By Naomi Laslett
This trip, in my mind, would be best described more as a journey.
Journey – a long and often difficult process of personal change and development.
This journey had its ups and downs and I think it pushed us all out of our comfort zone. Our group was made up of four people (three girls and one boy). We all had very different personalities and beliefs, which added another level of challenge.
Before beginning our qualifying journey we had completed a few outdoor courses, including Outdoor First Aid, River Safety, and others. We also completed an overnight journey to Pahautea Hut in Mt Pirongia. This was the first time our team was all together. This journey showed us some weaker areas in our team. These were brought out on the second day of our qualifying journey.
For our qualifying journey, we were originally planning to do four days up in Cape Reinga. But due to COVID, we had to change our plans with only one week’s notice. Instead, we decided on doing the Tongariro Northern Circuit. This added stress to the team, as we had to redo our safety forms and route cards.
Our first challenge as a team had occurred before we even got on the track. When we got to the DOC office, they showed us the weather and their input on what would be the safest route. We were planning on doing the circuit anticlockwise, which meant we would be doing the Tongariro Crossing (most exposed part of the tramp) on the second day. This was also the day the weather was the worst. So after a few team discussions and some other inputs, we decided to change our route to doing it clockwise. As a result, we would be doing the crossing on the third day when the weather looked a bit nicer and therefore safer.
Day One went smoothly from there – we went past the Tama Lakes and to the Waihohonu Hut. Day Two was in my opinion the hardest day mentally. All of our issues seemed to come to the surface in the afternoon after we made the decision to go off track to find the Waihohonu Springs. Although the navigation side of it wasn’t too difficult, our teamwork began to fall apart. After an hour of trying to find the springs, we had to make the decision to turn back due to incoming weather (which could reduce our visibility).
Once we were back on the main track and about forty minutes away from the Oturere Hut, we began to fall apart as a team again. We all had to stop and talk about what was going wrong. This discussion helped us all learn to listen to feedback from our team members.
As a leader, especially in the outdoors, I think being able to listen to others and to take on board their advice is an important skill. Already from this trip, I learned that I am a very dominating person and I often tend to talk over people or not listen to their opinions. In this team talk, I was able to listen to others and work out my strong areas and my not so strong areas. After this talk, we worked as a team much better for the rest of the trip.
Day 3 was another difficult, but rewarding day for me. This was the day I was the designated leader for the day. In the morning I noticed my teammate outside crying. So I quietly went outside to see what was wrong and how I could help. I think this made me grow as a person because I was able to calm her down. Like I said earlier, I think/know I’m a dominating person. So stepping down to listen to her problems and trying to understand them helped me to grow as a leader, as I had to show sympathy and kindness.
Another main learning point from Day 3 was when we saw a group of four (two adults and two children) heading up to the Blue Lake. They were not prepared and did not have the right equipment for the crossing if the weather turned bad. After talking to them, they told us they were going to turn around and head back down at 4:30 pm.
Once we got to the Mangatepopo Hut, we still hadn’t seen them come down the mountain. I decided to step up as a leader and walk down to the hut junction to put a note on the track telling them to come to the hut, so we knew that they were okay.
At about 9 pm we still hadn’t seen them, so I decided to make a plan to find them in case they were in trouble. Gerry (our assessor) and I walked down to the carpark to go and see if their car was there. If we didn’t get back to the hut before 10pm, the rest of the team at the hut would come out to help us and someone would set off an alarm for outside assistance. Luckily when Gerry and I got to the carpark, there was no car there. This indicated they had made it out safely and they weren’t still in the mountains.
I think this was when I really stepped up as a leader in this journey. I believe I showed courage in my team, as I was able to organize and work out a plan to potentially help a group in danger. I also made sure Gerry and I were not putting ourselves in danger by confirming we had the right gear/equipment, as well as a backup safety plan (if we weren’t back by 10pm).
Although this was my highlight of the day, I think I learned so many other things. I used the issues that happened in the previous days as things that I could improve on, including on my day of leading. As the leader, I made sure we were having regular breaks so everyone didn’t get too tired. I made the decision to move off the exposed area at the red crater as the wind was picking up, so it would be safer to stop once we were down in the south crater. I also tried to keep everyone’s spirits up by trying to find the positives throughout the day.
Before I left for this journey, I made a goal to learn to understand that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and to try to help support members of my group. I believe I did that. This trip was definitely a learning experience – some of the things I learned on this trip I will carry with me for the rest of my journey into becoming a qualified outdoor instructor/leader.
We’re delighted to share another trip report from recent recipients of FMC’s Youth Award Grant. These grants are awarded four times a year, so if you’re inspired to get some financial support, head over to FMC’s website to apply.