There's snow turning back for tramper in awe of winter ranges
As many of us attempt to dodge winter's icy kiss with electric blankets and Netflix playlists, one man who loves the outdoors is puckering up with pack liners, locator beacons and a Jetboil.
The temperatures overnight continue to flirt with freezing, but Luke Evans is undeterred about getting out of the house and into the bush.
Although the list of gear is long and the cold bites at his fingers and toes, the Palmerston North man said tramping in winter was worth every inconvenience for the stunning, stark landscape, and worth the risk of getting stuck in a whiteout atop the Ruahine Range.
Nothing could beat peeling your eyes open on a crisp morning to see the sun's rays reflect off a river streaming past, he said.
"It's just bloody beautiful."
It was a lack of knowledge that got people, including his younger self, into trouble.
When Evans was 17 he embarked on a tramp through in the Ruahines that almost landed him in serious trouble.
Having little tramping experience, he and a friend pounded the rocky track unaware they would spend a cold, sleepless night under a tree.
"We went up the river and picked the wrong fork."
The pair were caught in unexpected snow and were forced to camp under a tree – too tired to continue to the hut.
Wearing all the clothes he had, Evans tucked up close to the bush for a sleepless, icy night.
They survived the night and found their bearings at dawn.
"It was a massive learning curve for me."
Nine years on, Evans still seeks out huts after heavy snowfall, but he is now so prepared he's confident he would be fine even if he broke a leg.
Having quality pack liners and extra waterproof bags was essential, he said.
Small things such as mapping out his campsite with GPS could save looking for it in a few hours' time through waist-deep snow, Evans said.
Department of Conservation Manawatu ranger Kelly Hancock said winter trampers needed to watch out for more severe weather conditions and avalanches.
"Any time that snow and steep slopes are combined there is potential for an avalanche. You must accept that you are taking a risk."
But the general rules people should follow when tramping were the same regardless of the season. Researching the planned route, telling someone where you're going and when you're expected back, and being conscious of the weather were all key.
Although we often like to push ourselves, Hancock said knowing your limits was one safety precaution not to be missed.
DOC did not have up-to-date statistics on track use in winter, but the snow season was typically a slow season.
A Philips Search and Rescue Trust spokeswoman said the Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter had been involved in 10 rescue missions over May and June, down from 20 for the same months in 2016.
Each mission cost more than $8000.