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Centenary weekend

We celebrated our big birthday on 3-5 November with four events.

We started with a mixer and cocktails on Friday evening at our HVTC clubrooms in Waterloo.

At the Saturday afternoon tea we planted a native garden featuring two silver ferns and a nikau palm, from our club emblem, and launched 100 years 100 stories, our centennial publication compiled by Andrew Robinson.

Some of our longest-standing members – Thora Jones, Phil and Mary Rundle, Max and Pam Bruce – cut the birthday cake, decorated with a picture of the original Powell hut. 

In the evening, we celebrated with dinner at the Petone Working Men’s Club. 

The sun shone for our walks and bike rides and a picnic lunch/BBQ at Kaitoke Regional Park on Sunday.

More than 170 current and former club members and their whānau helped us celebrate our centenary. 

We thank everyone who came along shared their memories and lots of laughs.

And we thank the club members who organised a special weekend.


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Centenary picnic at Kaitoke Regional Park on 5 November 2023


Centenary grants to school students 

 Wainuiomata HSSept 2023

HVTC members deliver pre-loved outdoor clothing and equipment to Wainuiomata High School. Photo: Colin Williams 


To mark our centenary, HVTC made grants to three Hutt Valley secondary schools to help students take part in tramping, camping and other outdoor activities. 

Wainuiomata High School, Taita College and Hutt Valley High School all received $1,616 each from the $4,850 HVTC centenary school fund. The grants were for outdoor clothing, equipment and activities. 

We also donated pre-loved tramping clothing and equipment to two of the schools. 

The grants and the donated gear will help families who would otherwise struggle to send their children on outdoor trips. 

HVTC members have enjoyed outdoor recreation’s many benefits for physical and mental health and personal resilience. Giving young people the opportunity to experience the outdoors is positive for them and our whole community. 

We invited all Hutt Valley co-ed state secondary schools to apply to our centenary fund. 


Taita CollegeSept 2023

HVTC members deliver pre-loved outdoor clothing and equipment to Taita College. Photo: Colin Williams   


Centenary stories

As part of our centenary celebrations, we are sharing stories from some of our Life Members and other longstanding members.

They describe their most memorable tramping experiences, how the club shaped their lives and their thoughts for the future.


Thora Jones

Thora Jones

Thora joined HVTC in 1949.


Thora Jones


My best friend, Rosemary was a member. My first trip was a working party on Anniversary weekend 1949 when a new aluminium roof was to be put on Baines Hut to replace the old malthoid one.

I enjoyed it so much I joined soon after and from then on enjoyed many trips over 60-odd years. Most enjoyable were Christmas trips, such as to Hollyford Pyke in 1949, Rakaia in 1950, and best of all Olivine Ice Plateau in1951.

The club was a real marriage bureau. I wed Trevor Jones in 1952 and we stayed tramping until our 80s.

Several members like Snow Dempsey had served in the territorials during World War 2, spending weekends in the Ōrongorongo area and Tararua Range practising for the invasion of New Zealand and learnt a lot of bushcraft, which they imparted to club members.

I also took part in building Waitewaewae Hut (mostly cooking), and I was on the social committee for a few years. There were no women on the club’s general committee then. Margaret White would have been a good chief guide but was not voted in. I was also editor for some years.

The club has been a wonderful source of lifelong friends. Snow Dempsey used to say he could get a bed anywhere in New Zealand.

I am glad to see the club is encouraging school pupils in tramping and hope some will join the club to boost the numbers of younger members.


Sandra Pearce

Sandra Pearce

Sandra joined in 1959.

Sandra Pearce 1960

Sandra Pearce and John Tristram on Mt Travers on a 1960 club Christmas trip. Photo: Eddie Meldrum


Five generations of my family have belonged to the Hutt Valley Tramping Club so I guess it’s really in our blood. We haven’t all been super-fit or particularly athletic though a few were. It was mainly a shared love of our great outdoors and having a bit of an adventure. 

My great-aunt Mona (Robbie) Robinson was the first, introducing my mother, Edna Smith, to tramping back in the late 1920s or early 1930s. My father, Fred Akhurst, first really noticed my mother on a ski trip when they arrived after midnight carrying skis at Kime Hut in the Tararua Range. 


Years later in 1954 with my brother Colin we were introduced to skiing at Ruapehu in the days when there was a single-chair chairlift, a T bar and rope tow on Hut Flat. We loved staying in the HVTC hut, where we were usually the only children. Everyone was so friendly. 

We would have a week in the then August school holidays, which was much better for skiing than the current July holidays. Most times there would be a day fine enough for a tramp up to the crater and a ski back down the glacier. We also would go up at Labour weekend when the club would build and sleep in a large snow cave in the side of the crater overlooking the lake. I remember some club members having a swim and I had a paddle. You couldn’t do that today! 

In 1958 on leaving school and getting a job, one then had to become a club member if you wanted to go skiing. To become a member you had to do three day tramps and two weekend tramps. My best friend who was keen to go skiing was, like me, not interested in tramping then. Much to my surprise, I found I actually enjoyed tramping. 

However, skiing was still the main priority for us and how different it was to today with good roads and fast cars. 

We met, I think, at Wellington Railway Station on Friday evening and boarded The Artic, a large articulated truck which had been emptied out. We sat on the floor with our backs against the sides and talked, played 500 and sang until Levin where we stopped for, in my case, milo and toast. Somehow, as there were no cellphones then, an order was put through to Mangaweka where we stopped hours later for dinner. After the meal, everyone would get into their sleeping bags and try to sleep. Around 2am we’d arrive at the Chateau to park and with a bit of luck sleep. 

In no time it seemed, we would be woken to hastily roll up sleeping bags and board a Mountain Goat 4WD which would slowly grind its way up to the Top of the Bruce. Much loading of packs would follow with supplies for the weekend or longer. Some carried trays of eggs for breakfast, which was not easy in deep snow. Once at the hut, the coal burning stove was quickly lit and porridge followed by bacon and eggs was the norm. 

Not so good was a trip out to the long drop loo in the snow. On more than one occasion a rope was put up so you wouldn’t get blown off course in a blizzard. 

So a skiing trip was a real adventure. However, I do remember arriving back at Wellington Railway Station carrying my skis around midnight, having to wait until 1am for a train back to the Hutt and then being back at work in Wellington at 8am. I don’t think I was a very productive worker those weeks. 


Weekend tramps really opened my eyes to our backcountry and, again, we usually travelled in the back of trucks that wouldn’t be allowed today. Likewise, we usually lit a fire to boil the billy for lunch and again to cook the stew for dinner. Often on a three-day weekend, cutting the meat up for the stew on the second night was not a pleasant task. We all worked hard to set up camp and it was the norm for women to cook and men to set up camp and build the fire. 

When I started tramping there would usually be at least two Christmas trips of two weeks or longer with around 10 or so people on each. We did not travel lightly, with women’s packs usually around 30 pounds (13.6kg) and men’s often 50 pounds (22.6kg). However, there was no gender discrimination when meals were dished up – everyone got exactly the same. 

Wedding club

Along with the weekly Wednesday evening club night, we used to have dances in the clubrooms. With so many in their early 20s, unsurprisingly, there were many tramping club marriages, including mine. 

Once children arrived, I found family was full time and, apart from the wonderful annual tramping club picnic run by June and Des Green, I did few tramps. I might have stopped altogether if it weren’t for the start of annual chooks trips in 1965. These trips showed us mainly young mothers that we could cut wood, put up tents and light fires. 

As the children got older, there were family week trips to the modern lodge on Ruapehu. Duties were allocated and it was wonderful knowing you only had to perhaps cook dinner once in five days. Later on there were trips that included grandchildren but with less skiing for me. 

Later years

What of the future now for our home on Ruapehu, I wonder? The mountain will still be there and hopefully many more opportunities for club members to enjoy it. 

In later years I’ve enjoyed many Sunday tramping trips and was happy to find an old notebook listing ones I’d forgotten I had led and listing who was on them. 

Biking has played its part in later years, especially trips to Hawke’s Bay and the Wairarapa. We’re an adaptable lot with many now covering long distances on e-bikes. 

Thank you to the club 

While over the years I’ve been club secretary, had numerous stints on the social committee and led Ruapehu ski weeks and Sunday tramps, there are many who have done so much more in the way of tramping, skiing and taking on the many tasks involved in running the club than I. To them I say thank you for the opportunities you have given me and for being my other family.


Sandra Pearce 1933

HVTC party on a Mt Travers 1933 Christmas trip. Sandra Pearce’s mother,  Edna Smith, second from left with zinc ointment for sun protection. 


Ron Pynenburg

Ron Pynenburg

Ron joined in 1976. 

