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Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club - History

The Early Seventies

 

Late in 1969, the traditional Friday night meeting was altered to Thursday. With an ever-increasing interest in weekend trips further afield, the Friday night was often required for travelling. The decision to make this change has resulted in a startling increase in the numbers attending film and lecture evenings - an average attendance of fifty to sixty with occasional turn-outs of up to eighty.

Evidence of the ever-increasing popularity in tramping was shown, by the establishment of clubs in some of the smaller centres. These include the Maniototo, Lawrence and Earnslaw Tramping Clubs.

This surge in popularity for the sport also brought with it the ever-attendant problem of vandalism. Pyramid Hut, a popular Sunday Mecca for the older members was burnt down; extensive repairs had to be made to Jubilee Hut; the Green Hut floor was replaced once again; and Ben Rudds Hut had to be demolished after excessive vandalism made repairs impracticable. Approaches to those groups most benefiting by the use of these huts, several attempts to police them, even the black-listing of known vandals all had very limited effect. On the credit side, though, the end of 1971 saw Poplar Hut, Leaning Lodge and Twenty-five-Mile Hut all in good order, and a start made on improvements to facilities on the Ben Rudd property. These improvements included the planting of 5,000 Douglas Fir trees, and the erection of a " vandal-proof " shelter alongside the old hut site.

The 1971 Annual General Meeting provided one of the most significant milestones in the 50 year history of the Club. A motion was passed that " advanced levels of tramping and mountaineering be encouraged" To fit in with this new concept the Club was renamed "The Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club (Inc) ". Not content to rest on its laurels with this, the meeting went even further in appointing ten senior members to act as consultants to the committee. Only time will tell if this move proves successful in bringing together the experience of the older members and the enthusiasm of the younger ones.

The Club has always shown an active interest in Conservation and National Parks, both through personal efforts of members as well as representation through the Federated Mountain Clubs and the Dunedin District Conservation Committee. During the height of the "Save Manapouri" campaign several letters to the press were written on behalf of the Club and door-to-door canvassing obtained nearly 1,000 signatures to the petition. Members, both individually and collectively, have taken an active interest in the affairs of both Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks, with a number of Club members being board members of the former. Annual well-attended work parties to both parks have been a feature of Club programmes for some time.

Bushcraft courses continue to be organised by the Club for the National Mountain Safety Council, with instructees from these courses providing the greater proportion of new members in the Club. R. Brasier, R. McKenzie and H. Stoddart have at different times acted as Course Directors. In July 1972, a snow-craft course was organised by Bryan Freeman, but unseasonal heavy snow and flooding isolated Dunedin and resulted in one weekend's instruction being cancelled. A later weekend, however, allowed a certain amount of ice and snow work to be covered in the area around Ball Hut.

Search and Rescue operations have always had the full backing of the Club, with, on occasion, up to 60 members on call for ground support parties. During the early seventies there were frequent local searches for missing persons as well as a coastal search for a missing fishing boat. The Club can be proud of the fact that a number of its members play an active part in the Dunedin Face Rescue Team.

After the steady increase in membership of the late sixties, the number has levelled off at somewhere around 280. The committee considered that this was a sufficiently large enough number to warrant a membership secretary, and this was endorsed by the 1972 Annual General Meeting.

The Family Tramping Group, under the expert guidance (plus it is suspected, a certain amount of connivance) of Lyall Campbell and Marie McDonald, continues to thrive, with up to fifty children and adults taking part in some of the trips. Easter and Christmas camps have always been a feature of this group's activities, with some very pleasant combined camps being held with the Hokonui Club.

What has been written so far shows the healthy interest the Club has taken in affairs around it, but its main aim, that of promoting tramping and climbing, should not be lost sight of.

