Guide never bored in outdoor office

MIKE WATSON
TAUPO REPORTER
Last updated 05:00 16/07/2012
 Stewart Barclay
Supplied

FAMILIAR STRETCH: Guide Stewart Barlcay estimates he has walked the Tongariro Crossing at least 1200 times.

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Mt Ruapehu guiding company manager Stewart Barclay doesn't like to spoil people's fun in the mountains.

But he does like them to eliminate any risk where possible.

Mr Barclay's mountain and river guiding company Adrift Outdoors has been dealing with increasing numbers of overseas visitors walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

The 19-kilometre track attracts about 70,000 people a year - the majority walking the track unguided between October and April.

Because few people used a guide to walk the track during summer, the company specialised in winter guiding trips between June and October, he said.

"We offer an option if people want to be guided but increasingly we see people walking the track ill-equipped and ill-informed of the conditions.

"There are idiots we see who we try and make aware of the risks if the weather turned bad, but without trying to spoil their fun.

"It's frustrating when they thumb their noses at us."

The company, based in National Park and Taupo, averaged guided trips for about 110 days over the winter months.

It is one of 15 guiding concessionaires on Mt Ruapehu and in Tongariro National Park.

Mr Barclay estimated he had walked the Tongariro Crossing at least 1200 times.

"People ask me if it gets boring," he said. "I just say to them, ‘Do you get bored with having breakfast everyday?' "

The initial idea to provide a guiding option in the park came to Mr Barclay 6500 metres up Mt Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Andes range.

"The plan was to have a dinner party on the summit (6900m) to beat a previous record by a group of British climbers," Mr Barclay said.

"We didn't manage it but it opened up a few ideas when I got back home."

The former Auckland film distributor sold his business and shifted to National Park in 1999.

"We started slowly, learning outdoor skills, such as rock climbing, and gaining knowledge in snow and avalanche risks, and joining up with search and rescue teams to get a good knowledge of the area."

From the start he realised the majority of clients would be from overseas.

"Kiwis are not really into being guided in the backyard so most of our customers are from the UK, Europe and United States."

Guided trips are being increasingly booked by Chinese and Indian tourists, he said.

"We design trips for groups anywhere in the park, although our focus is on the Tongariro Crossing."

Guided trips cost between $155 and $295 per person.

Contact Mike Watson
Taupo reporter
Email: mike.watson@dompost.co.nz

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- The Dominion Post

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