 Ron Pynenburg

Ron Pynenburg in the hills


I still have the letter advising me that I had been elected, and that I was required to pay $10 entrance fee and $10 annual subs. The best $20 I ever spent! I find it interesting (given the regular debates over subscription levels) that, using the Reserve Bank inflation calculator, the $10 annual subs back then would equate to $95 today. 

I had a couple of bad experiences on Venturer Scouts tramping trips but was still keen on the idea of tramping. A school friend was a member of the HVTC and said I should try them. So, I went along to a meeting and started going on club trips. 

A memorable trip

The most influential trip was an early one – the 1976 club Christmas trip. It was my first long trip (11 days of tramping), my first into the Southern Alps, and my first visit to Central Otago. Based on the Rees – Dart circuit, the trip included a side trip up to Esquilant biv with various summit attempts (some got onto East Peak, and I managed O’Leary), a day trip up to the Dart Glacier, and a side trip to the Whitbourn Glacier. 

The weather was miserable most of the time but the trip was excellent in every other way. I’m not sure who was the leader but the skills shown and decisions made by people such as Jan and Arnold Heine, Geoff Spearpoint and others showed me what was possible in spite of much not going according to plan.

From that trip came a love of Central Otago and Mt Aspiring National Park. This led to a number of long Christmas trips with Ben Mitchell, John Fox and Ray Wood into Mt Aspiring National Park and Fiordland through the 1980s – still some of the best and most memorable trips I’ve done. 

It also led to the purchase of a crib (holiday home) in Albert Town just out of Wanaka in the late 1980s. The crib was a focus for summer and winter holidays as our family was growing up through the 1990s and 2000s, and it is still put to good use. Being closer to Central Otago and being able to use the crib more often was the main reason I shifted to Christchurch in 2012. 

I also realised that if you had bushcraft and alpine skills, huts weren’t essential for shelter or a hot feed, and there was much country to visit off the common and popular tracks. That strongly influenced the types and locations of trips I did over the following years. 

A challenging trip

I got into the habit of leading a mid-winter trip and in 1979 I decided it would be a full Tauwharenīkau trip. Koos van Lier and John Fox were the only ones who were prepared to join me.

Friday night was at the campsite five minutes beyond Dobsons hut, much preferable to the hut itself. The weather was clear and sunny, we encountered snow on the Marchant burn, and there was a good coating of snow on the Dress Circle and other tops. 

After a late lunch in the snow outside Alpha hut, again preferable to being inside the hut, we went about 10 minutes above the Alpha bushline before turning right to snow-bash and sidle on to a spur to take us down to the Tauwharenīkau River. 

It was slow going through snow-covered tussock and leatherwood, and then slow going and difficult navigation down a steep spur until we got to the river just above a gorge. That was a spur we weren’t interested in repeating. 

It remained slow work sidling that gorge to avoid a swim, but from the forks below the gorge, the travel was easier and we found a flat rocky campsite at dusk. Rock gardening helped make it more comfortable, and a fire made for a hot feed of macaroni cheese, as well as the only warm place for the evening as we stood around it with a hot brew. It was a beautiful and memorable night as we watched the full moon cross the rather small segment of sky above us – no need for a torch. 

But it was a very cold night with solid ice in the billy and some frozen socks and puttees discovered on Sunday morning. Once under way, we were in the shade with ice on the rocks and logs making travel treacherous. Travel was slow as we also negotiated pools and gorges – we were keen to stay out of the water (at least as far as swimming went). We didn’t want to slip and break something when going over a log, and there was no way we wanted to head upstream due to the ice everywhere and what we had traversed. We passed through only a couple of patches of sun during the morning, but lunch was in a sunny spot somewhere north of Bull Mound. We lit a fire for a hot brew and we dried out clothes from a couple of unintended swims.

After lunch travel remained slow and difficult due to more of the same river conditions and the same desire to stay out of the water, but the weather remained fine. It was late afternoon before we hit the Block XIX track and followed it the short distance to Cone hut. A quick walk got us to Tutuwai for the night. We were out early on Monday afternoon – one of the few times I’ve ended up out late. 

In some ways the trip wasn’t difficult, but in other ways it was very challenging – if something had gone wrong and someone got injured, it could easily have become quite serious, but as long as we were taking care and avoiding mistakes, it was simply a matter of time before we got out. We were most fortunate that the weather was as good as it was, with the cold the only significant adverse factor. 

Changes over the years

The most noticeable changes during my tramping life are that the pack is heavier and it takes longer (sometimes much longer) to get places than it used to! But the joy and the attraction of the hills are as strong as ever. 

The gear has changed a lot, especially with the rise of electronic gadgets but, while I might have a cell phone and a Garmin, I’m still carrying and using my map and compass. 

Tthe range of clothing, especially merino, and footwear provides much more choice (although sometimes more confusion) and comfort to suit all conditions and needs. My jet boil and boil-in-bag food has reduced weight and improved convenience markedly but you still can’t beat the ambience when a billy is swinging over a fire. 

There are more people in the hills these days, which makes it harder to find the quiet and untouched places close to the road ends, but it is great to see that there is still that much enthusiasm for the hills – something to be encouraged. 

However, it seems to me that the hills themselves are suffering in many parts of the country with less wildlife visible and heard, and more slips, windfalls and storm damage encountered. The tracks are fewer in number than they used to be, and many that I have been on in recent years are suffering from a lack of maintenance. 

Lessons from the club 

I have done many trips (especially my longer Christmas trips) outside of the club but none of them would have been possible without the lessons learnt on HVTC trips from HVTC members. 

The trip syllabus was a fantastic way of providing organised trips in the various fitness grades of different lengths, and of finding out about other parts of the country that would be worth a visit and what was involved in the logistics of both location and duration of a trip. Going on these HVTC trips, as well as the club-run bushcraft and alpine Instruction, was an excellent way of learning at your own pace and soaking up the knowledge and skills of others.

When going on, say, an AF trip, watching and listening to those on the F or FE trips served as an inspiration for what I could possibly do at some future time – if I could get fit and fast enough. 

There were also the club annuals with records of recent trips and the stories of trips done in earlier times by older members that provided inspiration and sowed the seeds of country to be explored and what could be achieved off the beaten track. 

And this meant that, not only could I put that to good use on my own private trips, I was able to take my own place as a leader of trips and an instructor to pass on my own knowledge and skills to those newer to the club. 

I also remember club talks from members about trips to the Himalayas and to Antarctica, which filled me with a desire to visit both places. A couple of treks to Nepal have now occurred, but I’m still keen for more. I have been south on four trips when I was Antarctica NZ’s architect for 10 years. 

Important people

I met my wife Sue on a Granity Pass trip I was leading. She had been brought along by a mutual friend and I was oblivious to what that friend was thinking for the two of us. However, I became aware, or was made aware, after the trip and it all turned out as our friend intended.

I found that on trips your background didn’t matter and people’s true nature came out as you relied on each other and worked as a team to get the trip done and deal with those fundamental requirements – where will we sleep tonight (or, will we get there), will we stay dry, and will we get a hot feed? 

Usually, the worse the weather and/or the country, the more this became apparent. It was a real and strong lesson in what matters in group or team dynamics and forged many friendships. Alongside this was the fascinating conversations and widely varying views and experiences that arose around the fire or over a brew – another lesson in the value of knowing people from different backgrounds. 

I’m very pleased that I was around when there were the inter-club activities such as the Trampers’ Ball and the Trampers’ Marathon and was able to partake in those. An unintended benefit of the marathon was that it proved to me that I’m a walker not a runner. 

The friendships made have stayed strong, and when I meet people from those days, I feel we carry on like we last saw each other yesterday, not perhaps 10 or 20 years since we last talked. Even though I’ve had little involvement in the club for many years, I still think of myself as a Hutt Valley. 

Club contributions

I took on the Transport Officer job until 1988 or 1989 and led the charge to buy the club truck in 1982. Des Green was instrumental in arranging the purchase of the cab and chassis from Mitsubishi. I designed the aluminium canopy and seating that was built on the back, and from Labour Weekend 1982 the truck was the primary means of club transport. 

Trip numbers often exceeded the 21 seats, so we had to use additional transport at times. We also needed a place to park the truck, so I designed the garage and, under Graeme Collin’s leadership, club member work parties built it.

From 1982 to 1990, I was a Vice-President, although much of my contribution during this time was on transport matters. 

The introduction of hut fees led to the creation of the Tararua Huts Committee and I went along to the first meeting in February 1989 as the HVTC nominee. The committee’s primary purpose was the use of the hut fee income across the local hut network. In 1991, I became the committee chairman and held that position until September 2007, by which time it was known as the Tararua Aorangi Rimutaka Huts Committee. 