A lot of the former appeal of the Silver Peaks area has been lost in recent years. Intensive farming practice has resulted in roading, fencing and burning off, and this together with the forestry development to the north, has made substantial inroads in to what was once tramping country". Communications aerials and their associated installations and roading have proliferated on Swampy Summit and Mount Cargill. The result of all this has meant that the Club has had to look further afield for a lot of its weekend trips. A look at the trip lists for 1970, 1971, and 1972 shows the commendable efforts of the various committees to introduce both variety of area and variety of interest into the programme.

Some of the more unusual weekend trips were to places such as Lake Monowai, The Chaslands, Green Lake, Port Craig, Lake Luna and the Moonlight, Mavora Lakes, Moke Creek and Arthurs Pass. Weekend climbing trips took members to Castle Rock on Banks Peninsula, the Grand Plateau, Mts Earnslaw, Sir William and Aurum, Homer and the Matukituki Valley. And if not content with this impressive list, the Club introduced a "marathon" to test the stamina of those hardier souls amongst its members. The course ran via the Pineapple Track, Ben Rudds, the Chalkies, Poplar Hut, Mt John, Christmas Creek, the Gap, Silver Peak, Green Peak, Swampy Summit and finally back down the Pineapple. For the statistically-minded reader, the course involves a distance of 35 miles and 9,400 vertical feet of ascent and descent. No mean feat! Winners to date have been R. Brasier and A. Smith with a time of 10 hours 30 minutes and R. Davies in 9 hours 20 minutes.


1973-THE YEAR OF CHALLENGE

As the 1972-73 tramping and climbing season got under way, the Club appeared to be moving along smoothly, with everyone intent on making the season a successful one. But this serenity was to be short-lived. A small but vocal group of dissident climbers felt that the Club should cater for their interests exclusively. Transport to the areas where they wanted to climb appeared to be the basis of their discontent, with clubroom activities and the trip list also emerging as major issues. In an attempt to rectify this situation, a selection of active Club members were invited to discuss their complaints with the committee. It was hoped that some worthwhile criticism would come of this, but unfortunately the vocal dissidents dominated the meeting and reverted to some harsh personal attacks on some of the committee members. This hindered some of the quieter members from presenting their sides of the story and the only result of the meeting was the resignation of the vice-president and the general disillusionment of the committee.

At this juncture, Club members who had attended the special meeting soon realised that there had to be some outcome, but the failure of the December bulletin to appear resulted in members not being informed of changes proposed for the new year.

At the January committee meeting, various decisions made in December on the social programme and trip organisation were annuled. This series of events eventually led to the resignation of the Club President. These domestic problems were by now impinging on other matters which should have been receiving precedence; namely tramping, climbing and the 50th Anniversary celebrations. An Anniversary subcommittee evolved from the main committee and the rest set about trying to establish some sense of direction.

The 1973 Bushcraft Course still went ahead, and although small was very well organised by Clive Donaldson. Publicity this year was directed at the man in the street and not at school pupils as in the past. There was a wide variety of ages present but unfortunately very few of these people have continued within the Club. The local television camera team appeared at the river crossing and certain young ladies ---swimming--- in tramping boots and bikinis suddenly became very self-concious when they saw the lens directed at them.

This really was one of the few lighter moments of the year. Trip patronage continued to decline although most trips still managed to get away. A few newcomers turned up but after a trip or two, disappeared. Finally, a small but strong nucleus emerged that has given constant support to most of the recent trips.

And so the year has passed. There have been challenges such as this before, but each time the Club has emerged stronger and more closely knit. The reader may very well ask himself what causes dissension such as this to erupt periodically. Is it a failure of some to take but not give in return, to criticise but refuse to accept criticism, of the older members down-grading the achievements of the young, or of the young deriding the memories of the old? Or is it perhaps a little bit of each?

What can we do about it? The 50th Anniversary went part way to bringing all age groups together; allowed them to compare philosophies and ideals. The rest is up to each of us, young or old, to ensure in some way that the next 50 years will be as good as the first.

 

  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.