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Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club - History

1993 - 2003

(This article updates previous articles by Ron Keen, 1923-73, Richard Pettinger, 1973-83 and David Barnes, 1983-93)

The AGM in August 1993 marked the completion of 70 years of continuous activity for the OTC/OTMC. Antony Pettinger was elected to a second term as President, along with an experienced Committee to run the club. Among the topics discussed at the AGM was an old favourite, the future of the annual 'Outdoors' magazine. A later Extraordinary Meeting . The Annual Dinner was held at the Botanica Restaurant commemorating the 70th anniversary of the club.

In September 1993 the OTMC enthusiastically supported the Department of Conservation taking over the ownership of the Otago Central Rail corridor from Middlemarch through to Clyde

Another first for the OTMC occurred in November 1993 - a kayak trip to Lake Manapouri. Led by Justin Calder, this trip has become a popular trip for the club, sometimes combined with a mid-winter trip to Moturau Hut on the Kepler Track.

After the success of an earlier mid-week trip to the headwaters of the Mavora Lakes, Ian Sime led a second expedition to the area in October 1993.

A Pre-Christmas social was held at the Mt. Fortune Woolshed behind the Razorback Range. Although the weather could have been kinder, the weekend was enjoyable. A few keen trampers climbed Mt. Fortune itself on the Sunday.

To conclude 1993, Elspeth Gold organised a second OTMC Pantomime in December. The event can best be described as memorable.

1994 started well financially with a grant from the St Kilda Tavern enabling us to purchase First Aid Kits, a snow shovel, billies and fuel bottles as well as some guide books for our library.

After a low number of participants in 1993, the club's Bushcraft course attracted 29 keen participants. Antony Pettinger was again the Director, with the course format following that of recent years. The course was notable for the very inclement weather during the Silver Peaks Weekend. The continuous rain combined with the ever present mist on the tops made for a very miserable trip for everyone. Both the participants and the leaders learnt a great deal during the weekend - some participants decided that tramping wasn't for them, while the leaders, with the benefit of hindsight, decided that the weekend should have been postponed. One party was beaten back by the near zero visibility at The Gap and were forced to retreat to ABC Cave and spend a second night in the 'Peaks. A reconnaissance search party met them (in glorious sunshine) near Yellow Ridge the following day.

Another event that affected the OTMC in early 1994 was 'The Big Flood'. A lot of the areas we tramp in were subjected to flooding on a scale not seen for a long time. The Routeburn Track alone was out of action for months, with the Army called in to help repair the section between the Glenorchy Road-end Shelter and Falls Hut. Other areas were also affected, such as the Ohau valleys, the Hunter, and some Makarora valleys. The effects can be still seen now, with some area's receiving little or no maintenance over the intervening years.

Anzac Weekend 1994 enabled the club to run a highly successful 3-day trip to the Eglinton Valley and environs. Led by David Barnes, 40 people travelled by bus to their drop-off points for 3 days of late autumn tramping. One party took advantage of the fact that the Milford Track had just entered the off-season, meaning that this legendary track could be tramped without pre-booking.

The Department of Conservation consulted with the OTMC during 1994 regarding the club's views on signposting the tracks in the Silver Peaks. The club believed that signposting should be confined to the outer fringes of the reserve, leaving the inner section from Green Hill to The Gap largely signpost free. The club agreed that significant track junctions like Yellow Ridge/Rocky Ridge should be marked with a metal standard, but otherwise once you pass the Green Hut site you need to rely on your experience. The club also promoted the upgrade of the Hightop/Green Hut Site/Possum Hut/Hightop circuit as a possible solution to lesser experienced trampers venturing into the Silver Peaks area. To date, this has not happened.

Social evenings continued to be well supported, with one night in 1994 particularly standing out. We were lucky enough to have Peter Hayden as a guest speaker. Renowned for his work with Wild South and Natural History, Peter gave a fascinating talk on the journey along the southern 45th Parallel during the making of a television series.