One of the founding members, as a DOC representative, was Derrick Field, and he is now the chairman of the Greater Wellington Backcountry Network (which is the recent successor to the huts committee) – a very impressive tour of duty by Derrick.

One of the committee’s early projects was replacing Waitewaewae hut, with which HVTC was closely involved in site selection and design. I drew up sketch plans and later the construction drawings for Waitewaewae, and also went on a few club work parties to clear the new site and prepare it for construction. 

I spoke at the opening in November 1991 as the chairman of the Huts Committee rather than for HVTC. 

I joined the Ruapehu Lodge bunkroom project around 2008 as the architect and worked alongside Ian Wilson (architectural draughtsman) and Bob Laybourn (structural engineer) on the design and documentation of the new bunkroom. There was much valuable input to the design from the others on the Project Control Group – Ian Ayson, Matt Bruce, Graham Craig and John Simes. My role finished in 2012 when building finished. 

What the club means

It has made a significant difference in my life, with the experiences and friendships that have come from HVTC membership charting the course. Tramping and the great outdoors has been and remains a fundamental part of who I am, what I care about and what I want to spend more time doing. It’s the reason for an early, albeit partial, retirement so I can spend more time on my feet in the hills while I’m still relatively fit, active, and able. 

Future for outdoor recreation

There is, and will continue to be, an increase in outdoor recreation that in turn will lead to both more, and likely adverse, pressure on the outdoors and a demand for more and improved facilities because many of those wanting to be in the outdoors will not have the requisite skills to be independent to the extent that we were 30, 40 or more years ago (this is not a criticism of these people, simply an observation). 

On the other hand, clubs will struggle to attract new members, especially the younger ones. I suspect for the younger ones today, there are so many recreational opportunities compared to what was available to me that a tramp will not be undertaken as often (too many other things to also do) and then the attraction, or necessity, of joining a club to go on the occasional tramp is just not there. 

My memory of the 1970s and 1980s is that there was a relatively large cohort of members in their teens and 20s who were heavily involved in the fitter and faster trips, which inspired us younger and newer members and both attracted us to and kept us in the club. 

Dennis Page

Dennis Page

Dennis joined in 1999

 Dennis resize

Dennis Page at Lake Marion, Hollyford Valley, Fiordland National Park, March 2018. Photo: Martin Watson


I grew up in Wainuiomata in a house that bounded a remnant of native bush on the eastern side of the valley and the wider family was interested in bushwalking and the outdoors. Having bush right on the back doorstep, coupled with occasional Ōrongorongo and Tararua tramping tales recounted by my father (reliving his teens and early 20s), must have sparked my initial interest in tramping. 

Unfortunately, other than the occasional family outing into Butterfly Creek or the Ōrongorongo Valley, tramping experiences during childhood were somewhat limited. The wider family were dispersed around greater Wellington and the Hutt Valley and on numerous trips to visit them, the Tararua Ranges loomed ever present as a familiar backdrop to my tūrangawaewae. They were often made more mysterious and magical during winter with a mantle of white snow, which seemed to persist for a lot longer in the 1970s and 1980s than it does today. 

I was determined that one day, I would go in to explore them. I was vaguely aware through my father’s outdoor stories of the existence of tramping clubs, but by that stage no one in the family was a member of a club and I had no real independent means of joining one on my own.

The potential to go tramping during undergraduate studies at Victoria University of Wellington ought to have triggered lots of opportunities to explore the local backyard and beyond but alas, the VUWTC’s reputation in the early 1990s was not good. Instead, I opted to do independent trips with like-minded university friends and through those friends, I was introduced to experiences in Nelson Lakes National Park that left me keen to do more exploring. 

Post-graduate studies in Australia put tramping on the back burner. On my return to New Zealand in 1998, for work, I was determined to finally explore my own backyard. The trouble was, all of my friends I had tramped with in the early 1990s had since dispersed across the country (and elsewhere) for work. 

I did a bit of solo tramping but, after becoming ill on one trip and struggling to get out of the hills on my own, I determined that the sensible thing to do was to join a club where I could have the surety of the company of others, and the collective benefit of outdoor experience and wisdom. 

Knowing which club within greater Wellington to pick was a bit of a dilemma. The Tararua Tramping Club was my first port of call. The club night that I attended was full to bursting and I found it a bit impersonal, so I decided to keep looking.

HVTC early years

I next attended the HVTC, where the welcome was warm, and the numbers attending were not so large and intimidating. The HVTC was also sensible enough to have dispensed with the gold-coin entry fee and conveyed the impression that they were less sticklers for protocol and more operationally pragmatic than other clubs that seemed to still insist on slightly convoluted joining processes. 

I ceased shopping around and bedded down with the HVTC. During the late 1990s, the club’s membership was ageing but there was still a reasonable cohort of late 20-to-30-somethings that were within my age demographic. Not that in my mind those with grey hairs were unappealing, rather I viewed the demographic makeup as an excellent opportunity to glean tried and tested wisdom and experience, and I think this approach has served me well. 

My first trip with the HVTCs was a Sunday trip to Mount Reeves and Cone, with the illustrious duo Mick McParland and Gilbert Stone on a journey that saw much off-track travel where good navigation was key. I watched as Mick and Gilbert took turns at leading and being 2-IC, checking each other for way marks and old blazes and they ran the entire trip without injury or incident. Lessons learned: two heads are better than one for leading/navigation (trips are a team effort) and you can open up a whole range of hitherto unavailable opportunities for walks when you go with a club to destinations that you would likely not venture to on your own.

During the late 1990s, the club’s full-weekend (overnight) trip protocols were still run along the basis that they had been (successfully) for many years with trips graded easy (E), average-fitness (AF) and fitness-essential (FE) and there was a good deal of local trip lingo to get your head around. Road-ends were often called by colloquial/familial landmark names (eg The Pines).

Trip organisation was mostly conducted via sign-up sheets (clip boards) and paper hand-outs since few folks had e-mail or internet connections. You were expected to be at club night on the Wednesday prior to trip departure to have all the logistics sorted and to receive any last-minute briefings. 

Collective club transport was the big Mitsubishi Canter truck which required a subset of members to possess concurrent heavy vehicle and passenger licences (it could fit about 20 people in its cabin behind the cab and you could stand up in it to get changed). It was \ common for at least one trip of each of the gradings to run each weekend (in addition to the Sunday day-walk) and typically all the weekend overnight trips would depart on a Friday evening for shared transport to the road-end. 

Participants of the easy-grade trip would often sleep out under a flysheet at the road-end while the AF and FE trips would tramp with the aid of a head torch (halogen bulbs with a heavy battery pack, plus spares) for several hours to reach the nearest hut, to position themselves to undertake the rest of their journey following an early start the next morning.

I thought I would have to conduct a long apprenticeship with the club before I would graduate to leading trips, but it soon became apparent that if you were keen to go somewhere and no one was available to lead the trip, you were warmly encouraged to put your hand up and give it a go. 

Generally, once you advertised that you were leading a trip, you had no shortage of participants on the trip to accompany you, many of whom had significant and seasoned experience and who would offer you support or loan you gear. 

Generally, menus for the shared Saturday night meal had the common theme of 101 variations on mac-cheese, something that as a trip leader I was determined to change, especially with the advent of new stir-in, pouched, sauces and small cans of tuna and chicken. Add in rice and a medley of fresh vegetables and voila, all manner of stir-fry like meals at your finger-tips with minimal fuss or extra weight to carry. 

Longer trips on holiday weekends and Easter, required a bit more planning but could still make use of fresh and light-weight food without having to resort to the expensive and inappropriately portioned Back-country. 

I thank life member and club stalwart Graham Craig who invited me on my first 10-day club trip (to Dusky Sound) and who taught me a good deal about menu planning and quantities to take for long trips.

In my early and formative years with HVTC I mostly joined or led easy or AF trips – I guess I could have challenged myself with more strenuous FE trips but was more interested in a slightly relaxed pace, so I could enjoy the scenery and stop to take plenty of photographs. I was also determined to pick up new skills, especially for winter tramping, and the club offered several courses each year on bushcraft, first aid, leadership, navigation and alpine instruction (making use of their superb lodge up at Whakapapa on Ruapehu). 

Murray Presland, Neil Hickman, Ian Oldham, Andrew Russell, and Nick and Kate Brownsword were instrumental in passing on essential skills to get me up to speed with the basics. 

In the early 2000s, alpine instruction courses comprised three weekends away: two based on Ruapehu and a more challenging one based on Mt Taranaki. The alpine skills courses were often very popular, attracting a good number of non-members, typically had wait-lists, and required many instructors. Unfortunately, many participants did not stick around the club scene after acquiring a few skills.

