South Waikouiti - Silver Peaks

Part 3:  The War Years and the Post War Renaissance

 

The Second World War, commencing in September, 1939, led to a very difficult period in the Club's history. Although the membership was well maintained during this time, the loss to active service of many of the Club's most energetic young men and women threw an extra burden on those who were left. Nevertheless a steady pattern of Saturday afternoon, Sunday and occasional weekend trips was maintained, and most years an extended Christmas trip was run. Social activities continued, having the added purpose of the preparation and dispatch of parcels to members serving overseas. An important element in the Club's life at this stage was supplied by the arrangements made for the use as a Club Room, every Friday evening, of the Otago, Chess Club's rooms in Lower Stuart Street. This room proved to be of steadily growing importance until it became too small for the growing numbers using it.

About the end of 1944, a new breath of life seemed to come ever the whole situation. The war picture was looking much brighter, and it began to look as if a normal life might shortly be resumed. About this time came a grand crop of new young members who did so much over the next few years to lead a tremendous revival of activity-names like Markby and McLaren, Vann and Lymburn, Burke and Tilly, Shona Hogan and Val McGavin, these and many more moved in to take control of the Club's destinies.

A decision not to run a Christmas trip in 1945 was reversed at short notice, and the result was a highly successful expedition to the Rees and Dart. During 1946, Club trips became even more interesting and better patronised, and the crowded Friday night Club Room gatherings became more and more important. Plans were set up for a Christmas gathering in the Rees Valley; this materialised as a base camp near the Hunter junction, used by upwards of 60 members as a starting point for tramps and climbs ever the whole of the upper valley. Indeed, the considerable number of climbs that were accomplished were later to cause differences of opinion as to what the Club's philosophy should be. R. B. Hamel, who was President at the time, was a man with very strong views and a certain bias against climbing and skiing. Eccentric as he may have been on occasions, he nevertheless played a valuable part in forging a link between the extreme age groups in the Club at this time by joining members of the " under 30" group in an operation to renew and revitalise the whole Club. Dick Hamel had a sense of humour, sometimes acid, sometimes wicked, but nearly always enjoyable. As a lawyer, he gave the Club much useful advice, and he will always be remembered for the 25th Anniversary Dinner at Brown House which he organised from beginning to end. In the words of one of the participants, "Not before or since can I recall having enjoyed better food, better wine, better after-dinner speeches or a better evening. The whole affair was an eye-opener to most of us, and I can well recall my intended requiring two days off Training College to recover from the after effects.

Interest in organised Christmas trips reached a peak in 1947 when no less than three expeditions were planned Rockburn - Olivine, Hopkins and Ahuriri, with 50 to 60 members involved. Gordon McLaren and Murray Douglas climbed Mt Ward (third ascent) - the first major ascent to be made by the climbing enthusiasts. A high standard of safety was maintained on all these trips and no incident of any sort occurred, despite the numbers in the field.

It was during the 1947-48 period that Horace Tilly officiated as President, and, it was under his leadership that the Club's future course was to be charted. During these two years he laid an administrative foundation which, with minor alterations, has been followed ever since. Monthly news bulletins were issued to keep members abreast of current events, sub-committees were appointed to attend to the detailed running of the Club, ski-ing and climbing were put into their proper perspective and given the Club's blessing, and the Rules were amended and brought up to date.

Meanwhile, the pent-up energy and enthusiasm of the active group within the Club had expressed itself in other ways. Green Peak Hut, which had become almost unusable due to the depredation's of pig hunters, was almost wholly rebuilt and became once more a centre of Club activity. Then the approach of the Club's Silver jubilee led to much discussion as to the best way of marking the occasion. The final decision was in favour of a new hut alongside Cave Creek, just above the junction with Christmas Creek; and this having been agreed, much planning and preparation had to be undertaken urgently. A major sledging contract had to be organised to get all the material from Hindon, up to the top of Lamb Hill, and part way down to Christmas Creek; from here it had to be manhandled down to the junction and up to the selected site. Eventually the hut was completed, and its official opening, on March 17, 1951, in the presence of some 60 or 70 members and well - wishers, was an impressive land-mark in the Club's history.

Another important development at this stage was the acquisition of the old Ben Rudd property on Flagstaff. This area had been offered to the Club, and thanks to the generosity of Mr and Mrs W. Stevenson, the offer was able to be accepted. A group of young Club members transported materials and built a hut on the old Ben Rudd site, and a little later this hut was handed over to the Club for the use of all members. Although that particular structure was abused by visitors to the stage where it had to be demolished and replaced by a vandal proof building, it nevertheless made a major contribution to the development and activity of the Club over the last 25 years.

Meanwhile tramping activity - which, after all, was the Club's basic purpose-continued at an ever-increasing tempo. The Silver Peaks country was full of trampers every weekend - the majority being Club members, but their paths crossing a variety of groups known as the "Shakobites ", the Trapperites " and the " Same Old Mob ".

Christmas 1948 saw another Club camp in the Wilkin Valley. Pack horses took half a ton of stores to Jumboland Base Camp and their owner charged £97 for the privilege. Every part of the Wilkin and its tributaries were visited, and several good climbs made, including the first ascent of the inaccessible Pickelhaube in the South Wilkin. Jack Hoskins and Scott Gilkison made a first crossing from the West Coast via the Waiatoto, Pearson Saddle and South Wilkin. The Rees, Dart, Matukituki, Rockburn, Hollyford and Ahuriri were also visited by other parties. Aspiring was climbed by Gordon McLaren and party, and Murray Douglas climbed Mt Cook - the Club's first major post-war ascents.

Nineteen forty-nine was a year of busy activity in many parts of Otago, but for the first time an official Christmas trip was not held. This probably reflected the individual member's desire to go off in smaller parties and put his newfound experience to the test. Many ambitious trips were planned, including one to circle Aspiring and ski across the glaciers to the north into the South Wilkin. Weather unfortunately limited this expedition by McLaren, Lush and Hubbard.

A further Club camp was held in the Hopkins Valley during Christmas 1950, and this was to be the last of its kind for a good many years.

In the Presidential letter to the 1948 edition of " Outdoors, Horace Tilly wrote: " Twenty-five years' activity is behind us, and I feel privileged to call myself a member of our Club with its history. What we do now will be history 25 years hence. Let us follow on from the foundations of the past and use our energy and vitality to create a history which, in 25 years' time, will be respected by future members. That second 25 years is now behind us, and the Club looks forward with anticipation to the next half-century.

OTC / OTMC History 1923-2013

The Early Years (1923 - 30) - The Thirties - The War Years and the Post War Renaissance - The Fifties - The Fortieth Anniversary Celebrations - The Sixties - The Early Seventies - 1973/83 - 1983/93 - 1993/2003