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Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club - History

1973 - 1983

 

This latest decade in the Club's history has been an eventful one.

Now, in our sixtieth year, we see a tramping club as active as ever, and a mountaineering club growing in maturity and accomplishment to compete with any other.

The first fifty years of the OTMC's history were described in "Outdoors 1973". The further ten years of the story reveals continued overall growth and confidence, and a lessening of the cyclic pattern of growth and decline in Club affairs and spirit that was expected. A series of competent and enthusiastic committees promptly dealt with any hints of decline.

Although individual members have come and gone, the Club's spirit has been continued by people with similar enthusiasm, so the atmosphere at any meet-ing has retained its vitality. The half dozen or so members who have remain-ed active from 1973 to 1983 would agree that "although faces change, the Club remains the same."

Let's go back to the Annual Report of 1973, produced just after the 50th Anniversary celebrations. During that year President Bruce Mason resigned and was replaced by Dick Brasier. Over summer, many Club members had visited the Olivine Ice Plateau. They were supported by air-dropped food supplies, something which today's members would frown on as we have grown to appreciate wilderness qualities. Ben Rudds shelter on our land behind Flagstaff was finished "at long last", but the Plane Table for the summit of Flagstaff, which was the Club's 50th Anniversary Project, was "not ready to be officially opened" at the time of the celebrations. During the 1972-73 year Castle Rock Hut or "Leaning Lodge" was bought by the Club. It wasn't a particularly active year: Clive Donaldson's bushcraft '73 attracted only nineteen pupils, and there were only two 'away' weekend trips with more than sixteen attending. However, the anniversary celebrations saw a huge revival of interest in the Club. 130 members or ex-members "highly praised" Ken Mason's slide show on the Friday night, and a staggering 230 on the Saturday night enjoyed the dinner and speeches by Scott Gilkison, Bruce Moors, Ralph Markby, Dave Bond, Peter Johnstone, Wilf Broughton, and M.C., Horace Tilly.

Membership at 30/6/73 is stated 194 "Financial", 69 un-financial". Notwithstanding this the general funds profited for the year by 863. At the Annual General Meeting Dick Brasier was elected President, and Ron Keen, who had organised both 40th and 50th Anniversary celebrations, was appointed a Life Member.

The incoming committee was a young one, but with growing enthusiasm in the wake of the anniversary celebrations, it rose to a challenge by a member of the previous committee to "do something about" the waning in the Club's energy. Richard Pettinger and Peter Marr advertised around local High Schools for pupils to attend a membership drive weekend at Poplar Hut. Club members rallied but only 6 pupils joined. They were all there, but so was a dreaded lurgy that laid low half the members at the camp with the exception of some trail bike enthusiasts who rode around and around the campfire while dedicat-ed Club members were attempting to lead newcomers through the O.T.C. Song-book. Trail bikes were a problem at many of our socials.

On November 14th Jim Freeman, perhaps our most active life member, a man of unbounded enthusiasm and knowledge of the local hills - formed the Over Thirt-ies Club, to help get older people out walking. On the 25th the new O.T.C. had its first outing, a day trip to the Craiglowan Falls area.

The 50th Anniversary Christmas Camp was held in the Rees, an important haunt of Club members for decades. Bryan Freeman organised the event for at least sixty, members and friends and families. The weather was excellent except for a downpour one night. It was highly successful and a natural extension of the anniversary celebrations.

Bushcraft '74 succeeded in being the membership drive the young committee still felt was needed. The Silver Peaks were assaulted by a huge number. On the second trip, 102 pupils swarmed after their leader up the Taieri Gorge. The last instructor up thye gorge Course Director Richard Pettinger, was alarmed to find himself collecting a number of straggIers from in front. The leaders, not all of whom were Club members, were reminded of their duty to uphold the teachings of the Mountain Safety Council and on the final weekend 144 Otago trampers took to the Takitimu Mountains, Lake Mavora and Green Lake areas, without mishap. It was thought that the happy atmosphere of a friendly, enthusiastic Club, after a fairly informal course was the incentive that attracted 22 new members from the pupils.

