Archive for January, 2009

Mountain People Who Inspire


Greetings from New Zealand. You’ll start to see articles on this blog under the column named “Mountain People Who Inspire” whenever I or other authors should come across them. 

Londoner Mark Rosen, Wanaka, NZ

Londoner Mark Rosen, Wanaka, NZ

I’m starting this column with an entry on a retired man from England named Mark Rosen. Mark hails from Norfolk, Sheringham which is a fishing and vacation village on the east coast. We crossed paths in the Matukituki Valley when Mark was on his way to fulfill his annual volunteer stint at the French Ridge Hut near the base of Mt. Aspiring. He has been volunteering at this hut as well as Mueller hut at Mt Cook for a number of years.  He’s an inpsiration because of his great attitude about getting out in the mountains, and his ability to continue hitting the trail. He’s a mountain man in the true sense. Getting to the French Ridge Hut is not easy. Once you’ve hiked four hours along the Matukituki Valley, the trail climbs 3000′ in about a mile and a half, to arrive above treeline and at glacier’s edge at the small hut.

I only met him briefly on the trail, and later caught up with him in Wanaka, New Zealand where we asked him a few questions about his thoughts on hut wardening at Mt. Aspiring and Mt. Cook.  
MSI:What do you love most about your volunteering?
MR: I love relating to the people, and hearing about their first impressions. Especially at Mt. Cook when many of the visitors are seeing a large glaciated mountain for the first time. They’re enjoying the beauty of the mountains and for most, this is their first experience of going to a place like that. Their eyes are wide with wonder.  More though, I come back because of the place, the mountain environment, this special location.  I like the time alone too and can retreat to the hut warden’s quarters when need be.

MSI: What do you do in your spare time at the huts?
MR: I like to get out and hike the surrounding routes, read or plug into my ipod and conduct the London Symphony Orchestra or do my aerobic exercises.

MSI: What are some of the challenges of being a hut warden?
MR: Well, in a humorous vein, people tend to ask the same questions over and over, such as,  “How do you get your food and water up here?”, or “How do you get up here?” Depending on my mood sometimes, I like to make my answers more interesting.  I’ll tell a fibb by replying that I bring my food up in big boxes and haul water from the valley floor in buckets. Oh, and that “The outhouse poop needs to be hauled out in containers strung over my shoulders.” Sometimes I might say “I arrive by private helicopter.”
One thing that can bother me is when parties don’t clean up after themselves and leave the hut or toilet a mess. I almost feel as if I need to inquire about their toilet habits upon their arrival, hopefully stemming their bad behaviour. Of course, this is the minority of the visitors, but it does have a negative impact.

When I met Mr. Rosen the second time in Wanaka, I observed at how well grounded and at peace the man seemed. I guess part of it stems from all that time in the mountains. Keep going Mark.

The Power of Place

Matukituki Valley, Mt. Aspiring Nat'l Park

Matukituki Valley, Mt. Aspiring Nat'l Park

The Power of Place
By Randy Richards, MSI Founder

I was debating how I was going to write my first entry from New Zealand. I have already written one article but don’t think it will make the grade. So I guess I’ll write about a magical valley. Oh, I can hear you say, “But all places are spiritual.”  Yes, but, I think there are places where the spirit of the place is so evident it comes over you like a wave.  I think this valley is one of those places. Places like these have a power that is unmistakable, people are drawn to them,  as Boyton Canyon, near Sedona Arizona, or Alta, Utah, and of course Machu Pichu.  All land has an energy, and some places are humming with energy, whether it’s the beauty of the place or the history or both.

NW Ridge, Mt. Aspiring

NW Ridge of Mt. Aspiring

The Matukituki Valley is west of Wanaka , New Zealand in the Mt. Aspiring National Park. The hour drive from Wanaka changes by the mile. The long flat valley with cascading waterfalls begs superlatives.  Mt. Aspiring is the tallest and proudest peak near the back of the long valley. Climbers come from all over the world to do their best on the mountain. But others come to enjoy the valley and glacier edges high above.

In the US, Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods is gaining traction with his important coinage of the term, Nature

A family group arrives at Aspiring Hut

A family group arrives at Aspiring Hut

Deficit Disorder. Here I have observed many families in the valley for their summer vacations.  One group at right, consisted of  two families with a total of 10 children who hung out at the hut and environs for three days. They did steep day-hikes up to the surrounding ridge lines. The four-year-old didn’t make it all the way up on her daddy’s shoulders though.

The hut ranger at Mt. Aspiring Hut in the valley, and greets both climbers and “trampers”  of all ages.  It’s clear that the valley has its hold on many. One volunteer hut warden makes the annual pilgrimage from London, while others I met from New Zealand come back year after year, and others, after some 30 years away.

Amanda and Lindy

Hut Warden and her sister at Shovel Flat

One who has a special feeling for the place is a hut ranger going on her third season. The coveted position is shared by another Department of Conservation employee as well.  The former, divides her time between Aspiring Hut, French Ridge, precariously perched on the valley’s edge just below the glaciers near Mt. Aspiring,  and other huts in the region.  She beckoned me, “You’ll love the place”.  And I did.

The large trees have a way of calling to you.  The winds that caress the grasses on the valley floor seem to create a rhythm that makes us forget the traffic in town.

Double Rainbow from the warden's quarters

Double Rainbow from the warden's quarters

It’ s a good reminder of why we need to get to these places, and of course preserve them. Whether it’s Mt. Washington,  Mt. Shasta,  Alta, or the Matukituki,  get out while you still can. I will still post that previous article with tons of revisions, but here’s a start on my impressions of New Zealand and the power of the place.