The 1994 AGM saw the start of a discussion on transport for weekend trips. The method of using mattresses on top of the packs in vans was deemed unsafe, so an alternative was sought. By using seats in the back of the vans meant that an alternative method had to be found for transporting the packs. After a long drawn out period including 2 EGM's the decision was made to use a trailer to carry the packs. The St Kilda Tavern again helped us out with a substantial grant towards the purchase.

The club continued looking for new places to visit. The Albertburn Valley was chosen for the 3-day Waitangi Weekend in 1995. Trevor Deaker was the leader and several parties visited the area from different directions, including a crossover from the Wilkin Valley. The Albertburn Valley was one of the valleys hit hard by the 1994 floods, with most of the lower tracks washed away and the Albertburn Hut rolled up into a steel-clad ball by a slip.

After the good number of 29 participants in 1994, Bushcraft '95 attracted 14 people. It is thought that one of the reasons for the decline stems from the changes in peoples working hours. The introduction of the Employment Contracts Act meant that many people no longer had a traditional Saturday/Sunday weekend.

At the 1994 Annual General Meeting, Peter Mason was elected life member of the OTMC.

In July 1995 Bruce Newton led a return kayak trip to Lake Manapouri, a role that he has excelled in over the years.

Two motions presented to the AGM in 1995 were bound to generate discussion. One was an attempt to increase membership of the club by reducing the annual subscription by 50%. This was not carried. The other motion regarded another AGM favourite - the Ben Rudd/Flagstaff property. The motion supported disposing of the property. After some debate it was decided to retain the property…in the meantime.

In a one-off trip for the OTMC, Barry Wybrow organised a crossing of the Copland Pass. Titled the Champagne Copland Crossing, the logistical nightmare turned into a memorable trip for the participants. Unfortunately Paul Bennington was struck by a dislodged rock and had to be flown of the mountain.

The debate at the AGM regarding Ben Rudd's prompted renewed interest in the property, with a harvest of Christmas trees from the property being sold prior to Xmas '95 as a fundraiser.

1996 saw a debate regarding the cost of trips. The outcome was that all weekend trips using hired vans shall be the same cost, regardless of destination. As it has turned out, the club still more or less breaks even in running the weekend trips.

December 1996 saw a group of club members practising river safety skills in the West Matukituki. Mountain Safety had introduced some new crossing methods which were being practised on this trip. The OTMC Bushcraft has taught the updated methods ever since.

Bushcraft in 1997 was unusual in that the course was not run, the only year the course hasn't gone ahead since the 1960's. The course was to be a joint venture between the OTMC and Mountain Safety Dunedin. When course numbers failed to reach a set number of participants the course was cancelled. The OTMC held an instructional evening, prior to taking the interested ones on a tramping trip to the Greenstone / Caples area.

1997 also saw the running of the 25th Silver Peaks Marathon. Interestingly, it was 'won' by Dick Brasier, who had also won the first Marathon in the 1970's.

Trip numbers declined sharply in 1997, with several trips being cancelled, including the normally popular Easter trip. On the upside, the club visited Mt. Somers for the first time in a while. The Mt. Somers area has now become a very popular destination, with the last bus trip run by the club going to Mt. Somers.

A sub-committee comprising Robyn Bridges, Peter Mason, Wendy Brasier, Dave Still and Antony Pettinger commenced planning for the 75th Anniversary of the OTC/OTMC, to be held during August, 1998. A feature of the planning was a 'coast to coast' traverse of the lower South Island. Starting in Big Bay, trips were to be held throughout 1998, culminating in a trip to St Clair Beach.

The OTMC went 'high tech' in 1997 with the launch of the OTMC website. Our presence on the Internet has resulted in a lot of queries to the club, and several new members.

The issue of the Ben Rudd property arose again in the latter part of 1997. A proposed programme of weed spraying costing $9,000 was presented to the Committee. This sparked the question of who is best to own/manage the property. An Extraordinary General Meeting was held in November which first mooted the idea of a trust being set up to manage the property, with the OTMC retaining ownership. The trust was ultimately adopted in July 1998. To many, the decision has been a win/win for the club and the property.

