Your GPS unit or smartphone will probably tell you that it is providing about three-metre location accuracy. This has not necessarily been true because if the solar weather was rough, it could have been up to 100 metres out. In September, LINZ announced that SouthPAN – a system that they have co-invested in, which broadcasts corrections from a satellite to improve GPS accuracy – is now working for non-safety of life applications.

You should now mostly get better than one-metre accuracy in location and three-metre accuracy in altitude. The system is not fully implemented so until later next year it is only guaranteed for 95 percent availability. For me, the much improved accuracy in altitude is going to be welcome on mountain trips.

My old Garmin GPS required a tickbox checked to enable SBAS (another name for this sort of system), but you can look for yourself. I would be really interested to learn backcountry users’ experiences, so please write. Go to SouthPAN to learn more.

Absent Friends

NZAC Southland Section stalwart Bill Gordon passed away in September, aged 85. I learnt some real wisdom from Bill, who was an utterly loyal friend and highly respected climber. As a teenage member of the Southland Tramping Club, he completed the first traverse of Mt Tutoko with Ralph Miller. There aren’t too many tramping club weekend trips like that anymore! Later, he made a point of climbing the virgin Mt Sabre – the last great problem in the Darrans – to beat by a week Hamish McInnes who had come out to New Zealand especially to make the first ascent. Bill’s wry explanation about dealing with the lack of rock protection and their hawser-laid rope on that climb was simple, ‘The leader must not fall’.

Bill’s other gems included, ‘Make sure you climb all the peaks you can see from the road. That way in your old age you can bore everyone in the car to tears as you reminisce your adventures on them as you drive by’. This advice is particularly sage. He found infamy on one tramping club outing when asked to organise the food; not everyone could see the same merit as Bill in having a cold mince pie for each of lunch, dinner and breakfast, or share his belief that anything green was inedible and likely poisonous.

He was a visionary. At the turn of the century, Bill decided that NZAC’s Homer Hut needed an upgrade and he made it happen. There was some resistance at the time as many climbers weren’t then much interested in the Darrans, being ‘too far away’. Indeed, the Auckland Section of NZAC refused to donate any money to the upgrade for precisely that reason, which sufficiently incensed the Wellington Section that they doubled their donation. Climate change and changing rock-climbing interests now see Homer Hut as the second-most used hut in the club.

My long-time viola-playing friend from teenage years (we both played viola in the same orchestra) and former Tararua Tramping Club Chief Guide, Peter Barber, unexpectedly died after Covid this year. I first knew and admired Peter as a senior violist in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, not realising he was also a keen tramper. Later I was most impressed when I saw him accompany TTC songs on his viola to begin a club training course. He played in a string quartet that was keen on tramping, and I remember a memorable talk Peter gave about teamwork that linked string quartet playing with tramping. It worked well. I wish I could write a lot more about Peter, but I simply can’t find the words.

Carbon Footprints

Writing from recent experience I can affirm, to a first approximation, that the tops of the peaks in Bavaria look quite a lot like the tops of peaks in Fiordland when they are in thick cloud. Unless you specifically want to warm up on a bowl of Knödel Suppe back down at the pass, you can save a lot of carbon footprint by enjoying the cloud at home instead of travelling to admire foreign clouds with views no more exotic. My excuse is that I was on a team-building activity with the local space agency.

I find from that a return trip from Invercargill to Paris has a carbon footprint of 5.3 tonnes (of CO2). Put another way, it takes nearly a tonne of kerosene to fly me from Invercargill to Paris – roughly about three fillings of a Hughes 500 helicopter, or (if I calculate correctly) nine or ten seats on the plane would have the same carbon footprint as one Rocket Lab Electron launch out of Mahia to space low Earth orbit. When we fret over our carbon footprint (as we should), we do need to keep perspective.

As an extremely rough guide, burning one litre of any sort of hydrocarbon fuel produces around three kilograms of C02. You can use an on-line calculator if you want to be more precise, noting that high-altitude flights create second-order effects that make things even worse.

More on Fixing Holes

Yacht parts shops – chandlers – sell potentially useful stuff for trampers. Neil McDonald writes that spinnaker tape is the lightest repair material he knows of for repairing those things made of light nylon that get scrunched up. He says he put his first patch on a down jacket five years ago and it is still working well and is hardly noticeable. Sail tape is heavier duty and stiffer, and sail patch cloth is pretty much the same stuff. None of these tapes leave a sticky residue when removed.

Neil adds that both spinnaker tape and sail mending tape stick well, so maybe sail tape could be used to patch holes in tent floors? It is tough, so it would be worth a try, especially as it wouldn’t need stitching or sealing with silicone. He guesses Mylar would work on tents that have funny little clear windows built into them as it is designed to repair the windows in the lower part of yacht sails.


Robin McNeill

This article was re-published from the November 2022 issue of FMC’s Backcountry magazine. To subscribe to the print version, please visit will be regularly re-publishing a number of stories from Uncle Jacko’s Cookery Column here on Wilderlife.