Some of us who did stay on soon became instructors or helpers. I ended up coordinating the introductory alpine instruction course for many years from ca. 2004 to 2012 (ably assisted by the likes of Murray and Neil, John Simes, Graham Craig, Tony Jaegers, Derek Richardson and the late Jan Heine).

A memorable trip

One difficult and challenging trip experience I had with the club was during an overnight camping trip that I led, with a party of five, to Ruapehu’s summit plateau in winter 2006. We set out from the lodge on Saturday morning in reasonable weather but the forecast for early on Sunday was changeable with 50 kmh winds forecast. 

Before setting off, I’d tried to gauge more expert opinion on the merits of staying out overnight from more seasoned climbers at the lodge but could not really get an emphatic answer. We set out reasoning that we could always turn back when the weather turned bad – We had noted good advice from Neil Hickman about the merits of taking compass bearings from the campsite to prominent landmarks/structures back down the mountain as waypoints for navigation on the following day in case the weather and or visibility was bad. 

On the Saturday evening, not long after retiring to our tents following dinner, we heard a weather front hit with a bang – almost the sound you might hear when witnessing a vehicle collision. The wind fair raged all night, the tents bounced and flapped about (but miraculously stayed intact and upright), and the vestibules kept filling up with snow. I don’t think I got a wink of sleep for the entire night and always kept one hand firmly on my storm gear just in case the need arose to put it on.

There was no let-up in the weather the following morning. We had cellphone (text) coverage with the crew back down at the lodge and informed them that we might have to hunker down for a few days. They advised us to get off now, which was easier said than done (being mindful of a party of army personnel that tragically perished in a blizzard on the same mountain in the early 1980s having not stayed put in a storm). 

We had a group conference between the two tents over a hastily convened breakfast and made the difficult decision to decamp and leave – not before rechecking all compass bearings, agreeing on a plan, and donning all storm gear. 

I think it was the slowest 2km that I have ever walked (not including epic West Coast scrub bashes) from the camp to the upper pylons of the Far-West T-Bar that reassuringly emerged out of the blizzard in line with a compass bearing. 

Tramping with seasoned members Brian Pickering, Patrick Fotheringham and Catherine Croucher certainly helped, as did heeding Neil Hickman’s earlier sage advice. The hastily packed tent remained ice-encrusted even for the entire journey back to the Hutt and only thawed out later that evening when airing in my garage. 

I was relieved I did not have to re-pitch it should an emergency have necessitated it. I now treat all 50 kmh wind forecasts with considerable respect – 50 kmh in a car might seem slow but a constant wind of the same speed on a snow-capped mountain at altitude is quite another thing altogether.

Club mentors

Although one of my happy places is certainly above the bushline among the tussock tops and enjoying superb views on a fine day, I have had many great HVTC experiences within the bush and river valleys. 

Club members such as Michael Grace, Tony Jaegers and Graham Craig taught me many of my early acquired camping and bushcraft skills and in 2004, I was lucky to gain a spot on the famed 10-day Easter trips led by the late Graeme Lythgoe. 

When I first undertook these multi-day trips with Graeme, you were out for the full 10 days, and nine nights, and cooking was done on an open fire. Fuel stoves were strictly for emergency only (as fuel for 10 days was extra weight to carry) and a couple of billy hooks were essential bits of kit for every party member. Huts were eschewed (mostly) with most nights spent out in tents away from DOC infrastructure. 

Graeme introduced me to a good deal of remote South Island backcountry that I might not have ventured into on my own merits (at least in my early years with the club). Through shared adversity and adventure, I have met some wonderful people and forged some very close friendships. Another Lythgoe party regular noted recently, many of us owe Graeme a lot. I wholeheartedly share these sentiments. I could re-echo the same sentiments concerning many others in the HVTC whānau – the club environment grows strong ties. 

Club contributions

You don’t get to belong to a club of any sort for 20-plus years without being involved at some stage with its governance and organisational structures and it’s usually from these positions that you witness the impact of change or help to initiate it. 

I was shoulder-tapped relatively early in my HVTC tenure and was seconded on to the General Committee within six months of joining the club. I have held some roles, such as being a new-member contact, continuously. 

I have taken my turn as Environment Officer, Social Committee Convenor, Guest Speaker Coordinator, Vice President, and President. I have been a club representative on the collective national body of tramping, outdoor and mountaineering clubs within New Zealand, the Federated Mountain Clubs, Inc (FMC). I still hold a trustee role with the FMC’s Mountain and Forest Trust (initiated by the late Arnold Heine) and assist with its youth scholarships expedition programme.

Impacts of change

With the onset of the new millennium, change was afoot as new technologies became more commonplace (cheaper and more widely available). They were incorporated into the gear we used (Gore-Tex for coats; recycled eco-fleece plastics for mid- and base-layers; polymeric resins for mugs, bowls and utensils; white LEDs for head-torches, and digital cameras for photography), and into the way we conducted club business (internet, including a club website, and e-mail for communication, plus digital projection in the mid-2000s to replace the trusty Kodak slide projector).

Some of the changes have come in gradually and without fuss, some were more immediate and perhaps controversial, and some were necessary and pragmatic (eg, one of the reasons to replace the club’s truck with a 12-seater Transit van in 2001 was because fewer members had the necessary HT- and P-endorsements on their driver’s licences and we needed a bigger pool of drivers to continue to meet the demands and expectations of shared club transport). 

In more recent times, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the club had to be very nimble and adaptable. A ban on in-person meetings, especially for prolonged periods during 2020, could have been the death-knell for the club (and many organisations like it) but once again, uptake of hitherto and previously unavailable technology in the form of multi-broadcast Zoom meetings allowed club members to run virtual club nights from home and to stay connected until we could meet in-person again.

The widespread adoption of the internet and its presence in almost every household by the middle of the first decade of the 2000s is probably responsible for driving the biggest changes in club culture. 

The internet has made organising club activities and its governance relatively easy, but it has also opened up the possibilities for people to research, organise and conduct trips into the outdoors without the need to be involved in a club structure/culture. 

More choice and the ability to buy events/activities as one-offs seem to have made many people more time-starved or less willing or able to commit longer-term to traditional club organisations. There is also an expectation that the trips on offer give a significant subset of members more comfort (shelter, food, facilities etc.) and therefore, the more difficult grades of trips have become less appealing (a sign of ageing but wealthier membership perhaps).

Whether such trends continue as HVTC journeys into its next century or whether things go full circle and people in search of non-virtual communities come back to more traditional club cultures remains to be seen. 

Being involved with HVTC over the past 24 years has taught me that a combination of the personal touch, pragmatism, and being open to adaptation and change are key to our ongoing success and survival – remove one or more of those attributes from the backpack and that is when your journey might be at risk of non-completion.

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Andrew McCrorie, left, and Dennis Page doing the mountain radio schedule in Elizabeth Stream, Westland, January 2004. Photo: Steve Anderson


Andrew MacKintosh, left, and Dennis Page outside Upper Poulter Biv, Arthur's Pass, January 2006. Photo: Jo Monks  

Mary and Phil Rundle

Mary and Phil Rundle

Phil joined in 1951 and Mary joined in 1957.


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From left, Arnold Heine, Phil Rundle, Gordon Howitt and John Rundle at Harihari, Easter 1955.


Phil’s brother, John, introduced Phil to tramping. In 1950 Phil started university and went on the Easter trip to the Tararua Range with the VUWTC, other trips and their 1950 South Island Christmas trip. University was not for Phil and in 1951 he joined the HVTC. 

Mary Speer graduated from an Irish university and her father paid her fare to New Zealand to see his long-lost brother and family. She intended staying two years and returning to Ireland with her parents when they came to visit New Zealand.

Mary became a chemist at the former Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) in Gracefield, Lower Hutt. She worked with Jim Lynch, an HVTC enthusiast who introduced her to the club. 

She went tramping, skiing and joined a South Island Christmas trip in 1959. 

In January 1960 Phil returned from a year overseas and visited Jim at the DSIR lab, where he met Mary. Soon Mary and Phil were on the same trips.

At the 1960 AGM, Mary was elected Treasurer and John became Vice-President.

They married in April 1961. 

Mary did not return to Ireland with her parents. 

A memorable trip

Around Easter 1955, Arnold Heine, Gordon Howitt, Phil and brother John made an alpine crossing from Westland to Canterbury via the Whitcombe and Wilkinson valleys, the Katzenbach Ridge, Bracken Snowfield, Erewhon Col and the Ramsey Glacier. They ended up camping on the Ramsey moraine ahead of more alpine work the next day. 

