Wednesday, February 16, 2011


As a nation, Aotearoa New Zealand prides itself on its outdoor-based give-it-a-go attitude. Along with our natural environment, this is seen as a major contributor to our national identity. Many of this country’s iconic figures (including Sir Edmund Hillary, Graeme Dingle and Sir Peter Blake) were adventurers. Yet, with each new generation, fewer people seem inclined to take up the challenge of continuing this proud tradition.
Ninety-five percent of us live in an urban environment. Our number one leisure activity is shopping. Mention outdoor adventure these days and people are likely to ask how dangerous it is, before shying away from any risk, real or perceived. Our children are the safest they have ever been, yet this doesn’t stop a growing culture in our family and education structure of totally eliminating risk. This is a mistake.

In a purely urban environment there are few opportunities for our youth to learn concepts like responsibility and the relationship between action and consequence. You can’t teach the practicalities of these in a classroom. And you won’t find them on video games or through web socialising. The outdoor environment is an essential part of developing life experience. Outdoor activity equips us to make better decisions back in the real world. We should be encouraging youth into it, not putting up protective barriers. By trying to protect them, we’re actually making the situation worse. The only way to really learn is through experience. There’s a reality that goes with the understanding. Theory based learning doesn’t come close.

Backyard and Beyond is a year-long project to seek and promote home-grown exploration and adventure. By bringing together a group of like-minded, adventurous individuals, we aim to highlight the positive nature of risk. While coming from varied backgrounds, all of the team members have a strong personal ethic in low impact adventure, and recognise the need to continue to strive for this ideal. We also believe that more needs to be done in illustrating the pathways from an urbanising society back into the outdoors.
At the end of the year, the ‘BAB’ team plans to attempt a difficult and prolonged expedition through some of this country’s most remote mountainous terrain. Two significant unclimbed mountain routes will be attempted during the trans-alpine travel. The team has been selected because of their individual strengths. By bringing together a mountain guide/film maker, an adventurer/author, an environmental consultant, a multi-sport athlete and an educator outside the classroom (EOTC), their combined skills will ensure the best opportunity for both a successful and well documented expedition.

The main goals for the expedition are as follows:
1. To attempt a number of difficult adventures throughout the year, where possible documenting and promoting them to help inspire others.
2. To complete a self-powered trans-alpine expedition from Christchurch to Paringa. This will involve 200km of mountain-bike travel and a further 200km by foot across the Southern Alps. Travel will be split into two 10-12 day stages (including bad weather days), with a small rest at Mount Cook Village in the middle.
3. To make significant first ascents of unclimbed mountain faces. Two difficult routes on remote mountains have been selected, and each will offer highly technical challenges to the team.
4. To produce a documentary of the adventure. Utilising the film-making skills of Hugh Barnard and Shelley Hersey, and Paul Hersey's writing ability, this documentary will encourage others to seek out their own adventures.
5. To highlight the need for an adventure ethos and to illustrate positive pathways towards achieving adventures. Included in the documentary will be background footage on training for this expedition in an urban environment and showing small step pathways to considering and achieving adventures in our own backyard. Also, an ongoing discussion will be recorded over the various issues surrounding adventure in this country and how an adventure ethos can be rediscovered.

The Backyard and Beyond team of Ali Scarlet, Hugh Barnard, Jamie Vinton-Boot, Shelley and Paul Hersey would like to thank Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) for awarding it with a Hillary Expedition Grant. This grant has helped enable the team to pursue its goal of seeking and promoting adventure in this country.
SPARC is the national body responsible for supporting high performance sport and recreation, and this is the fourth time it has offered grants for elite expeditions. Backyard and Beyond team member Paul Hersey was a previous recipient, as part of the 2009 expedition to climb Karim Sar (6180m) in Pakistan with top Kiwi alpinist Pat Deavoll. During that expedition Paul climbed to within 1000 metres of the summit, after partially recovering from a debilitating illness at base camp. From their high camp, Pat continued alone, making the first successful ascent of the remote mountain.

In this round of SPARC funding eight teams were selected for the grant, Backyard and Beyond being the only New Zealand-based climbing expedition. Other expeditions include waka ama, caving, kayaking, speed flying and overseas mountaineering.
Recently, team members from the different expeditions met at a Hillary Expedition workshop in Christchurch, along with SPARC representatives, advisors and mentors. Backyard and Beyond team member Paul Hersey attended the workshop, commenting that it was an invaluable experience. ’After listening to other grant recipients talk about their expeditions, it made me better appreciate what we are trying to achieve,’ Paul said. ‘And when adventure legends like Graeme Dingle and Colin Monteath offer advice, it’s like gold.’
The workshop was an opportunity to share ideas and approaches in different facets of adventure. Each expedition faces its own challenges, and having the opportunity to discuss these with peers certainly helped in identifying ways of overcoming these challenges.

Good luck to all the expeditions!

Monday, February 7, 2011

More photos from the Mount Walter trip

Tasman Saddle Hut

                                            Shelley climbing up to Diver's Col

                                        Getting established on the West Rib

                                      Shelley and Kester midway up the West Rib

                                                Happy Jamie topping out

Jamie and I on the last pitch of 'Stuntman and Chronic'

Racing the weather out from Tasman Saddle

...and stoked that the helicopter could come and get us