The OTMC 30 Years Ago - February / April, 1987

The first three months of any year are normally the busiest on the OTMC calendar, normally due to the annual Bushcraft Course. Bushcraft in 1987 was organised by Spen Walker, and followed the same format as recent years. The main instruction weekend was a 'live-in' weekend at Camp Tirohanga, on the Taieri Plains. This proved an ideal location to teach the basic tramping skills - we had access to a large hall, and plenty of space outside for things like map and compass use, fire lighting and tent / fly pitching practice. A longer map and compass course was organised for the Sunday over the surrounding hills. Bushcraft '87 had 51 participants (three participants remain members to this day - Sue Williams, Rhonda Robinson and Debbie Pettinger).

OTMC Rivercrossing - Outram Glen, 1987
OTMC Bushcraft 1987 - Rivercrossing at Outram Glen (Photo: Antony Pettinger)

Another event held in February was an OTMC regular event for a while - 'Tramparama' was run as a publicity trip to boost membership. There were two trips offered in 1987, one up the Leith Saddle Track to Swampy Summit and return (the track had just been rebuilt and boardwalked in early 1987). The second was a through trip from Leith Saddle to Booth Road via Swampy Summit and the Pineapple Track (this was revised from the original plan of a Burns Track circuit after a group of experienced members had trouble finding the was a couple of weeks beforehand). The current OTMC open day tramp is somewhat based on the original Tramparama concept.

The 1987 clubrooms were located at 261 Stuart St (just above Smith St). This was an old house, owned by the Otago Polytechnic. The downstairs area was a large meeting room, while the upstairs featured a library, a gear hire room (not the small cupboard we have now) and a committee room (with comfy armchairs - they were needed, some of those meetings went for hours!). This building is now long gone - Otago Girls High have now built their tennis courts here. 

Weekend Trips

The weekend trip programme for February to March 1987 included the following trips: Ahuriri Valley, Nevis Valley (joint club trip), Fiordland (Bushcraft optional third weekend), Cromwell Goldfields (Over Thirties), Hector Mountains, Greenstone / Caples and Easter in the Makarora area.

The Fiordland Bushcraft trip was the largest of the trips in this period (47 participants), with a bus being used to drop parties off between Cascade Creek and Falls Creek. Parties were picked up again from mid-afternoon on the Sunday - legend has it that it wasn't until the bus was halfway to Te Anau that it was realised that one party was missing (mine!). We were to meet the bus at 4pm at the Divide after coming along the Livingstone Mountains from Cascade Creek. As it turned out we got there at 4.05pm, and the bus was gone (something about getting a tyre fixed before the garage closed). Somehow we cribbed a ride on the original 'Magic Bus' to Cascade Creek, where we pooled our money. As we only has $20 between us we elected to buy a 6-pack (of beer) and sit in the sun and ponder what to do. As it turned out, the phone soon rang for us (there was only one phone in the whole upper Eglinton area), and Bill Provan came to collect us in a borrowed car.

Campsite on Livingstone Range, Bushcraft 1987
Campsite on the Livingstone Range, Bushcraft 1987 (Photo: Antony Pettinger)

Another big number trip was the Easter 1987 Makarora trip (27 participants). Trips included the Wilkin / Young (in both directions), Cameron Creek and the Fish-Howe-Burke Valley's. One party made a navigation error (I guess) while crossing from Gillespie Stream to the South Young - they camped on a slightly lower pass to the south-east of Gillespie Pass, and made an incredible descent through steep snowgrass, bluffs and bush - taking 7 hours to do so (the marked route takes between 1to 2 hours to reach the valley floor). My own party camped at the Gillespie Stream flats, and knew they were in front of us. Despite the prevalent 'stirring' in the club at the time, we were genuinely concerned when we did not see them all day, or at our planned campsite at the Young Forks. As it turned out, they were benighted about 400m from the forks, perched on a steep track for the night.

Mt Awful from Gillespie Pass, Easter, 1987
Mt Awful from Gillespie Pass, Easter 1987 (Photo: Antony Pettinger)

Day Trips

The Silver Peaks remain our most popular tramping destination (by number of trips overall) - during February to March, the club ran five trips to the Silver Peaks. One trip, run by the Over Thirties group (an early 1970's off-shoot from the main club) was to Gap Ridge. This was a popular circuit of a ridge to the north of Yellow Ridge that led to The Gap, and then returned via Yellow Ridge (then still with short tussock) and MacDonald Road - the 4WD track that led from Yellow Hut back to Steep Hill Road (so you missed out on the Tunnels Track).

Another day trip ran was a 'SAREX' - a Search and Rescue Exercise. In the 1980's the OTMC was a very important part of the local SAR organisation - generally we provided the field teams to search - we were well equipped with tramping gear and could handle most terrain and weather conditions easily. Also, our knowledge of the local tramping areas helped a lot.

There was an active group of 'social' rock climbers in the club at this time - we used to meet every Wednesday evening, and the odd weekend and head for the crag at Long Beach. Nothing too technical - all top-roping via belay.

Rockclimbing at Long Beach 1988 (Photo: Antony Pettinger)

Thursday Meetings

Thursday meetings have been around for a long time (the first club nights were on Friday's, but changed to Thursday's when weekend trips became more common).

The March and April meetings covered a wide range of topics, including: rockclimbing, weather (BC talk repeated), Bric-a-Brac Auction, The Rockies, Alpine Plants, tramping gear (where the owner of the Wilderness Shop unloaded half his shop into the clubrooms) and the normal BYO.


The President in 1987 was John Pohl, with Spen Walker Vice President. Pam Hodgkinson was Secretary, Jane Bruce Treasurer, and Peter Mason was Chief Guide. Bill Provan was our temporary Editor (non-committee), while Antony Pettinger was Membership Secretary, and had recently picked up Gear Hire and Day Trips as Michelle Longstreth (nee Williams) and Philip Jenkins had departed for an extended Aussie holiday.

For some reason, the committee meetings always finished late (10pm would be early, after 11pm not unusual - I remember this because I biked home afterwards). Issues from early 1987 included the following:

  • Trying to get the plantation trees removed from Ben Rudd's (offered $8k from Odlins, most, if not all of this money required to remove them)
  • The cost to insure the old Leaning Lodge was $94 for an insured value of $17,000 (amazing figure, but based on replacement, not worth!)
  • We had 103 full members, 19 postal, 11 postal married, 25 married couples and 3 juniors (+ Life and Honorary Members)
  • Green Hut water collector (in creek below hut) is cracked, we have also been asked to remove mattresses from ABC Cave
  • Agreed to publish an Outdoors Magazine (three years in on - '85 to '87)
  • A proposal to raise the door charge from 30 cents to 50 cents was defeated
  • The auction raised $161
  • Agreed to maintain Big Hut in preference to Leaning Lodge (Big Hut at this stage was owned by OUTC - OTMC commenced discussions to obtain the hut in April 1987)