During the night it rained heavily, causing noisy avalanches on Mt Whitcombe behind the camp. In the morning they fled to Lyell hut not far away. 

Next day was perfect weather and they retraced their steps to resume the original plan to cross Strachan Pass from the Clarke Glacier. 

The approach to the pass was up a long steep ice slope, which the crampons on their boots managed. The ice did not reach the pass top but ran up to steepish rocks. The ice had melted back from the rock leaving a crevasse to cross. The angles involved meant that the top edge of the ice was sharp and, after finding suitable places to cross the crevasse, platforms were cut by ice axe so that, carefully, packs could be taken off and crampons attached. Then it was across the crevasse and up to the pass. 

In Westland the small Lord Glacier gave no trouble nor did the steep mountain stream with big boulders that followed. 

Mid-afternoon the valley levelled out to a small and delightful snowgrass area before plunging down as a fearsome Westland gorge. They camped on the grass without tents. After dinner, they lay back enjoying the last rays of a great day in the mountains. 

Phil’s pack was at his head and a kea perched on it, looking him in the eye. Two or three kea swooped and called loudly. John jumped out of his sleeping bag, grabbed his ice axe, gave a kea a mighty wallop and it flew across the stream, sat on a big boulder and started swearing. This attracted all the kea in the area and they joined the fun. 

After that weird night the fearsome Westland gorge was avoided by traversing the slopes of the Lord Range and dropping down to the Big Wanganui River, two or three hours from the main highway near Harihari. 

Mat Craig

Mat Craig

Mat joined in 1958.

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Mat and Graham Craig


Mat’s father introduced her to tramping. The Tararua Range was a very happy place for him. She was a member of the Levin-Waiopehu Tramping Club when she met her husband-to-be Graham met on Ruapehu. Since he had been a HVTC member since 1955, she joined HVTC in 1958. 

The club at that time had man members in their early 20s and many are still close friends. There has always been a real family atmosphere. 

Some of the best trips were Christmas trips to the South Island. A fortnight away from it all was an amazing and invigorating break. When you are coping with a heavy pack on your back, other worries tend to vanish. 

These trips extended Mat mentally and physically, taught her endurance, and pushed the boundaries of what she thought she could achieve. They took her to many interesting and beautiful places, and introduced some of the great parts of New Zealand. 

As Mat and Graham aged and slowed down, the emphasis shifted, and photography and/or botany became a good reason to go tramping.  

In the long run, it is the enduring friendships and the people who are the important part of belonging to this club.

Pat and John Tristram

Pat and John Tristram 

John joined 1959 and Pat joined in 1966.


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Dinner at Ces Clark Hut, 2005. Photo: Sandra Pearce 


John joined the club after transferring from Napier to the Woburn Railway Workshops to complete his apprenticeship. 

He was introduced to Brian Ahern, who took him to his first meeting when the club met at the Hibernian Hall in Lower Hutt, before the clubrooms were opened in November 1959. 

Tramping most weekends became the norm to get away from a rather spartan existence in the Single Men’s Camp near the railway workshops. 

His first Christmas trip 1959/60 was to the Hopkins and Huxley valleys led by Nigel Canham. John became one of the gun trampers at a time of many fit (mainly men) folk in the club. He and Peter Daniel (WT&MC) completed the first successful Schormann – Kaitoke traverse via the Main Range in a weekend, on 1-3 November 1963. Two other HVTC members, Dick Cowan and Alan Stevens, had done this trip over a Wellington Anniversary weekend – considered quite a feat. 

Pat joined in 1966, having decided she wanted to do a little more in the weekends than help with home chores, read books or go to the movies. Aspiring members had to do two trips with the club, one of which had to be a weekend tramping trip. She did several Sunday trips in late 1965 and her first weekend trip was the Chooks Trip (the second one run). With a kidney crusher pack belonging to her father (who was an HVTC member in the early 1930s) and kapok sleeping bag she wondered what she’d let herself in for. With support from Mat Craig and Bev Bruce, she survived the trip and was hooked. 

John led a trip to Mt Taranaki at Labour Weekend 1966 that Pat was on. With snow, rain but great weather on the last day, the joy of being up on that mountain with the wonderful views around, was different experience from the Tararua Range and Orongorongo Valley. John was flatting not far from where Pat lived and their relationship grew and they were married in 1967. With building a house and raising a young family, their tramping adventures somewhat slowed and they became more involved in the administrative side of the club. 

Club contributions

They both joined trip committees over the years. John was convenor of the Social Committee in 1976/77 and Pat in 2007-2010. John was Vice-President in 1976/77 and President from 1978-80. Pat did two four-year stints as Secretary from 1973-77 and 1983-87, and Hills & Valleys editor from 1973-76. 

Other tramping contributions

From the 1970s to the 1990s both became involved in other organisations. Pat was on FMC for 10 years (1976-86), nine as Secretary and one as North Island Vice-President. John was the FMC nominee on the Tararua Forest Park Advisory Committee and then the Wellington Conservation Board when DOC came into being. He was also an NZFS Honorary Ranger. 

Pat was FMC nominee on the NZ Mountain Safety Council, having also been on the local Wellington MSC Committee. 

Pat was secretary for a time for Wellington Associated Mountain Clubs (WAMC), an association of all the Wellington region tramping clubs. It made submissions on issues such as the Te Marua dams, proposed dam in the Upper Ōtaki, huts in the Orongorongo Valley. 

John was the club delegate on WAMC, then President. (Peter Smith TTC and Murray Presland HVTC were later Presidents). 

The Tararua Tramping Museum Trust was formed by members of WAMC clubs concerned that as members of their clubs passed away, historic artefacts, papers and photos were being lost. This was initially based at Ōtaki Forks with plans to build a museum there. With the creation of DOC, funding for something like this was not forthcoming and the organisation has now virtually disappeared. (Fortunately, Te Papa, Ōtaki Historical Society and Deerstalkers have some of this material in their archives and on display). 

John was on the FMC SAR Subcommittee for several years. He was  the President when it became a stand-alone body, NZLSAR, with its own Constitution and was the first paid field officer in the 1990s until he retired. He was very active in SAR within HVTC, participating in and involved with the administration on many operations and SAREXs. He was recognised for this work with a QSO presented in 2012. 

Club organisers

They organised and led many trips over the years, ranging from family trips when their children were young to working parties on club huts. They were responsible for demolishing a few huts too. They also organised working parties for tracks, eradicating pinus contorta (some of these trips had more than 60 participants), Christmas tramping trips and, during the past 15 years, cycling trips. 


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Olivine Ice Plateau trip, 1986. Photo: Brian Ahern


Family trips

With several young families in the club, family trips were re-instigated, with an early one out to the seal colony at Turakirae Head and on to Barney’s Whare in November 1974. This was most successful, with the write-up in December’s Hills & Valleys noting 66 people came along, with a bonus being frogs found in a large pond on the return and billies of tadpoles taken home by keen children. 

More trips were designed for little legs over the next few years, locally then further afield, with expeditions to the Cobb Valley, Waimakariri – Carrington Hut (led by John Rundle), Marlborough Sounds (where we took over the Holiday Camp at the head of Endeavour Inlet with 64 men, women and children for Easter 1985) and later Abel Tasman. 

As the children became older and less interested in tramping, their parents were still keen and able to eventually leave them to fend for themselves and do longer trips. 


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Family trip, Milford Track, 1981


Memorable trips

Nelson Lakes National Park is one favourite area. It has so much to offer and is not that far from home, so they have enjoyed many great trips here, a number of them being extended Easter trips led by Doug Fowler in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Fiordland/ Mt Aspiring/ Paparoa/ Arthur’s Pass offer great tramping, as does Tongariro and, of course, the Tararua Range. 

One memorable event was the search for HVTC Life Member Bert (Gilbert) Mabin. He was elected a Life Member in 1940 and in 1980 when in his late 70s had a terminal illness. A Wellington District SAREX in the Ngatiawa area was diverted to Waikanae when news arrived that Bert was missing. 

Unfortunately, this search and others during the following week by friends and family were not successful. John, who was HVTC President at the time, organised a search the following weekend, on 15/16 November, with assistance from the Police. While a sad outcome, Bert’s family and friends were very grateful for the effort made to find him. 

More information about the search for Bert Mabin is at the end of this page. 

Another truly memorable trip came after John did a three-week HVTC Christmas trip in 1979/80 to the Olivine Ice Plateau led by John Rundle. He was so taken with that area (it had long been a favourite of early tramping and exploration by club members) that he wanted to visit again with Pat.

