Archives For Arthur’s Pass

The kea, named by Maori for the sound of its call, is endemic to the Southern Alps of New Zealand and is the world’s only mountain parrot.

Today’s photo of the week is of two kea in Arthur’s Pass National Park showing off their beautiful coloured feathers.


Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith announced yesterday that $90,000 from the Community Conservation Partnership Fund would go to supporting the Kea Conservation Trust.

This support will allow the trust to continue its work to ensure this endangered iconic species will continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

Photo by Geof Wilson | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

I don’t know about you, but I was in awe when I heard about DOC ranger Guy Mckinnon’s incredible Mt Aspiring climb in the news recently (and even more so when I saw a photo of the peak he climbed—it was stupid, crazy, steep!).

Mountaineer Guy McKinnon.

Guy McKinnon

It got me wondering just how you get to be the guy (no pun intended) who does that. What path does a person take to become a mountaineering legend? So, for all the wannabe mountaineers out there, I thought I’d ask Guy…

Why/how did you get into mountain climbing?

I started day walking and tramping with my extended family on holidays, that led gradually into the alpine arena and on to mountaineering.

This is a pretty traditional path into the activity. A lot of younger kids today seem to just go straight into the harder side of climbing but, by starting out at the grassroots level, I got a very sound set of traditional outdoor values established early on in my life. I’m proud I still carry these with me!

Mt Crosscut

Mt Crosscut

What/where was your first climb?

My earliest mountaineering experiences were in the Arthur’s Pass National Park. I did instruction there with club groups from the New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC) and Canterbury Mountaineering Club (CMC), mainly on the peaks between Mount Bealey and Avalanche Peak.

Looking south along the Bealy River, past Mt Bealy. Photo: Jason Blair | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Looking south along the Bealy River, past Mount Bealy

My first really big trip was over the Ball Pass with the NZAC. It was a big adventure!

Ball Pass Crossing: View from East Side Hooker River. Photo: digitaltrails | flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Ball Pass Crossing: View from East Side Hooker River

What/where is your favourite climb?

I actually don’t have a favourite climb as such, but my favourite mountain would be Mount Sefton.

I’ve had four fabulous climbs on that peak and it has always treated me well.

Mount Sefton and its reflection in a tarn. Photo: Tom | flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0.

Mount Sefton, Aoraki/ Mount Cook National Park

How do you approach training and preparing for your big climbs (mentally/physically)?

Climbing the Central Spur of Elie de Beaumont

Climbing the Central Spur of Elie de Beaumont

Unlike the new breed of lifestyle climbers, I don’t do any training or preparation at all. As an amateur climber I am happy to go out and have a crack, other than that I get on with the rest of my life.

Still, like a lot of us men in the circa 40-year age group, a bit of exercise and dietary caution is needed to ward off that beer gut…

Any advice for young people (or not so young people) who are keen to follow in your footsteps?

Get out into the our amazing outdoors and give it a go—nature has already given you everything you need to walk the earth.

Kicking back in the Tian Shan. Photo: Guy Mckinnon.

Kicking back in the Tian Shan (Central Asia)

Arthur’s Pass recently celebrated 150 years since the European opening of the route that linked the east coast to the gold fields in the west.

The official opening the new Arthur’s Pass Walking Track was one of the events that marked the occasion.

DOC Ranger Tom Williams, writes:

DOC Director-General, Lou Sanson, speaking at the official opening of the Arthur's Pass walking track.

DOC Director-General, Lou Sanson, speaking at the official opening of the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track

150 years ago today (or thereabouts), in a time when an ‘epic’ was just a part of everyday life, the Dobson brothers stumbled across a pass linking the east coast to the gold fields in the west. That pass was Arthur’s Pass.

Legend has it that Arthur’s Pass isn’t named after Arthur Dudley Dobson as such, but rather that someone remarked that Arthur’s pass was the most suitable pass for direct travel to the west.

The name stuck, and Arthur’s Pass became one of only two places in New Zealand to have an apostrophe! (The other is Hawke’s Bay.)

Celebrations of this feat of discovery occurred over the weekend and resulted in the population of the pass swelling by over 400%.

Cutting the ribbon! Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, and Zeb Patterson (the great, great, great, grandson of Arthur Dudley Dobson), open the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track

Cutting the ribbon! Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, and Zeb Patterson (the great, great, great, grandson of Arthur Dudley Dobson), open the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track

Festivities commenced on the Friday night with the unveiling of a bronze kea statue. As we unveiled the taonga, a member of the audience did a sterling haka, and a real kea flew over us.

Arthur’s Pass is one of the best places in New Zealand to see these amazing birds.


Arthur’s Pass is one of the best places in New Zealand to see kea.

In typical Arthur’s Pass fashion, the main attraction—the official opening of the Arthur’s Pass walking track—was accompanied by clear skies and warm weather.