1974's Annual Report notes the increase in activity. The membership stood at 213, but the Club managed to make a loss of $336 from general funds, al though trips as usual made a profit. At the AGM Murray Kokich was elected to begin what was to become 2 years in the chair. On the 15th October the committee decided it hadn't the time nor the experience to get into writing submissions on "matters affecting outdoor recreation" and the "Outdoor Recreation Subcommittee" was formed. One of the big issues they were concerned with was aired in the December '74 Bulletin. It was a proposal to install two large pole aerials for an N.Z.E.D. repeater station and a road to service it, on the Scenic Reserve, near the summit of Flagstaff. We joined many other groups in opposing what would have been an eyesore from the city and the proposed Flagstaff walkway. The Club became very active, even getting involved in a "sit-in" overnight at the site. Also in late 1974 a proposed Remarkables Skifield came to the attention of the Outdoor Recreation Sub- committee. Trampers and Mountaineers felt the Rastus Burn was a most in- appropriate place for a skifield, and a great deal of evidence supported this view. The battle with the Mount Cook Company gathered momentum over the years to follow and much energy was put into it by Club members, in particular Bruce Mason, Russell George.and John Begg. Plans to road the Greenstone Valley, the valley that has delighted family groups who have walked it over many decades, was another concern at this time. The Club felt threatened by many such issues, often quite minor losses but which spelt a gradual whittling away of Otago tramping country, but there was one positive note in 1974. The Dunedin Metropolitan Regional Planning Authority was looking at trampers' interests in the Silver Peaks.

A lighter note at the time of these struggles came with a Christmas Social at the Trotters Gorge University Hut. The peaceful atmosphere in this delightful setting was once again marred by the incessant drone of trail bikes, the most memorable feature of this social.

Bushcraft '75 ran smoothly with none of the problems of the '74 course. Only 39 enrolled and the leaders were all OTMC members. Of the 39 only 10 were males and the oldest on the course was 25. Whare Creek in the Takitimu Mountains was a pleasant but restricted venue for the final weekend.

According to the 1975 Annual Report, the Club's membership was 212 and nine trips went away over 74/75 with 25 or more taking part. Loss for the year from General Funds was $89. At the Annual General Meeting, Murray continued in the chair, subscriptions were raised to $6 for members, $4.50 for the less active "postal" membership, and the name "Leaning Lodge" was officially accepted as the name for the hut we were busy renovating for our use on the Rock and Pillar Range.

In December Dave Still let the Club use his property at Mahinerangi, the "Pick and Shovel", for the Christmas Social and the Christmas Trip was Martins Bay - Big Bay round trip.

Bushcraft '76 was directed by Ross Davies. With 48 pupils, Ross took the final weekend to the Eglinton Valley where the many side valleys provide scope for a great range of trips, some only lightly tracked so providing valuable opportunity for teaching routefinding. At the time of the course a fire swept through the tussock of the Flagstaff Scenic Reserve. It was a spectacular sight from Dunedin. Club members were involved in fighting the fire which resulted in the destruction of 56% of the 1971 plantings of Douglas Firs in spite of hurriedly bulldozed firebreaks. It was an occasion that upset many Club members: some were shocked at the damage by the fire and bulldozers, while others were despairing privately that the pine plantation had been saved. The Club began to question its policy concerning exotic trees on Flagstaff. Some thought we should manage the area with regard to the adjacent scenic reserve and ignore the original objective of planting for fundraising. Poor management of the plantation after the initial enthusiastic planting had meant that any funds raised would already be minimal anyway.

The weekend before Easter saw the Club's first 'Pre-Easter Social. Organised by Sarah Glasson, it was a most enjoyable fondue party in the Old Stone Cottage at the foot of Grant's run on the Rock and Pillar. Another tradition was begun!

Dissatisfaction with the wording of some of the Constitution led some members to begin trying to get changes made to the Objects of the Club so that they would reflect new feelings in the Club. The Club was arguing against the development of certain areas as "resorts", so that it seemed inappropriate and even embarrassing that we had as an object "to open up and develop resorts." Ross Davies was the first to attempt changing the objects out it was not to be until 1981 that a General Meeting agreed to delete the offending pieces.