In December 1986 Pat and John with Des Green and Phil Quinn set off, beginning on the Routeburn Track, over Sugarloaf Pass, Park Pass to Hidden Falls before going down the Olivine River to the confluence with the Forgotten River. 

The stashed some food before the trip up to Forgotten Flats and the Olivine Ice Plateau. They tramped on The Plateau, Arc and Little Arc before returning to the Forgotten River and up on to the Olivine Ledge. 

They had a couple of nights there, deterring the keas from tearing into their packs, before going over Fohn Saddle and down the Beansburn and back out to the Routeburn, where Brian Ahern picked them up after 12 days in a fabulous area. 

They repeated some of this route 10 years later with Graeme Lythgoe on one of his pre-Easter trips when they spent 24 hours in tents beside the Olivine River waiting for the snow to stop. 

Another memorable trip was Graeme Lythgoe’s pre-Easter trip in 1997 when they crossed the Makarora River (waist deep, but it saved a couple of hours walking) up the Young, passing Mt Awful and Mt Dreadful, over Gillespie Pass and down to the Wilkin River. A side trip to Lake Crucible meant a long day up the Siberia River to camp before going over Siberia Pass and down to the Ngatau River the following day. 

A day and half travel down this river brought them to the Okuru River where travel got more difficult with large boulders and gorges to contend with. The flats below Māori Pass at the head of the Okuru were delightful, but Māori Pass was a challenge (it was later found we weren’t in the right place) to drop down into the Blue River. More large boulders, more gorges and it was with some relief they reached the road nine days later. 

What was also memorable about this trip was that they only had one shower of rain one night. 

How things have changed

One is reminded of how much things have changed from the 1960s through to the present day. At club nights in the 1960s trips were arranged, leaders approaching those present suggesting, inviting, cajoling others to participate in their upcoming trip. Inducements were offered and trips were presented as being exciting, different, challenging and not to be missed. 

Communication was by phone and many hours were spent organising trips, For Chooks trips three or four women each had a list of 10-15 others to ring and ensure they all knew about the trip and were coming. Such was the time spent on these phone calls, that when John was President and Pat FMC Secretary, she spent an FMC Honorarium on a dishwasher. 

Weekends were weekends, with work finishing Friday evening and Saturday/Sunday not being taken up by shopping. Seven day trading had an impact on some trips, especially if members were working in retail. 

And then email arrived, which has made mass communication much easier (but we wonder if not to the detriment of human contact). 

The truck left the clubrooms at 7pm every Friday night taking trampers covering three or four grades (E, AF, F, FE) to a destination where they were dropped off to either camp or begin walking. 

Pick-up was arranged for around 4-5pm on Sunday afternoon for the trip back to the clubrooms. The truck going to Mt Ruapehu left at 6pm with a dinner stop in Rata (now a blink and you miss it) and then hoping a train was close to Taihape station so the toilets would be open. The night was spent in the truck with folk making their way up to the club hut early in the morning for breakfast before a day’s skiing.

Work parties maintained huts and the tracks to them. Members raised funds for larger items such as Ruapheu hut extensions in 1976 and the first club vehicle (23-seater Mitsubishi Canter) in 1982. To fund the Ruapheu hut extensions members worked for Earl Riddiford at the Wainuiomata coast removing tauhinu from his hillside farmland. This was hard, back-breaking work for many club members. Scrub was cleared on land at Taitā where the DSIR Soil Bureau was doing research, then there was the bank job where a bank was excavated for a couple of club members who made a donation to the cause. Cake stalls, sales tables at club all added to the coffers for these major purchases. 


Ruapheu and skiing became a larger part of our life as we both learned to ski with our children. They became much better skiers than we did but many happy weekends and August school holiday week trips were spent in the Ruapehu hut – literally at times when the weather was uncooperative. The booking queue for the hut was long on a Wednesday night for trips three weeks away for weekends and six weeks for the school holidays, such was the anticipation of good weather. However, access to railway accommodation in Frankton Arm meant ski trips to the Remarkables, Cardrona and Coronet Peak became the holidays of choice when the children were at high school. 

Club support

With so much of our life involved with the club and its activities we have made many good friends over the years. When John arrived in the Hutt as a young 18 year old, Des and June Green were like second parents to him. Much mentoring was done on trips and these folk included Trev and Thora Jones, Mat and Graham Craig, the Rundles (Phil, Mary, John and Anne), and the Heines to name a few. 

They helped us push the boundaries and Des organised our first overseas trip to hike the John Muir Trail in 1990, which opened our eyes to how tramping was done in the USA. We enjoyed doing more wonderful tramps in the UK (when our son and daughter lived there), Nepal, Europe, South America and Morocco. 

Along with many club members who were raising families and working full time, we appreciated the friendship and support over the years. 


On our retirement, with John’s dodgy knee we took up cycling which added another dimension to our activities. Some members have been keen on cycle touring and mountain biking, but we enjoyed the more social cycling and were pleased to play a part in expanding the Tuesday night summer rides and trips further afield at long weekends. 

Overseas cycling trips added another dimension when with HVTC friends we enjoyed riding down the Danube, visiting the Loire, Dordogne and Provence areas in France, as well as parts of Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Baltic states. 

Centenary thoughts

We’re delighted to be able to take part in the club’s centenary activities and although not now as active as we were or might like to be, age being a factor in this, we do still enjoy the company of friends in our HVTC family. 


Bert Mabin search 

John Tristram writes about the search for Bert on 15 November 1980.


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Bert Mabin in 1940. Photo: Ian Powell


Having been on the unsuccessful day and a half search over the weekend of 8-9 November for Bert, I came home troubled that he was still missing. I knew he was a Life Member, though I didn’t know him personally and only vaguely knew of his activities in the club. 

Bert was a formidable explorer and climber of the Canterbury Alps with the Canterbury Mountaineering Club and became a full member of the NZ Alpine Club in 1932. He transferred to Wellington in 1931 and joined the HVTC. 

Ian described him as “throwing himself into every aspect of the club’s activities”. Bert persuaded Ian and two others on an Easter climbing trip into the Waimakariri after which “members needed little persuasion to go south”. 

Perhaps Bert’s greatest and longest-lasting contribution to the club was in 22 September 1934 he produced a cyclostyled bulletin with a printed letterhead entitled “Hills and Valleys”, the forerunner of today’s club publication. 

He was made a Life Member of HVTC in 1940, the third life member of the club. 

So what to do about Bert? Could the club continue the search? I rang and sought counsel from senior club members Trev Jones, Graham Craig and others who all supported having another look. 

At that time club members were very involved at all levels of land search and rescue so when I rang the Wellington Police SAR sergeant his answer was clear. Yes, run a search. You can have the radios, batteries, all the SAR boxes containing administration papers, carbon paper, maps, acetate sheets etc, two police officers, the police bus and by the way there will be a couple of dozen beer in the boot. 

Time was running out so I went to the club SAR lists which as one of the Club SAR Contacts I held. These were lists with contact details of club members who had volunteered for SAR activities. I think they were graded A, B, and C for competency in SAR and 1, 2 and 3 for physical fitness and experience in the outdoors. I may have this the wrong way round but it was a real ambition for many of the young guns to be A1 or 1A on the list. 

After spending a few hours on the phone and talking to club members at the Wednesday meeting we had enough people to fill the bus on Saturday morning. 

There were, with Kaumātua, TTC and Bert’s Waikanae friends, some 50 in attendance at the search base at the local rugby clubrooms. Trev had agreed to be search controller and he tasked several teams into the lowland around Waikanae and towards the river. The Waikanae of 1980 was quite different from today. Then, especially by the river, there was gorse, blackberry, swamp and lupins further down the river and it was felt these were high areas of probability for a frail ill man to be. 

A search technique used at the time was contact search. A line is formed of the searchers, all near to or at shoulder to shoulder and an area swept for any sign. 

Radio comms were different with HF AWA 105 radios weighing 3kg-plus and requiring an aerial to be put up. Teams could only be contacted when they stopped and set the system up. It was several years before the handheld VHF sets came in with quick line of sight comms. Messages to and from the search base and search teams were then able to be done quickly. However, they needed a repeater if the line of sight could not be kept. 

Teams were also sent up to Hemi Matenga Reserve. Phil Rundle, in one of those teams, climbed up a track on a steep spur, looked back over his shoulder and spotted Bert. 

When the information was radioed to base I was posted to the end of this track, which was up a wide public walkway between houses. Police arrived with several searchers and a stretcher, and we all went up together to carry Bert down. 

We didn’t want a stretcher carried into the street, so the officer and I waited at the end of the walkway while the others went back to the rugby clubrooms. 

