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Outdoor adventures with William Pike

Simple rules for safety when heading outdoors

William is a well-known Shore identity, a sought-after motivational speaker and an accessible role model to New Zealand youth. He was one of two young climbers caught in a volcanic eruption on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu in 2007. William is passionate about the outdoors and education and has worked as a primary school teacher on the North Shore. However, an exit from teaching has seen William set up the William Pike Challenge Award which is a popular Intermediate and Middle School outdoor education programme run over one school year. He is a monthly columnist for Channel Magazine.

We all the know the story of Aron Ralston, the bloke who cut his own arm off when it became pinned against a bolder while canyoning in Utah. His story was first told in his autobiography, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and most recently in the blockbuster movie, 127 hours. Would Aron have been pinned for 127 hours if he had told someone where he was going? 

An event that’s not so well-known, but far more common, took place after heavy rain on the Milford Track. A small party attempted to cross a swollen river, they all made it across, except one. It appears that one tramper became distressed and alone in the river, trying to make it to the other side. Tragically, the tramper was picked up by the waters and swept down stream. Some time later the tramper was found deceased. Would this event have ended differently if the party knew their limits and were aware of the weather?

Much closer to home, a small craft left Takapuna Beach bound for the outer Hauraki Gulf. The weather was perfect, but upon arrival at the destination the wind picked up. In no time, the waves were spilling over the sides and into the boat. It eventually sunk, leaving the occupants clinging to floating objects and each other. They were desperately trying to keep their heads above the water, choking on water from the wind and waves. Fortunately everyone was rescued by the Coastguard. Could this situation have been avoided if the skipper checked the weather forecast before leaving Takapuna Beach? 

The intention of this article is not to point the finger and highlight the wrong doing of the above mentioned. Rather, the intention of this article is to raise awareness for some simple rules that can and should be followed when heading outdoors. 

No matter where we are in the world, in Utah, Fiordland or in the Hauraki Gulf, we’re all susceptible to risk and things can go wrong. Some risk is outside of our control, like tripping over and breaking an arm while tramping. However, there is a significant amount of risk that can be reduced or eliminated. For example; simply checking the weather forecast before setting out on an adventure. 

It doesn’t matter who you are, how much experience you have, and if you’re only going for a ‘quick-trip’, there is one thing you need to know before you go - The Outdoor Safety Code. 

The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council encourages the use of The Outdoor Safety Code across all outdoor activities, sports and recreations. Follow these 5 simple rules to help you stay safe, and you will eliminate a lot of risk before you even leave home;

  • Seek local knowledge, plan the route you will take and the amount of time you can reasonably expect it to take.
  • Tell someone your plans and leave a date for when to raise the alarm if you haven’t returned.
  • New Zealand’s weather can be highly unpredictable.  Check the forecast and expect weather changes.
  • Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience.
  • Make sure you have enough food, equipment and emergency rations for the worst case scenario. Take an appropriate means of communication.

For more information about how you can prepare for your outdoor activity, visit www.adventuresmart.org.nz or www.mountainsafety.org.nz 

by William Pike

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