Mt.Arthur weekend and deep survival

My mum recently arrived to visit us for a month and we wanted to give her a glimpse of the Kahurangi National Park and New Zealand outdoors.

About an hour drive from Nelson takes us to Flora Car Park. At 900m altitude, it makes a day hike up to Mt.Arthur (1795m) quite easy. We had another plan in mind though. With two days available, we wanted to do the whole loop along the ridge line and Gordon’s pyramid, spending one night in a hut.

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From a previous hike, I remembered an extremely cute hut that is built into the rock and even features a Hollywood swing in front of an open fire pit!

This should be a great experience for my mum’s first stay in a NZ hut.

The idea was good, but the reality was a bit more damp… literally. It has rained quite a lot recently and the rock, and even worse all the wood was rather moist. The fire provided more smoke than warmth and Mum was cold and uncomfortable. But she endured it well and once Seon played the magic trick of placing a stainless drinking bottle filled with hot water in her sleeping bag, her smile came back.

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The forecast for the next day wasn’t great.

We knew that if we really wanted to bag Mt.Arthur that day, we had to start early. Nevertheless, the morning looked fine and we enjoyed a big breakfast before setting off, rather late.

As the morning went by and we gained altitude, the clouds thickened. We decided to stop for lunch before getting above tree line and soon a light drizzle started.

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Decision time.

Go ahead with our initial plan and face 2-3h on an exposed ridge line above 1500m, with clouds, wind and possible rain showers? Not much point it seemed, with all the bad of a ridge above tree line (wind, cold, exposure), but without the views.. So we decided to backtrack and return the same way we came, well protected by trees. All the way down I kept looking at the sky, wondering if we wouldn’t have been just fine with the initial plan. The showers stopped and even sun came through occasionally. I just really prefer loops over hiking back on the same trail.

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Mum on one of the typical NZ swing bridges

At the same time I’m reading “Deep Survival” from Laurence Gonzales.

Super interesting book about how and why things go wrong in the outdoors, quite often as well for experienced people and even professional guides. Why some die and others survive. He explains what influences our decision making, the working memory, emotions and how our brain makes us see what fits into the mental scheme that we have made up previously and our plans for the future.

On our trip, we were nowhere near danger.

Or better said not closer to danger as you usually are in a remote mountain area. All 4 of us were well equipped with raingear, non cotton layers, food, water and survival equipment to make a fire and shelter if shit hits the fan. But it made me see the value of the book. How hard it is to let go of a plan and abort mission. And how in a different situation, you can easily take the wrong decision, or usually a lot of small choices that end up proving to be the wrong ones and if you are unlucky add up to disaster.

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“Deep Survival” includes a huge amount of real life incidents that make it an surprisingly easy read.

I can only recommend it to anybody in the outdoors. Potentially if things come to the point of an extreme situation, the information of this book might make you think twice and hopefully take the right decisions which sometimes influences over who lives and who dies.

Happy reading, happy adventuring, and stay safe over christmas holidays!

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