The 1976 Annual Report shows the first profit to General funds for a while - $90. Membership stood at 172, and over 75/76 there had been 4 away trips of 20, or more, The Annual General Meeting decided to remove trees on Flagstaff, Club members expressed disappointment about the closure of the, Otago Central Railcar Service. The trips we had taken leaving town on Friday evening to go to Hindon or Middlemarch, and returning Sunday night, were really enjoyable; it was a much used service - especially during the crisis of 1974. The closing of the service meant the end of another era in the Club's history.

Russell George was elected President for 76/77. Early in 1977 news reached the Club about 25 Mile Hut in the Rees suffering some damage. Apparently more than ten girls, suffering from cold, had attempted to sit on the top bunk. The sudden collapse saw a subsequent embarrassed letter and a cheque from a girl's high school in Southland and was followed later by a number of workparties to fix undo the damage. Geoff Jackson's Gypsy held a starring role in the repair of this, our most distant hut. It's character (and rodent colony) were maintained.

Peter McKellar took Bushcraft '77 back to the Eglinton for a weekend that was blessed with a perfect Sunday, the type of day in the mountains that inspires many to begin a lifetime of tramping.

In April and May of 77, $120 was spent by a work party under the guidance of Disk Brasier to put in a plywood floor and a new chimney at Green Hut. The Jackson Gypsy was seen at Pulpit Rock getting the gear to the Site This was the last any amount of money was spent on Green.

Russell's Annual report for 76/77 makes interesting reading. 157 members returned a profit of $118 for the year to the General Funds. There were 3 trips away of 30 or more participating: Bushcraft, labour weekend and a Ski Instruction weekend at Coronet Peak. Sarah Glasson had printed a new song book during the year, an OTMC one to replace Linda Mercier's by now rare OTC publication. The Family Tramping Group, still organised by Marie McDonald and Lyall Campbell, had been active for 10 years and members had had the first organised Ski Week, something that has since become another tradition.

For "Outdoors" that year, a Club photo was taken. As not everybody could attend the photography session by the Queens Gardens Cenotaph one Saturday afternoon it was taken in two parts. Intended as a centrefold, the printers misjudged the page numbers so it missed the middle page spread.

At the AGM Richard Pettinger became President, a decision was made to remove the last of the Douglas Firs that had survived the Flagstaff fire, subs went up to $10 for full members and $7 for country (postal) members. Dave Still was now added to the list of Life Members.

In October 1977 the Remarkables Action Council was formed. Club members played a major role in the action and a lengthy legal battle was begun.

On 5-6 November John Cocks ran a Snowcraft course at Homer for Club members who might encounter alpine conditions when tramping. In the report he said he believed there was 'surely a place for a Snowcraft course in the O.T.M.C annual programme' Yet another tradition begins!.

Waiora Scout Camp was the venue for the Christmas Social, at which the local "Ginger Minge Bush Band", assisted by OTMC musicians kept Club members on their feet till all hours.

On the 3rd February '78 the Dunedin Metropolitan Regional Planning Authority advised the OTMC that a Silver Peaks study they had done with the future of Dunedin's recreation interests in mind had been rejected by the powers that be. The Silver Peaks however, ought from then on to be recognised by the decision makers as a recreational asset of great importance. The Silver Peaks have certainly been important to the keen young trampers of Dunedin who perhaps couldn't afford trips to the mountains. A group of Club members inspired by these hills privately continued a series of "Silver Peaks Expeditions", that ranged from the birth of the tradition in Fiddlers Gully in 1971, to the Olivine Ice Plateau in February '78, and beyond.

February '78 saw the subletting of the Dowling St clubrooms to the Otago Section of the Alpine Club. We had several years earlier subletted to the Otago Motorcycle Club, but they had bought their own building. The Alpine Club was obviously a more compatible bunch of roommates.

In early 78 Dave Crew began work on resurrecting Yellow Hut which had blown from its moorings during a Westerly gale and had been left for some time as a crumpled mess at the bush edge near the top- of Yellow Spur. The hut was built by Geoff Williamson in 1963 with help from Club member John Fitzgerald. Now it was up to Dave to restore it to its original, site and it would become an OTMC hut. This was done by June at a cost of $40 to the Club.