The creation of the new track, however, was no easy feat. DOC staff, and the contractors constructing the track, had to cope with the extremes of local weather.

So far the track has coped with many deluges of rain, gale force winds, blistering sun, a minus 17 degree frost, and a 2 metre snow dump!

Testing out the new Arthur's Pass Walking Track.

Many people took the opportunity to take a guided walk of the track and discover some of the magical flora and fauna of the pass

For those travelling to other places through the Pass, the route travelled has changed significantly from what it was 150 years ago.

Back then the journey took a long time. Once the coach road was constructed (can you believe that they managed to build the road from east to west in one year!) the journey was reduced to four days. Today it is a pleasant two hours to Christchurch, or one hour to the West Coast.

Discover the heritage and fantastic scenery of the Arthur’s Pass walking track yourself. Further information and directions can be found on the DOC website.

Today’s photo of the week is from the Bealey Spur Track in Arthur’s Pass.

The track climbs gently up through mountain beech forest to the base of Mt Rolleston up toward the Black Range and it offers a fantastic view of Arthur’s Pass and the Waimakariri River.

Bealey Spur Track.

DOC is interested in finding out more about your thoughts on exploring the outdoors. Are you an early morning hiker, or a late morning latte drinker? Does camping excite you or frighten you?

Take this quick and easy survey to share your thought on the outdoors – and you could win a $200 Prezzy card as a ‘thanks’ for filling it in.

Photo by Jason Blair | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

To celebrate Conservation Week and this year’s theme ‘Love your parks’, Visitor Centre staff from national parks around the country share with us some interesting facts.

There are 14 national parks in New Zealand, and while Kiwis like to celebrate and show off our beautiful national parks, it is often only when people get the chance to visit that they get to learn about some of the hidden secrets and fascinating histories of these places.

Below is a list of some of the interesting facts and figures that have been sent in by our visitor centre staff who like to pass on these pieces of information to visitors to their area.

From the Franz Josef i-SITE:

Franz and his beard

In 1865 Julius Haast named the Franz Josef Glacier after the Emperor of Austria because it reminded him of his long white beard.

Franz Josef is one of only three glaciers that flow down into temperate rainforest; Fox is the other and San Rafael in Patagonia is the third.

The Alpine Fault Line runs right under the town’s petrol station.

The average yearly rain fall in Franz Josef is almost 6000mm compared to Christchurch, which receives approximately 650mm.

From the Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre:

Arthur’s Pass National Park was the first National Park in the South Island.

Arthur’s Pass village is absolutely tiny, home to only 30-odd permanent residents and surrounded by the 114,000 hectare Arthur’s Pass National Park.

A new plaque on the Arthur’s Pass historic walk was recently put in beside the original lump of greywacke which Ray (above) carved the first symbol into.

Arthur’s Pass is one of only two places in New Zealand with possessive apostrophes in their names (the other is Hawke’s Bay). The Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre takes apostrophe protection very seriously!

Arthur’s Pass ranger, Ray Cleland, was one of the first full-time professional rangers in the country. In 1956 he designed the mountain, beech and river emblem for Arthur’s Pass National Park which he carved into a lump of greywacke.

From Whakapapa Visitor Centre:

The Tongariro Northern Circuit was opened as a Great Walk on the Labour Weekend of the 1992/1993 season.

In 2007 the Tongariro Crossing track was renamed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to better reflect the nature and terrain of the track and to address concerns that many visitors who undertook the Crossing were under-prepared both in terms of equipment and expectation.

The track used for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing has been in existence for many years, but was not called the Tongariro Crossing until much later. Part of this track was previously used as a horse track.

From Paparoa National Park:

The flaggy limestone layers of the Pancake Rocks are unique to Paparoa. They occur nowhere else in the world.

The well known Inland Pack Track follows a track originally formed by gold miners.

The endemic Westland Black Petrel breeds only on the Punakaiki Coast.

From Nelson Lakes National Park:

During the last Ice Age massive glaciers created troughs in the mountainous headwaters of the Buller River. Today these troughs are filled by Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa in the Nelson Lakes National Park.

The last glacial action in this area was between 12,000 and 20,000 years ago.

From the Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre:

85% of Stewart Island’s total land mass is included inside the borders of Rakiura National Park.

Rakiura means “The Land of the Glowing Skies”—a reference to both the stunning night sky phenomenon known as the Southern Lights and the magnificent sunsets that can be viewed there.

If you have any fun national park facts to share we’d love to hear them; we may even be able to add them to our story for the blog!

Every Friday Jobs at DOC will take you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.

Today we profile Arthur’s Pass ranger, Tom Williams.

At work…

Position: Ranger, Visitor Information, Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre 

Castle Hill peak: not a bad climb from Porters Pass, with some pretty cool views!

