Trust No One. Not even the Department of Conservation

They say don’t trust everything you read online.

But what if that information belongs to the Department of Conservation? Surely that’s a site you should be able to trust when it comes to say, going for a walk, right? As I discovered on Saturday, that’s not the case.I really enjoy bush walks, and two days ago I decided to journey up to Field Hut and Table Top from Otaki Forks.

It was a track I found on DOC‘s website.

The walk in Tararua Forest Park is supposedly “Easy” – defined as the following on their website.

doc-easy

And the walk itself is described by the below:doc-1

doc-2

Sounds like a great walk, right? Unfortunately this information in incorrect. And potentially dangerous for those following it.

Firstly, because the length of time it takes is wrong. At Otaki Forks the signs describe the walk as being 3-4 hours to Field Hut. When you get to Field Hut there’s another sign letting you know it’s another hour to Table Top. The return from Field Hut is 2-3 hours.

That puts the return trip to Table Top at 7-9 hours. Not the 5-6 given on DOC’s website. Those signs at Otaki Forks are correct. The website is not.

Walkers plan their days. They take food and water with them and let loved ones know when to be concerned. A two to four hour difference is huge.

The terrain is also not easy.

Gentle walking. No. You’re going straight up for the first hour. Then you move onto climbing over fallen trees, as well as around the edges of them, holding onto what you can so as not to fall down the side of the ridge. And then there’s the vertical climb up what’s basically a two metre high pile of stones.

Track is mostly well formed. For the first hour only. After that, no. At some points we were only sure we were on the track because of the steep drop either side.

Clearly signposted. No. There were signs at the entrance, and at two or three splits in the path early on. Nothing after the first 30 minutes. And you have no idea how far there is to go until you arrive at Field Hut, where you’re finally told there’s still another hour to go if you want to get to Table Top (which is where the view is).

The Field Hut and Table Top walk isn’t even Intermediate, I would put it at Advanced.

Now, this is not the sort of blog I expected to write.

I thought I’d be writing about planning the day and the beauty of the track, but instead I feel required to warn people about how unsafe the information on DOC’s site is.

I have contacted them informing them of the misinformation and asking them to update their site. I really hope this happens.

On the positive side, some of the scenery is amazing. That first hour though, it straight up sucks. It’s long, steep, and there’s really nothing to look at unless you’re walking backwards, which I certainly do not recommend.

Once you get into the bush, it’s lovely. After 30-60 minutes in there the terrain becomes increasingly difficult. Hell, I broke my running shoes on the way down. (Partly because despite what DOC’s website states, it’s not appropriate footwear for this track.)

We should be able to trust DOC. I’m really disappointed as it could have been a great experience, however the misinformation truly spoiled the day.

If you’re looking to go on one of these walks, talk to someone who has done it before – don’t just trust a website, even one belonging to the Department of Conservation.

Advice for Planning your Trip

Update I’ve had an initial response from DOC and the difficulty level has been upgraded:

Thanks for getting in touch about this inconsistency. I’ve emailed the local ranger to confirm the time, but may not hear back for a week or so depending on when he is back from leave over Christmas/New Year. I’ve updated the difficulty though to “intermediate” as I’ve cross-checked this with an internal system and confirmed that the website is incorrect.
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