Bushcraft '78 was organised by Russell George. His 45 pupils enjoyed a weekend in the valleys at the head of Lake Ohau. The course followed the same general format that the Club had used for the last decade, This was in spite of the fact that each year the Taieri Gorge was becoming more of a challenge to routefinders.

Geoff Jackson began to look at possible vehicles for Club transport. This work culminated on June 22nd with a Special General Meeting, which was to decide the purchase of a vehicle. The meeting approved the principle but so much caution was expressed that Geoff's and Dave Levick's sub committee lapsed subsequently "through lack of interest."

In July '78 creeping conservationism in the Club became more evident. With the Remarkables Action Council and the then almost defunct Outdoor Recreation Group setting the example that we fight for our land, the committee passed the following motion: "THAT the committee supports the banning of air access in National Parks other than for purposes of emergency, protection and management." On the 17th August Mr Cuddihy of NZFS spoke to the Club on their attitude to the Dart State Forest. Thus begun a big issue that ended in the Club, under Ross Davies, calling a public meeting on 26/2/79.

August '78 also saw the second Ski Week . Organised by Hank Lockhart for a private group, it was held at Craigieburn. Some Club members had long felt strongly that the skiers in the Club were bringing the demise of winter tramping. Ski Weeks were a cheap way to go skiing and many of the less financial members of the Club took advantage of them and. as it turned out, kept winter weekends aside for tramping or for cross-country skiing which is cheaper, and more akin to the spirit of tramping than downhill.

The Annual Report for 77/78 lists 5 trips away with a, least 36 attending, a membership of 144, and records a profit to funds of $32. At the AGM Ross Davies became President, and the Club supported the Committee's motion on air access in National Parks but was happy as long as it was "consistent with National Parks Authority Policy and the Management Plan." The Club has always maintained a responsible attitude to National Parks as it appears that the greatest hope of guaranteeing our continued use of mountain lands lies with that form of management.

The special feature of the 1978 Christmas Social was the music, supplied by the OTMC Bluegrass Band. They kept the 65 people present at Waiora square dancing and boogying along to a very professional sound. The band was fronted by Russell George, banjo and calling the dances, Martha Vosselert, Gaye Johnstone and Kelvin Liggett on fiddle. Geoff Markby on mandoline, Nicki Hodgson guitar, and Peter Mason on tea chest bass.

The 1978/79 Christmas Camp was held in the Hopkins Valley, an area that was getting alot of attention from the Club. Richard Pettinger took the final weekend of his Bushcraft '79 back there. There were 52 pupils on this course which was the last to take the trip through the Taieri Gorge, on a river crossing, compass reading and routefinding weekend.

A membership of 144 is once again recorded. in the Annual Report of August 1979, there were four bus trips including Bushcraft, and a loss of $530 to general funds. Some saw the low ebb in tramping activity caused by this year's being perhaps the most active one, for environment issues. The Club was, however, rightly proud of its conservation efforts.

The AGM elected Steve Milne President and gave life membership to Phyllis i-iardie and Trevor Pullar.

November and December 1979 were busy months. After years of searching for cheaper clubrooms the Club moved into 3 Clark Street, the former Lodge building now owned by the Otago Motorcycle Club. A concrete pad and room were installed in the basement. All our old furniture except 30 or so stacking chairs, a projector table and a table tennis table were dumped. The first meeting in the new rooms was held on Thursday 6th December. At the same time the Club organised the first 'Tramperama', a guided public walk over Flagstaff visiting Ben Rudds for lunch, for the Dunedin Mountain Safety Committee. On the 15th December the 50th Anniversary Plane Table was finally installed on Flagstaff. Six years late, it's production finally brought to an end both the lengthy debating of its desirability, and the session of fundraising that received donations from both active and non-active members.

A Christmas Social at Lee Downs, organised by Wendy Milne, and a camp in the East Matukituki with climbs of Sisyphus and Dragonfly from a base by the old homestead, saw the year out.

January 1980 and yet another float in the Festival Procession. As usual the opportunity was taken to advertise the forthcoming Bushcraft Course, but this time the shambolic tent on the truck surrounded by naked legs and placards gained second place in the Sporting Section. Apparently it had happened once before'.