What kind of things do you do in your role?

Working in a Visitor Centre in such a small community means that you are the first port of call for anyone wanting information—from recreational opportunities to where the public toilets are located.

Because of the size of the village you also need to be able to deal with whatever comes through the front door or over the radio. This ranges from people wanting to find accommodation, to arranging Helivacs for people injured in the bush.

What is the best part about your job?

Arriving for work in the morning and never knowing what the day has in store for you. I do everything from search and rescue and volunteer fire, to a million other small things that need to be done.

I also get satisfaction from helping people connect with the natural world and getting the most from their visit to this cool place.

Releasing rowi (formerly known as Ōkārito brown kiwi) at Ōkārito

What is the hardest part about your job?

Staying indoors while others go out and enjoy the sunshine. That, and people not listening to your advice and doing things that perhaps they shouldn’t.

What led you to your role in DOC?

I love New Zealand and being outdoors, so I guess you could say working at DOC was a natural fit.

Environmental protection and education is hugely important in addressing the issues facing New Zealand and the global community. Working in a role that I can make a positive impact has always been high on my list.

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

There is always so much going on at Arthur’s Pass that this is a hard one. My highlight for the month would have to be helping out with the mountain section of the Coast to Coast and sharing war stories with the other team members. (I am a member of the Christchurch Red Cross Response Team and we are tasked with looking after the mountain section.)

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. Living in Arthur’s Pass. It’s one of the best places to live in the country with an amazing community—it’s always funny going down to the pub and seeing a third of the population down there (Arthur’s Pass has a permanent population of around 35).
  2. Bikes. The feeling of freedom you get from descending down a hill with the wind at your back and the enjoyment I get every time I ride one. 
  3. Having such an amazing and beautiful country to call home.

Biking the length of the South Island – somewhere on the Rainbow Road between Hanmer Springs and St Arnuad – as part of an adventure in 2006, thanks to winning the Gore-Tex Good for Life Scholarship

Three pet peeves

  1. People saying ‘over and out’ on the radio (‘over’ means I have finished speaking and am awaiting a reply, ‘out’ means I have finished this communication).
  2. People underestimating what is required to go venturing into the great outdoors.
  3. People feeding kea.

Possibly the most famous short walk in Arthur’s Pass, Devils Punchbowl

Three foods

  1. Dark chocolate
  2. Fresh coffee
  3. Home cooking!

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Arthur’s Pass. A real kiwi National Park, understated, with huge mountains, amazing scenery and wild rivers and places.
  2. Stewart Island. Bush, beaches and literally tripping over kiwi and deer—need I say more?
  3. Christchurch. Heaps of recreational opportunities on your door step, from cycling, to skiing, and tramping. We are spoilt for choice. The rebuild plans are looking choice as well.

 Favourite movie, album, book

Movie: Good docos such as The end of the line, Foodinc etc

Album: Hard to say, possibly stuff by Dave Dobbyn, David Gray and the likes

Book: Anything by Ken Follett or Dan Brown

Deep and meaningful…

What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?

Life is for living, do what you want and have fun. Don’t be afraid to standout from the crowd and do what you want to do.

Temple Basin – a novel approach to working off the Christmas lunch (Christmas Day 2011)

Who or what inspires you and why?

Anyone that is passionate and cares enough about something to go out there and make a difference. I should also mention my parents for bringing me up to care about other people, the environment, and showing me that small actions can make a difference. My tutors from the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) and the sustainability guru Dave Irwin for helping me see what I want to do with my life.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a kid I think I wanted to be anything from a firefighter to a chef, so I had no real direction until I reached high school and decided I wanted to do something with an environmental focus. As a ‘big kid’ I have narrowed the choices down to how people connect with the environment through urban design and planning.

And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?

My main interest is how people relate to the environment and how we connect with it. Any job that would allow me to work on this would be a bonus, either that or emergency management.

Going through Harper Pass as part of an 11 day environmental journey

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Ride your bike. It won’t cost you a thing, is good for you and it has been proven that trips around three kilometres in length are quicker on the bike than in the car.

Which green behaviour would you like to adopt this year—at home? At work?

At home: Try and wean myself off internet shopping and buying bike stuff that I don’t need.

At work: Remember to turn off the public toilet lights at night when I shut up shop.

If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?

Kea, they are amazing birds and incredibly intelligent. Plus, as kea and Arthur’s Pass go hand in hand, being able to hang out and terrorise this place would be pretty choice.  

What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?

New Zealand has some of the best natural environments on the face of this earth and this is embedded deep into what it means to be a Kiwi. However, if we don’t alter the way we live (car and resource usage) then we are putting these very environments that make us who we are at risk.

Furthermore, tourism is something like the second biggest contributor to the New Zealand economy, and continued environmental degradation would effectively kill the goose that laid the golden egg.