak
On the way back down we made the decision to descend down the route that I had climbed. Interestingly it was decreed that the route was much harder and riskier than the rock route. Oops. Anyway, no falls occurred and we continued back down to the chalet for a leisurely lunch on the deck. After an enjoyable lunch in the sun it was time to descend back down to the valley floor to find a campsite for the night.

Descent down the tricky bit

After starting our climbing at 9am we found somewhere to camp at about 6:30pm in amongst the trees. That night there was a rather exciting electrical storm somewhere straight over the top of us – lightning flashes and thunder were happening almost instantaneously. Early the next morning it was time for a quick packup (no time for breakfast) before heading off to get back across the river to the car and back into Wanaka. With no place to shower we got to a café in Wanaka for a late breakfast and changed into more acceptable attire before heading out to Rippon Hall for the start of the TedX event.


TEDx was created in the spirit of TED's mission, "ideas worth spreading." It supports independent organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community.

 The Wanaka event was the 7th TedX held in New Zealand and possibly the smallest with a limit of 100 tickets. Participants were encouraged to meet up with others so we were asked to add something about our interests onto our nametags. That provided a good conversation starter and people mingled well.
The day was split into three sessions with breaks in between for conversation and snacks / drinks. The seven speakers were all NZ based and were a diverse bunch – author Derek Grzelewski, retired psychiatrist Ken Bragan, nanotechnologist Michelle Dickinson, blogger Liz Carlson, leadership expert Andrea Thompson, fridge hitchhiker and author Rob Cope and ecologist Steve Sawyer.

After watching a lot of Ted talks online over the past few years I wondered how a NZ event would compare. Certainly the speakers were not as polished but their talks were all compelling to listen to and the audience were certainly engaged, amused and interested through all of the presentations. In addition there were a couple of other Ted videos played – one of which I’d seen before but the other one was of particular interest to me. I’ve been working on a bit of a proposal around a Wellness programme for Redvespa and the content of the talk ( has led me to pause and think about the content of my proposal. The talks from the Wanaka event will be available in the near future on Youtube.

The only downside to the event was the constant thanks to sponsors that was required between every talk / video / performance. That was pretty tiresome as the day wore on. Apart from that, the entire day – the venue, the talks, the entertainment, the food and the people – gave me a real buzz.

Overall I’d recommend attendance at these types of events as well as watching Ted talks online – they certainly provide a wealth of information and a hefty measure of inspiration. There are TedX events scheduled in Auckland (16 August), Tauranga (14 July) and Christchurch (1 November) and I’ve also heard that there will be an event in Wellington too although this has not yet been scheduled. If you’re able to get a ticket, get along to one of these events for an inspirational time. Tickets for Wanaka were just over $100. Totally worth it for the talks as well as the food and drinks provided.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Try this one - it's delicious!

One positive aspect of having some time out for work has been the opportunity to try out a few new recipes. It seems a little odd to me to use a recipe to make salad but I came across this one recently, made it, ate it and decided I should share it.

It looks great and tastes even better! The quantity of ingredients isn't critical, of course.


1/4 red cabbage
2 grated carrots
1 large or 2 medium grated beetroots
1/2 cup sprouts - I used a mix of different bean and pea sprouts then also threw in mung beans because they needed to be used up
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped raw almonds

The method is easy - put all ingredients into a bowl and mix.

The recipe had the following dressing :
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp manuka honey

Personally I found this dressing to be too oily so when I made the salad for the second time I reduced the oil to 1 tablespoon, added some lemon juice and swapped the honey for maple syrup. I think you should just use whatever your dressing of choice is.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ernest Shackleton helped me change my attitude

I've struggled a bit with my attitude recently - that's been an outcome of being at home for six weeks and not being able to be physically active - no cycling, no walking up or down hills, no tramping - pretty much no anything. This has been a struggle for me and consequently I've been pretty grumpy. Quite sick of being told to rest up, enjoy my time off work, don't do too much, etc etc as well as being asked "How are you?" - I've found it almost impossible to answer that question with anything positive.

While a few have pointed out things could be worse, my brain wouldn't accept that comment as being helpful. That was until I was given a specific example of what could be worse. Imagine this : being in an open boat in the rough seas of the south Atlantic Ocean, the only food available is dog food, the temperature is freezing and you have a bout of diarrhea. In addition, after each bout of diarrhea, you get to wipe your bum with a piece of ice. That's what faced the men travelling with Ernest Shackleton. In a nutshell the story goes like this : Shackleton and his men on the ship Endurance were trapped in pack ice on 14 February 1915. Their ship was then crushed by the ice and sank on 21 November 1915. They camped out on the ice until 8 April 1916 when they took to their three lifeboats which they rowed to Elephant Island arriving there on 15 April 1916. It was during this time rowing to Elephant Island when the above scenario happened. The journey didn't end there. If you're interested, the book, Shackleton, by Roland Huntford is a great read about Shackleton's polar expeditions.