Ian Powell arrived, identified Bert and left. A doctor arrived and pronounced the death and left. Finally, a hearse arrived, we slid Bert in and he was on his way back to his family. We returned to the rugby clubrooms, helped tidy up the search gear, the locals headed back to their nearby homes and for us into the bus and back to Lower Hutt. 

I wrote in the 1980 December Hills & Valleys of the pride I felt for the skills and ability of the members involved and the gratitude I felt for their willingness to give of their spare time to help others in distress. 

Looking back, I am also proud that the club members had the trust and confidence of the Police to take on such a search. 


Ian Ayson

Ian Ayson

Ian joined in 1957.


Ian Alison Ayson Ruapehu

Ian and Alison Ayson outside HVTC’s Ruapehu Lodge in 2006


I was introduced to the great outdoors through my very active Dunedin scout group with hikes and tramps around the hills of Dunedin, the Silver Peaks, Rock and Pillar Range and trips into the Mt Cook region. My first taste of skiing was with the scouts at the Otago Ski Club facility at the Rock and Pillar Range above Middlemarch and later at Coronet Peak. 

I was an active member of the Otago section of the NZ Alpine Club and had completed a few climbs and tramps in the Matukituki Aspiring Hut area and some minor climbs in the Mt Cook region.  

I transferred from Dunedin to Wellington in 1957 as a land survey cadet with the Lands and Survey Department. 

HVTC waived its usual entry criteria for membership because of my alpine club membership. My first HVTC trip was a weekend work party to the club hut on Mt Ruapehu. I participated in a few weekend and day trips into the Tararua Range and Orongorongo area but my real love was the skiing.  

My job as a land surveyor took me away from Wellington throughout the summer months and into the hills and mountains – getting paid to do what the rest of the club members were doing in their spare time. Hence my limited activity on the tramping side of the club. 

One memorable survey trip was to survey and install trig type beacons along the West Coast of the South Island from Farewell Spit to Westport with the NZ Navy ship Lachlan. I reckon the last group to traverse the section along the coast from Big River to the Heaphy Hut was possibly Heaphy and Māori guides. It was a trackless, rocky foreshore and tough going carrying heavy equipment and supplies for a couple of surveyors and a team of Navy sailors. 

Early Mt Ruapehu years

I was very active at Mt Ruapehu from 1957 to 1963, joining as many weekend trips as possible and a week's holiday trip. 

I helped with early season work parties, carrying carbonettes and other supplies from the top of The Bruce to the hut. I also helped with the ongoing expansion and changes to the hut. 

I was a club representative on the voluntary ski patrol and I participated in the club’s ski sports and the Wellington Interclub sports. I might have been observed crawling up the mountain after one such après-ski party much the worse for wear. 

At the Tararua Hut after one interclub race, a few hardy idiots decided to climb the Yankee Slalom and race home.  A couple of leg breaks later saw the HVTC ski patrollers’ skills tested to their limits. 

It was up the mountain in 1960 when I met the love of my life, Alison, and asked her to be my partner to the trampers ball. We married in London six years later. 

Big OE

In October 1963 I embarked on my OE and four years later returned to New Zealand. I spent six months in Australia before heading for Canada where I spent two winters. I started as a ski patroller for the Canadian National Parks in Lake Louise Banff, then became a ski instructor in Banff and the next season taught skiing at Mt Tremblant in Quebec north of Montreal. 

Then it was on to London and the Continent. 

Back home – mostly 

On returning to New Zealand in 1967 I once again became involved in the club’s activities, albeit on a limited scale with a young family and the struggle to finance and build a home restricting my free time.

The Ayson family managed to get up the mountain from time to time and my ski instructing skills were put to use whenever possible. 

During the 1970s build of the two-storeyed section of the lodge, I was one of the casual workers whenever I could. 

With family growing up, it was back to regular ski trips to the mountain from 1976 to 1981, often arriving late on a Friday night with a children aged 5 and 7 in tow. 

I was a member of the Ruapehu ski committee from the mid-70s until another overseas adventure from January 1982 

A two-year job opportunity in Hong Kong took our family away from the ski fields and the HVTC not for just two years but for 16 years. 

On our return in October 1997 Alison and I became active again in the skiing side of the club, participating in work parties and regular weekend and week trips to Ruapehu, Wānaka and Queenstown. 

I was actively involved in the early planning and design meetings of the club’s new Ruapehu bunkroom from the first meetings in 2004 and later as project manager to its subsequent completion in 2012. 

I became a full member of the ski committee again from 2009 to 2018 and I was Vice-President from 2013 to 2016. 

My active local and international skiing came to an end in July 2018 when I caught an edge on an icy patch near the bottom of Knoll Ridge. Subsequent back operations and knee replacement meant skiing again wasn’t the wisest thing to do. After 70 years of skiing around the world, my ski boots hang forlornly in the garage. 

Great memories

Those early weekend trips to the mountain initially on a furniture van equipped with a second floor to accommodate 30-odd skiers in their sleeping bags and later Maurie Greaves’ articulated van with room for 30-plus on one level were the only means for the club to get to and from the mountain. 

We would usually arrive at the Chateau around midnight and wake up at 6am and load packs, weekend food and bodies on to Ruapehu Transport mountain goats (ex-army four- and six-wheel trucks) to the Top of the Bruce. It was then a 20-30-minute climb up to the hut. 

On arrival, under the firm directions of Jocelyne and the “Colonel”, the coal range was fired up, tank water turned on, the track to the long drops cleared. We had breakfast (porridge, of course), veges were peeled and the roast put in the oven for the evening meal. 

For anyone without gear, we sorted out club hire wooden skis with bear trap bindings to strap on to tramping boots. Then we went out to the back of the hut for a lesson with Archie Grant. The more advanced practised side slip lessons and kick turns on the steep drop-off into Tennant’s Gully. 

From that early introduction, we all bought proper leather ski boots and skis and soon were participating in uphill transport rope tows on Hut Flat and Scruffy Turner’s rope tow over on the National Downhill. 

There was a single-seater chairlift up the Rock Garden and a T-bar on the Staircase slope run by RAL. Access was by a single ride ticket or 10-trip ticket. Preference was given to shareholders who had financed the construction, which created long queues and much frustration. HVTC members tended to use Scruffy’s T-bar for a daily cost and unlimited runs. 

Equipment and uphill transport improved year by year from those rope tows, old wooden skis and tramping boots to today’s shorter carving skis and plastic, comfortable clip-on boots. These make skiing more enjoyable and accessible to many people. 

HVTC contributions

As a member of the HVTC over the past 66 years there have been so many memories of people, faces, friends and good times together in fair weather and blizzards. 

Alison and I have great memories of those weekend and week trips to Ruapehu, Broken River, Wānaka and Queenstown, and hosting club members in Hong Kong, but in particular being a member of “Team HVTC”. 

It has been a privilege to see younger club members grow up and help them with their skiing skills and surpass their teachers’ abilities. 

Perhaps the best memories were working as part of the various teams that over the years expanded the club’s hut on Ruapehu in the early 1960s and mid-70s. The construction skills and teamwork I learnt benefited me when building my own home and in my survey career. 

From 2004 to 2012 I used my survey, planning, design and construction management skills to help plan, design and later as team leader to oversee the construction of the replacement bunkroom of the club’s Ruapehu Lodge. 

This project, led by John Simes, involved a large percentage of the club’s members, from fund raising to demolition teams, rock excavators, painters, builders and electricians. The result is a credit to the enduring spirit of the HVTC. John and Ian were later recognised on behalf of the whole team for their input into the project with Life Memberships of the club.   

A double act

Over the past 60 years Alison has been as active as me in the club’s activities and ski trips. She was a social committee member in the early 1960s, hut mum, ski companion to many, and ensured slower and younger skiers returned safely to the lodge. She helped get food supplies up to the lodge, organised gear and mattresses up to the new bunkroom and the manufacture of mattress covers in Hong Kong and transport to New Zealand. 

Without your love and support, much of the above could not have happened. Together we made a great team. 

On reflection

In this 100th anniversary of the HVTC, for Ian and Alison it has been an honour and a privilege to still be members of the club. We have received so much benefit and given back a little. 

May the club continue to diversify its activities and promotion of the outdoors and protection of the environment for another 100 years.   

Ian Alison Ayson Belmont Trig resizeIan and Alison Ayson at Belmont Trig on one of HVTC’s centenary walks in May 2023


Bruce Miller

Bruce Miller

Bruce joined in 1993.


Bruce Miller at his peak

Bruce and his pack at his peak


An immigrant’s experience

I arrived in Hamilton in 1991, with my treasured boots and Vango backpack. Because of my enjoyment of hill walking in my ancestral home of Scotland, I sought out the local equivalent and discovered tramping. 

