Pike-lets rise to the challenge
James Christie knows firsthand how important outdoor survival skills can be.
The Alfriston School teacher faced a terrifying ordeal when his friend William Pike suffered a compound fracture to his right leg in the Ruapehu eruption of 2007.
Mr Christie was unable to dig Mr Pike free from a waist-high mound of boulders and debris so he tied a tourniquet around his friend's leg in an attempt to slow the blood loss.
He ran for 40 minutes down the mountain in the darkness before coming across a snowcat driver who contacted emergency services.
When rescuers reached the hut, Mr Pike was hypothermic and seconds from death.
His leg was later amputated but thanks to Mr Christie's efforts, he lived to tell the tale.
Now the two friends have teamed up to teach outdoor safety skills to kids at Alfriston School.
The 11 to 13-year-olds are the first in Auckland to sign up for the William Pike Challenge Award, a year-long outdoor programme designed to foster a positive attitude and a passion for being active.
Mr Pike says he set up the challenge to share his love for the outdoors with others.
"After my accident, it was a long road to get back on track and it was the outdoors that motivated me to want to get the leg right and get back out there. That was what really drove me," he says.
Mr Christie says many kids don't realise the amazing natural resources right on their doorsteps.
"We get them outdoors and teach them how to do the stuff properly - things about safety, leaving intentions, that sort of thing," he says. "But the main thing is just to give them an opportunity to get outside and enjoy our backyard."
The Alfriston students - who call themselves the Pike-lets - have certainly done that. They've visited the snow, undertaken a seven-hour tramp - "which was supposed to be five hours but turned out to be seven" - and learnt how to build a bivouac.
They've also completed at least 20 hours of community service each and tried their hands at new skills and hobbies, including juggling, knitting, pogo sticking, touch typing and golf.
Fifteen more schools throughout the country have signed up for the challenge next year and it's growing by leaps and bounds, Mr Pike says.
"But Alfriston School is the first in Auckland to give it a crack and they've done a fantastic job."
● Alfriston School will be hosting An Evening with William Pike on December 4 at the school's performing arts centre.
The event, which will begin at 7.30pm, will see the WPCA Pike-lets receive their awards and Mr Pike give a presentation about his journey - from being critically injured on Mt Ruapehu to his recovery and beyond.
He'll also share personal aspects of his recovery and how he ensures that "every day's a good day".
Entry is by gold coin donation.