The first outing of 1998 was a late Christmas trip travelling from Big Bay to Glenorchy, forming the first leg of the 75th Anniversary Traverse. A late surge in Bushcraft registrations saw 31 people participating in the 1998 course. The optional weekend at Ohau was wet, and saw some parties frustrated by the river conditions.

The second trip of the 75th traverse was held at Easter 1998, travelling from Glenorchy (Lake Luna) thru to Macetown. Other trips held during the year were Macetown to Cardrona, Cardrona to Cromwell (via Pisa Range), Cromwell to Clyde (kayak and bike), Clyde to Middlemarch (via the Rail Trail, Middlemarch to Pineapple Track (via the Silver Peaks) and the last stage through Dunedin to St Kilda Beach.

The 75th Anniversary was held at the end of August, and was a great success. The structure was much the same as the 50th and 60th anniversary's, with a social night on the Friday, and open day on Saturday at the clubrooms, followed by the Anniversary Dinner. Sunday offered people the chance to visit the Ben Rudd property.

The OTMC elected Antony Pettinger as a life member of the club at the 1999 AGM.

The Easter 2000 trip headed to George Sound from Lake Te Anau. While the trip was a success, the area proved to be challenging.

After Antony Pettinger wrote to the Bulletin that the club had found itself in a 'rut', plans were made for the club to formulate a strategic plan to assist with forward planning of club activities. Our vision is 'to be the strongest recreation club in New Zealand'. After a flourish of activity, interest in the plan has waned.

The 2000 AGM commenced an ongoing discussion regarding the club's huts. It was suggested at the AGM that Big Hut should be gifted to a like minded group. A replacement for Jubilee Hut was also discussed.

Trip numbers started to rise again after a decline in the late 90's, with 290 people tramping in the 2000/2001 period. Bushcraft 2001 attracted the largest number of participants since 1991, with 37 entries.

A work party in early 2001 at Big Hut saw 2 days work carried out in one, due to a blizzard preventing access on the Friday night. This was in January!.

A new committee role has been fulfilled by Greg Powell, that of Funding Officer. This has proved a great success, with the first year seeing us purchase 5 sets of crampons, as well as 40 metric maps with monies received in grants.

The major event of 2002 was the opportunity for the OTMC to develop a new walking track in our area. The Committee decided that the missing link in the Dunedin Skyline would be the track with the most benefit to the city. The OTMC is constructing this track in conjunction with the DCC, with funds generously donated by Barbara and the late Dick Calvert, along with Bob and Evelyn Entwistle.

The Easter 2002 trip to areas at the headwaters of Lake Wakatipu was hit by some very nasty weather, meaning most trips were curtailed. All Great Walks in the area were also forced to close.

The Easter holiday and ANZAC weekend combined nicely in 2003, with the club making the most of the opportunity. The Easter trip went to Makarora, with two notable trips being undertaken. One was the classic Makarora/Hunter/Wills through trip, and the other being the rarely visited Tiel Creek, crossing over to the Siberia valley. Five days of glorious weather for both trips.

As Easter marked the end of the summer season on the Milford Track, the OTMC took the chance to repeat the early 90's trip 'Droflim' (Milford Backwards) during ANZAC weekend. Numbers were limited to 30 to reduce overcrowding - although dozens of other people had the same idea as us. A second trip was run to cater for the OTMC overflow. In all, 43 members enjoyed the area, but over 100 in a 40 bunk hut was too much. At least the weather remained fine; if a little windy on McKinnon Pass.

The OTMC continues doing what it does very well. It is more than a tramping club, it is a social outlet and for some it is a way of life. The club caters for many different needs, be it overnight trips, a day trip, or a social night out once a week. There is also the history of the club, the need to keep fighting for recreation and conservation values in our beloved backcountry and the need to continue education in tramping safety in New Zealand's hills. Ultimately the OTMC is the people in the club - I look forward to being a part of the OTMC for the next 10 years.

Antony Pettinger

 

  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

This site copyright 1999/2010 Antony Pettinger. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the OTMC Committee or other OTMC Members.