I also discovered that the Waikato Tramping club was populated by people with my sense of humour. 

In my arrogance I believed my hill-walking experience would enable me to handle tramping. I was soon to learn the error of my ways. 

My first Sunday tramp was to Maungatautari, a mainland ecological island near Cambridge. Here I first encountered bush, quite a sobering experience. Never before had I not been able to see where I was heading for. 

For a year I went on day tramps and weekends with the club, and even circumnavigated Taranaki, at that time known as Mt Egmont. While on a work party to the club’s hut on Ruapehu, I managed to crush a disc in my spine.

Hutt Valley arrival

In 1993 I came to the Hutt Valley and set about finding the local tramping club. It turned out that my boss at my place of employment, Kate Livingston, was a member of the Hutt Valley Tramping Club. She took me along to the meeting at the clubrooms. The size of the club was a surprise, as well as the number and variety of tramps on offer each week. The transport and sharing of the food and tents on weekend tramps was also a new experience. A pleasant one. 

Again my self-confidence was soon given quite a battering. My first weekend tramp, under Kate’s watchful eye, was to Penn Creek hut from Ōtaki Forks. Patrick Fotheringham led the tramp. I was carrying too much surplus gear so by the time we reached Field’s Hut I was suffering continuous attacks of cramp in both legs. I was okay on flat ground and downhill. In those days it was still possible to walk out along Penn Creek but the track was endlessly slippery in a continuous drizzle. On one occasion I was stuck flat on my back in a puddle and I think Doreen Courtenay and Kate waded in and lifted me upright. I cannot remember the end of that trip. I’m sure Patrick was convinced I would never come back again. 

I continued to learn that British hill-walking gear was totally unsuited to New Zealand bush conditions. My much-prized Vango pack was far too wide, made worse by the pouches on each side of the pack. Its aluminium tube outer frame also made it almost incompressible. Often I could not get through closely packed bush because of the width of the pack. I had to turn side-on to the gap I needed to go through. And on one occasion I was almost pitched forward into a river by the aluminium frame behind me hitting the boulder I was trying to slide down. 

By removing the aluminium frame, I turned it into a reasonable daypack. 

My boots, which I thought were made of leather, regularly sent me back to the shoe-repair shop in Petone. When the repair man saw me coming, he would ask if another D-ring had come loose. Over the years I replaced British gear with New Zealand-suitable equipment. I have worn through a Macpac backpack and lost track of the number of pairs of boots I’ve used up. I’ve also learned that cheap Warehouse boots are dangerous. 

Memorably difficult

In the 30 years I have been with the club I have been on hundreds of successful day and multi-day tramps which have slipped quietly from my memory, except when the memories are specifically recalled. 

Memories of the few really difficult ones keep popping up unrequested. An example is one that, for some time, was infamously known as the Matiri River tramp. The Matiri River runs from north to south in the Matiri Range, north of Murchison in the South Island, and the track along it gives the entry to the Thousand Acre Plateau. 

I was in the easy group for this three-day trip. The first day took us firstly along Matiri River at 400 metres, then climbed to the plateau at 1000 metres where we camped beside Poor Pete’s Hut. 

We set off the following morning at 8am, knowing we had quite a long day ahead, and followed the track north along the plateau. The plan was to turn east and find a way down through a set of bluffs to reach the Matiri River again and reach a campsite beside, I think, McConchies Hut. Because of the variety of capabilities and levels of fitness in our group, around the middle of the morning, it was decided to divide into two teams. The fitter team, led by Ray, would go ahead while less fit members, led by Ian, would come along behind. I was in the less fit team. 

To cut a long story short, the slow team tottered into the campsite after 10pm that night, more than 14 hours after setting out. One of the members was sporting a blood-soaked towel round his head, having fallen in the stream and gashed his forehead. We had reached the Matiri River close to sunset and then walked two hours by torchlight, only stopping along the way to have a meal of instant noodles to give us strength. The fit group had concluded that we must have set up camp. The memory of the period from leaving the plateau to reaching the river is a haze of endless scree-sliding, boulder scrambling, supplejack bashing and stream wading. 

Memorably great

My favourite trip is also the pinnacle of my multi-day tramping. It took place in the Lyell Range in the South Island, coincidentally not too far away from the Thousand Acre Plateau, and involved a route which is now popularly known as the Old Ghost Road. 

I had greatly improved my gear and physical competency, believing myself now capable of trips up to six days or more. I had even undertaken an eight-day trip some years previously. Jan Heine led the trip. Starting from Lyell campsite on State Highway 6 it follows an old miners’ road up the Lyell River. When we were traversing this section it had not yet been developed for biking and tramping the way it is now. 

Although on the old road, it was a single-file track and very overgrown. Climbing over fallen trees and diverting around extensive slips brought us to signs of the old mining settlements. It was lucky that we had extra days in our schedule as it took us two days reach Lyell Saddle, after having to camp the first night right on the track. These days Lyell Saddle is reached by bike by the middle of the first day. 

Leaving the Old Ghost Road, we dropped down into the south branch of the Mokihinui River, again occasionally climbing over or under trees fallen across the river. We bush bashed along the south branch for the next three days, camping in the bush or on river terraces. Sand flies were always around the campsites. We joined the Old Ghost Road again at Goat Creek Hut and enjoyed a sunny day walking to the junction with the north branch at Mokihinui Forks. 

The only trouble we had on the last two days was getting around Suicide Slips, which had to be achieved with the help of fixed ropes on the cliffside. The slips are now avoided by a couple of suspension bridges. 

A friend of Jan’s drove out to meet us at the Seddonville road end and carried our gear to the old schoolhouse while we enjoyed the stroll in the sunshine. 

There have been many other enjoyable trips on both land and water, in the North and South Islands, which could take up several pages to mention. A good number of them were led by or included Jan Heine. She mentored and inspired me in many ways over the years. Among others who gave freely of their advice and support were Mick McParland, Gilbert Stone, Michael Grace, Doreen Courtenay and, of course, Kate Livingston. I would not have survived so long with the club without them. 

Club connections

The club has been my main source of social interaction in the Hutt Valley, its members being the closest thing to a family that I’ve had over the years. In the bush and on the mountains I came to know that I could put my life in their hands. I’ve watched some changes in tramping over the years, mainly in the type and quality of the equipment being used. Luckily, I missed out on the heavy-duty pure wool bush shirts and the mountain mule backpacks. 

The introduction of lightweight artificial fibre materials has been a boon. Some of the lighter style boots appear strange but they grip the rocks just fine. Digital communication technology has almost done away with the mountain radio that I have used and depended on in the past. 

Conservation contributions

My background in biology stirred up my interest in the plants, animals and topography of New Zealand. A number of club members have been involved for many years in conservation and habitat restoration in and around the Hutt Valley. 

Graeme Maxwell asked me if I would be interested in helping out with rodent monitoring in the nearby water-catchment. Taking up his offer, I was involved in this for almost decades. I think Graeme also recruited me to the Pinus contorta eradication trips on Mt Ruapehu which, again, I took part in for many years until I felt I could no longer keep up. 

These activities have led me to become actively involved in the conservation and restoration activities of such groups as the Forest and Bird Society, MIRO and the Friends of Baring Head. After a little persuasion I was able to get Jan to let me help her maintain her predator control traps in the East Harbour Regional Park. Mention must also be made of the club work parties on Matiu/Somes Island, again inspired by Jan’s efforts. 

Club contributions

A club member once remarked to me that there was no point in joining a club if you were not prepared to help run it. Not because of this opinion but because I enjoy doing so, I have helped to run the club almost since I first joined it. At the start of my first winter with the club I joined a work party to our lodge on Mt Ruapehu. I’ve lost track of the number of lodge work parties I have been involved in. Balancing on the scaffold outside while painting the walls is quite an experience. 

I was extensively involved in the construction of the new bunk rooms of the lodge. Less energetically, I have been a member of the Ruapehu Committee as secretary for a number of years. 

I helped Ruth Anderson then Jan Heine to edit the club’s monthly newsletter and then took it over. From my computer records it seems that I have been the editor since 2004. 

I helped Val Erhardt with her Friday rambles until she gave them up after seven years. 


It is not an exaggeration to say that my membership of the HVTC has been a lifesaver to me. It has helped me through some bad times and improved the good times by being among people with the same sense of humour. You have to have one to do the things trampers do for enjoyment. 

I feel very grateful to have been a member of the Hutt Valley Tramping Club for as long as I have and to have known so many great people. Sadness at times for all those who have passed away during my membership. I’m not sure what the future can hold for our club but I wish it well and hope that it continues for another century.


Buce Miller  later yearsBruce and his lighter-weight pack in later years