Attend the Mountain Safety Council’s ‘Above the Bushline Course‘ and get some good photos!
This course is set ‘above the bushline’, giving participants the skills and knowledge to travel safely and accurately in high country and be able to survive, by building or finding shelter, if caught out in bad weather.
- Safely leading a party over snow, scree, tussock and scrub
- Basic knots and rope management
- Emergency Shelters
- Travel in Steep Terrain
- High-country navigation/route finding
- Weather observations[/box_green]
It had been a little while since I had headed out with the guys from the MSC1, so I was looking forward to a weekend out in the bush, or more correctly – above the bushline.
This course is not so much an introduction to Alpine Tramping or Mountaineering but rather an extension for bush trampers, who want to occasionally stick their heads up above the trees and head along the tops for a bit.
Like always with the MSC, its a great chance to practice your navigation and leadership skills (you all take turns leading, navigating and being part of the the group), as well as test out your equipment and systems in a relativity safe environment.
This course was lead by Peter and Alan, two of MSC’s very experienced bush instructors, and an absolute wealth of knowledge between them.
After heading down on Friday (thanks for driving Liam!) and meeting at the Pub opposite the Chateau Tongariro Hotel, we had some dinner while Peter, seemingly gleefully, let us know about the bad weather coming in. We were to potentially expect some fairly rough weather on the Saturday Night and changed to original plan of sleeping out in the Park, to setting up nearer the Whakapapaiti Hut2, thereby giving us the ability to easily shelter in the hut, should things get too rough. MSC courses are always a good balance of a challenge but maintaining a safe learning environment. It’s challenge by choice – you don’t have to sleep out in a tarp, in a gale, but if you want to try – it’s the best way to do it.
We finished our meals, made a pile of jokes about checking into the Chateau for the night, then headed up to the car park to set off.
The plan was to stay at the Hut for the first night, then head out for some exploration and navigation practice the next day. We walked as the sun set, tramping for a bit in the dark, and got to the hut. After a quick cuppa, we settled in for the night.
The next morning, we set up our shelters – in my case a Exped Vela – well, more correctly, the fly out of the system. I figured there weren’t going to be any mozzie’s up there – and I was going to use the bivy anyhow.
We spent the day practising our navigational skills in limited visibility and wet conditions, including some serious bush-bashing and a great scramble up through some bush to, well, above the bushline! Taking shelter under a tarp, we had our lunch, then headed back toward the hut.
Once back at the hut, Peter took us through some basic rope and knot tying techniques, and then I fumbled my way through a GPS lesson for everyone (I use the thing regularly, but do you think I could coherently explain how to use one?)
Getting back to the hut, we were wet, and ready for a feed. I am slightly ashamed to say I was eating out of a foil bag for the entire weekend – having got back home in NZ at about 2am on Friday morning – a quick trip to Living Simply3 and it was a menu a’la Back Country Cuisine4. I hadn’t had time to get the dehydrator out and prepare some meals. Never mind – BCC meals are actually quite good. And light!
After food and a chat it was time to retire – with us lads heading back out into the dark, not really 100% sure what the night would bring. The weather had apparently settled down a bit, but we still didn’t quite know what to expect.
After what was a fairly snug5 sleep I woke up as the light started to rise over the horizon. Blearily, I looked over, wiped my eyes, to see that yes, I had woke up above the bushline in the snow. Beautiful.
I will admit it, I was nearly giggling in joy as I got up and shot over to the hut to grab my camera to start taking photo’s. I think it would have been one of the few times I was happy to get out of a toasty warm bed into freezing cold temperatures. I spend half hour heading around taking photo’s of everything.
A breakfast of dessert (BCC’s Trifle and Fruit), couple of coffees (trying a new filter system I am working on) and we were ready to go tramping in the snow.
More navigation, more bush-bashing, all heightened by the fact it was snowing while we went. Cold feet soon warmed up, my Ice Breaker socks doing a great job of keeping the toes warm.
On our trip back I was volunteered to ‘break my leg’ in an accident and we ran through First Aid procedures on the mountain, followed by some more rope work and then a short leg back to our cars.
What a weekend. Awesome company, phenomenal weather and views plus a great chance to try a few new things out.
Couple of things I learnt -
- The Vela is about 20mm to short for me. I had my feet touching the fly most the night, but thankfully the bivy kept the sleeping bag dry.
- The Ridgeline Monsoon Jacket I own has a bit of a major flaw – it’s sleeves soak up water like a sponge! Back up under the waterproof outer and right into the insulation and base layers – not good.
- Leather gloves are useless in the wet cold.
- My 5d Mk III happily deals with a bit of water – though I will admit I was nervous for a while in the wet.
- Tramping in the snow is a hell of a lot of fun!
Location: Tongariro National Park.
Grade: Medium – long days, step climbs, some bush bashing – potential for getting cold, wet and tired.
Time: 2 Nights
Party Size: 7
Above the Bushline