The whole experience they went through sounds dreadful but that one description about the diarrhea sunk into my grumpy brain and made me think that my situation is certainly not so bad. So I am on the up mentally but, please, resist the urge to ask how I am or tell me that the time will pass quickly - words like those could see me sink back into my grumpy quagmire.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

News flash - I won a scholarship

My big news is that I have been successful in attaining a part scholarship to attend a High Alpine Skills Course in the Mt Cook area in January. The scholarship was offered by the NZ Alpine Club and sponsored by the Wellington and Auckland Women Climbing groups. The course is a fantastic opportunity to learn some new skills (of specific interest to me, they cover off glacier travel and crevasse rescue as part of the course) that will be of tremendous benefit to my own personal climbing as well as adding to my skillset for teaching other people. I'm particularly interested in encouraging other women to either take up climbing or take the next step in their climbing. With my memberships to Mountain Safety Council and the Wellington section of the NZ Alpine Club I'm in a great position to enable this.

I've been catching up on some reading recently (prior to knowing about the scholarship) and have just finished reading a book about Bill Denz and also one written by Karen Gazley - both climbers. Both books were a great read. I found both books, to some extent, inspiring but not to the point where I would want to emulate Bill Denz. I think my personal approach to risk is somewhat different to what Bill's was.

With the course lined up for mid-January, my summer is shaping up to be a great one. Hopefully I'll get some climbing in before the course at the Alpine Club annual climbing camp which is taking place in the Hopkins Valley. Prior to Christmas some forays up into the hills for some tramping will be the plan - time to get lean and mean, ready for climbing.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Four in a row - tramping fun!

Recently I learned I would be physically out of action for a period of time - this was a blow as I had plans to be climbing Mt Aspiring in November and this plan would now need to be shelved. As might be expected of me, my reaction to an enforced period of inactivity was to ramp up my weekends for the remaining period with some tramping trips.

As with all our trips we had several backup plans in place in case the weather didn't play ball. Plan A for the first trip was to head up to Mitre Peak in the Tararua range for a spot of snowshoeing to take advantage of a recent southerly blast. This would have been a strenuous but fun trip. Sadly the weather gods threw a curve ball with rain and gales on the tops so the trip ended up being an easy wander in to Mitre Flats hut for the night and back out the next day. The positive for the trip was having the hut to ourselves - the previous two occasions I've been in that hut have seen an overflow situation with people sleeping on the deck and camping outside.

Waitewaewae slip
Trip 2 went according to plan with a pretty average weather forecast being wrong and being delivered two lovely sunny days. The plan was a walk in from Otaki Forks to Waitewaewae Hut (also known as YTYY or Y2YY) on the banks of the Otaki River. There had been recent activity on the long standing slip which made for an interesting few moments of near-terror as we scrambled across that. The decision was made towards the end of the tramp in to take the dry weather (wet feet) track to the hut. With scant information we headed off for that and took a bit of time to figure out that meant a walk across then up then across the river. The final river crossing was chest height in frigid water - luckily the hut is right by the bank of the river so dry clothes were soon available and the fire was kicked into action to warm us up. Again we had the hut to ourselves for the night. The walk out the next day was uneventful although the decision was made to take the wet weather (dry feet) track back out to avoid a morning dip.
Otaki River - looking benign.... and cold

Trip 3 was a less than perfect weekend with low cloud and rain. Nevertheless we headed off for a short walk up to Kapakapanui Hut at the back of the Reikorangi Valley behind Waikanae. For the third week in a row we had a hut to ourselves so settled in for a quiet afternoon of reading before dinner and bed. Listening to the rain through the night we wondered how the river crossings would be on our way back out to the cat the next morning. After breakfast and packing up we headed off to walk up over the summit before dropping steeply down to the carpark. The river was a little higher than the day before but still crossable. Lucky. Would have meant a long walk otherwise.
Kapakapanui Hut

Wangapeka slip

Finally we were down to my last weekend and we were lucky enough to be in the South Island. Yet another soggy forecast meant a change of plans and then a road closed due to a slip caused another change of plans. Off we headed, on the Wangapeka Track to Kings Creek Hut for a couple of nights. As with the Waitewaewae track, there was an active slip on this track. And, wow, what a slip!

There are warning signs at the beginning of the track and on both sides of the slip advising that the slip should be crossed quickly, that spotters should be used for falling rocks etc. The slip happened in October 2012 and has partially blocked the river resulting in quite a lake behind it complete with trees that are dying (slowly drowning I guess).

We got through to the hut ok and then it started raining and didn't stop. When we first arrived there we had a dip in the river. By the next morning the river was heavily flooded.

Kings Creek Hut
Five minutes further along the track is Cecil King's old hut. Cecil was a miner who spent a lot of time in the area and his old hut has been restored and has 4 bunks available for people to stay there. It's a cool little hut with an open fire and easy access down to the river.

Cecil King Hut
After a couple of nights at Kings Creek hut it was time to head for home. Despite the continual rain the slip was passable. The next hurdle was a ford we'd driven through on our way to the track - it was dry when we'd driven through it on the way in. After all that rain it was flowing pretty high - lucky we had a rental car. The rain had eased off and you could see that the river level had dropped significantly. Lucky - we would have been pretty stuck otherwise. It's one of the few fords I've seen that has a footbridge alongside to allow people to exit (without their vehicle of course) when the river is high.

So, four tramping trips over four weekends. In all cases we had the huts to ourselves and only saw other people on the Waitewaewae trip. Luxury!

Now it's time to rest up and recuperate in time for some summer trips.