Advertising must have been effective, as Bushcraft '80 directed by Stu Mathieson, attracted 94 pupils. Once again the Ohau area was the venue for the final weekend.

The 15th and 16th March will be remembered as the "Jarvis Bay Trip" Members who wanted to know where this obscure bay was were invited to attend to find out. It turned out that Don Greer and a group of OTMC members were taking a large number of Australian Navy mid-shipmen through the Silver Peaks. Club members were pleased to see these sea lubbers have the time of their lives. In return they were invited back to a cocktail party on board the Jarvis Bay, where the girls received plenty of attention and, a little shield with the ship's coat of arms.

At noon on 20th March (or thereabouts) nine Club members met outside the Chief Post Office in Kathmandu. Tour guide was Ross Davies and the trip, known as the Silver Peaks Himalayan Expedition was open to any Club member who was silly enough to apply for it using form PS 17A. Members were away for approximately half a year and did trips in Nepal, and other Asian countries, and ski trips, car tours and cycling tours in Europe and Britain. Mention of the Silver Peaks had now been made in hut, hotel and visitors books from Andorra to Tangboche, from Brisbane to Base Camp.

In April 1980, the army territorials offered to remove our trees on Ben Rudds property "as an exercise." The committee was still wondering how to respond when the offer was withdrawn. As a result Dave Craw prepared an essay on the Ben Rudds property, its history, its problems and possible solutions, which was published in the May Bulletin.

Later on, the Planning Tribunal dismissed the Combined Remarkables Protection Group's case and appeal. The Mt Cook Company would go ahead and develop their "skifield" on this important mountain range. The group was expected to pay $19,000 costs.

The 1979/80 Annual Report shows membership of 157 and a profit of $17 to general funds. At the AGM the President elect was described as "Dongala - more commonly known as Donald McKellar." Shortly afterwards, on the 9th October a Special General Meeting raised the subscriptions to $15 for full members, $9 for postal.

The following Christmas Camp was held in the Rees Valley, with members visiting the Dart Glacier, Cascade Saddle, the head of 25 Mile Creek, completing Rees - Dart crossings, climbing the East Peak of Earnslaw and Leary, from a base at 25 Mile Hut.

On 26th February 1981 Donald McKellar's resignation was accepted and Janet Girvan became President. Donald had left Dunedin.

Rob Archibald was director of Bushcraft 181. Seventy one pupils took part, and many joined the Club as a result of our first attempt to attract Bushcraftees on a cheap subs deal. The final weekend trip went to the Eglinton.

In May of this year a Club President was taken from a camp on snow near Fraser Col in a basket slung under a helicopter...

The Annual Report made no mention of this, but it did report a membership increase to 187, 12 trips with 20 or more over the 12 months, and a huge $795 profit to general funds. During the year Tasman Forestry reduced our Silver Peaks playground by about a third. Mt Allen Station, for the previous 58 years a popular venue for Club trips, with its Big Stream and Poplar Huts, Long Ridge, Mts. John and Allen, was to become a roaded pine plantation. The Poplar Hut Book was deposited in the Hocken Library, along with other Silver Peaks hut books. It tells of an enjoyable and interesting era in the Club's history, now sadly closed. A dedicated Silver Peaks lover, Richard Pettinger was elected President by the Annual General Meeting, for his second go.

This years Ski Week became an official Club trip. The weekend of the 22nd-24th August was the 50th Anniversary of Federated Mountain Clubs. To mark the occasion the Federation held a "Wilderness Conference" in Nelson, at Rotoiti. The OTMC sent perhaps the largest contingent of any club not directly involved in the organisation of the weekend demonstrating our concern for wilderness and countryside protection in general. At a Special General Meeting on 10/9/81, the Club finally changed the objects as in the Constitution to delete the object to develop resorts.

Christmas 81/82 saw a number of Club members tramping in the Wilkin. The 'official' Club trip was cancelled due to lack of leaders, but groups went privately anyway. Peaks climbed included Mts Jumbo, Twilight and Aeolus.

1982 has to be remembered as the year of the Silver Peaks, with the Club getting upset by plans to zone the whole of the traditional tramping area, except for reserves, for Commercial Afforestation as a predominant use. If we lost any more of the Peaks as we had Mt Allen Station, Dunedin's future trampers would lose this inspiring training ground. Firebreaks, fencelines and farm tracks had already ruined many old haunts but now, planning provisions would mark the final demise of the bulk of it. After a hearing of objections at which Bruce Mason and Bruce Chapman presented evidence, the Silver Peaks County Council decided to recognise the recreational use of a small core area of the Silver Peaks. However, other uses are also recognised, and some aren't compatible with tramping. The Club will still need to keep a watch on developments, and participate in the administration of Walkways and Reserves. It was felt that maintaining goodwill with farmers and decision makers would be very wise, indeed.

In early 1982 Alister Metherell directed Bushcraft on which 77 Pupils went back to the Eglinton. The Easter Trip visited Arthurs Pass, a distant trip that was well attended and turned out very successful.

After Easter, a Glacier Travel course was held. Dave Manson organised the trip to de la Beche corner of the Tasman Glacier, and John Cocks led a group of Alpine Club members who instructed crevasse rescue techniques to the growing number of climbers in the Club. This year was to see the instigation of a Mountaineering Group in the Club, convened by a committee member, the first convenor being Euan Paterson. Under his enthusiastic leadership, Euan organised regular climbing trips. The standard of rock climbing among Club members improved greatly after evening climbing sessions at Long Beach over the following summer.

In August '82 the Annual Report was published, a document that detailed a busy year, 194 members now belonged to the Club, numbers boosted by a major "fast track" drive at the end of Alister's course. The general funds however, suffered a loss of $428. At the AGM Michelle Green was elected President, following a meteoric rise in the Club's ranks. Michelle had been a Club member for only 16 months.

The '82 Christmas Social was held at Galloway near Alexandra, at which the Club completely tired out the "Pioneer Pog'n' Scroggin Band" and called for taped music to satisfy its exuberance. The Club was getting fitter'.

The Christmas Trip that followed was to the Paparoa Range. The first official Club trip to this range, we were blessed with fine weather for most of our stay. We discovered a really beautiful area, which we all agreed was of National Park quality.

In January 1983, major rebuilding of Jubilee Hut was begun and a pot belly stove is intended to replace the heavy fire place and chimney.

Bushcraft 1983 was directed by Ross Davies and Paul Olsen. It began with a weekend at Tirohanga Camp, at which practical skills were demonstrated and practised. That weekend was a success both in its instruction as well as socially, and it is hoped that it will become an annual feature of Bushcraft. The final weekend took the 52 pupils, whose average age was probably 30+ to the Ohau area.

On the free weekend during the Bushcraft Course, the OTMC took part in a joint tramp and camp in the Glenorchy area where we met members from Fiordland, Southland, Hokonui and Wakitipu Tramping Clubs. This weekend grew out of an idea at an F.M.C seminar in early 1982 when the various Club Presidents got together. The weekend at Glenorchy was one of tramps, climbs, conversation, singing and partying around a bonfire, and an inter-club games competition day. Another annual event, it is hoped!

An annual event that has increased in popularity markedly is now the ski-week. 1983 found 55 at Craigieburn.

The Annual Report for 82/83 records 219 members, an increase due largely to a big influx after Bushcraft. There was profit of $647 to general funds, due, it is felt, to a resourceful Committee. 14 trips of 25 or more took place over the twelve months, , indication of a healthy Club. Some Clubrooms have been found and the Club will move into a Stuart Street house belonging to the Polytechnic very soon. Our own rooms should help to produce an even better Club identity and spirit.

At the Annual General Meeting, Alister Metherell was elected President, and subs were increased to $19 for full members and $11 for postal members.

On 26th-29th August, immediately after the AGM, the Sixtieth Anniversary Celebrations were held. Over 160 members, past members and their partners, including a founder member Mr George Pearson attended the weekend. George and other members; from the 20's and 30's had fascinating stories to tell, and useful information for those historians in the Club. Those currently active members who attended the weekend will remember the spirit that is peculiar to the O.T.C/0.T.M.C, and will look forward to it continuing in the future.

 

  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.