Saturday, 24 August 2013

Day of redemption for Otago's David Latta

Otago fans celebrate the arrival of the Ranfurly Shield in Dunedin on Saturday
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JUBILATION: Otago fans celebrate the arrival of the Ranfurly Shield in Dunedin on Saturday after the province claimed it off Waikato in Hamilton on Friday night.
At last David Latta can rest easy.
The provincial stalwart played 161 games for the proud province from 1986-96, none arguably more famous than Otago's heartbreaking 1994 Ranfurly Shield loss to Canterbury.
With Otago leading 20-19 with time up, Latta was penalised for diving over a ruck. Andrew Mehrtens' penalty kick saw the red and blacks win 22-20.
But a day after Otago claimed the shield for the first time since 1957, in a 26-19 upset win over Waikato, he said he and many other unlucky Otago players could now move on.
"It [1994] is part of one of the disappointments in life and probably not the best way to be remembered about rugby," Latta told the Sunday Star-Times.
"But it is all part of that history of the shield and there are a lot of other people around New Zealand who have probably had similar heartache.
"Yesterday [in Friday's game], those young fellows put all those demons to bed for a lot of people in the Otago [province].
"I am just so proud. We have been on the other side with the heartache, and that is all part of it . . . part of the learning and I think it makes you a better person."
Latta soaked up every moment of Otago's fantastic victory with mates. "I was watching at a friend's place on a big screen, having a few beers and just enjoying the occasion," he said.
"It was great for the province, special for those boys up there [in Hamilton], and special for everyone down here as well supporting them."
Unlike many rugby fans around New Zealand, Latta believed the youthful Otago side could upset Waikato and end his province's 56-year Ranfurly Shield drought.
He said they won because they stuck to their plan and "believed in each other".
"These guys will have a lifetime memory of that game. They have made history and that is the important part."
Latta joined hundreds of other jubilant Otago fans in welcoming the province's latest crop of Ranfurly Shield heroes when they touched down at Dunedin Airport yesterday afternoon.
"It's a big crowd, it's just fantastic," he said.
Later in the day, the Otago team showed up at central Dunedin pub The Bog, complete with shield, to watch the All Blacks-Wallabies test. To the delight of pubgoers, the team performed a spirirted haka at the same time as the All Blacks.
The team and the Ranfurly Shield are set to be paraded at the city's roofed stadium today.
Among the crowd will be one-test All Black Tup Diack, a member of the province's 1957 shield-winning team.
Talking to the Star-Times last night, the 78-year-old local hero said the latest success would be a "big help" to rugby in Otago.
It comes 18 months after Otago almost disappeared off the national rugby radar due to the then-dire financial plight of the Otago Rugby Football Union.
In 1957, Diack's team upset Wellington 19-11. They defended the shield successfully against South Canterbury, before losing it to Taranaki.
He said there were similarities between his side's victory and Friday night's historic result.
"We were a pretty young side and nobody really expected us to do anything," he said."There was never a big buildup. But there was great jubilation [when we won]."
Diack said that as long as Otago were successful in their first-up defence against Hawke's Bay next Sunday, the current shield holders would have a longer defence reign.
"[On Friday] they played with a great lot of heart, courage and commitment," he said.
PAIN GAME 1967: Hawke's Bay halfback Aidan Thomas darts down the blindside late for 9-8 try decider.
1970: Fullback Laurie Mains kicks Otago out to a 9-0 lead by halftime, but Canterbury's Fergie McCormick's boot holds off the challenge, 16-12.
1994: Hooker David Latta dives over a ruck in the last passage of play with Otago up 20-19. Andrew Mehrtens' penalty nicks it, 22-20.
2000: Otago leads 26-14 with 20 minutes left but loses 29-26 after a late try to blazing Caleb Ralph.
2002: Canterbury halfback Justin Marshall scores under the posts to tie the scores. Mehrtens converts late penalty for 16-13 win.
2010: Is Jamie Mackintosh's try a double movement? Referee says no, and Southland holds, 16-12.
Even in  glory there is pain.
But, oh, what glory for Otago.
With time up on the clock on Friday night and Otago leading by seven points, Waikato had the feed to the scrum with 25 metres to a tryline that would keep the Ranfurly Shield in Hamilton.
For every Otago supporter, the inevitable was coming.
The noose that had drained every last breath out of every gruelling shield challenge of the past 56 years - 22 lost - was tightening.
The "David Latta". The "Caleb Ralph". The "Justin Marshall". The "Wayne Smith". Take your pick. Every Otago fan has their own personal piece of Ranfurly Shield misery to hold on to when, as has happened for more than five decades, victory mocks Otago.
Mine was a clip over the head on the Lancaster Park Embankment in 1994 as Jeff Wilson's sideline conversion attempt of Stephen Bachop's first-half try hit the upright. The cuff was delivered by a bloke who could have been my grand-dad, standing beside me dressed in Canterbury lambskin. David Latta and Andrew Mehrtens were mere sideshows that dreadful 22-20 day.
Or Wayne Smith scorching to the corner in 1984 before I could even get to my seat. I had been on a train with my schoolmate all morning to get there, and there wasn't much in the 44-3 mauling to talk about on the choo-choo ride back.
In Hamilton on Friday night it was coming - Otago leading 26-19 and halfback Kylem O'Donnell sets the Mooloo men at the tryline for the seemingly inevitable comeback moment to tie the game and keep the shield.
But this time the Otago line held strong under captain Paul Grant, as it had heroically done throughout this punishing match.
Coach Tony Brown and his assistant Phil Young, a true-blue hero down south, took the congratulations afterwards, but spoke of those who had come so close.
Of all of Otago's centurions, a list topped by towering lock Richard Knight at 170 games, Latta on 161 and my own boyhood Otago hero Ken Bloxham (155), only Tup Diack (tied at No 20 with 101 games) played in a successful Otago Shield era.
Win and they will come, those who built Dunedin's new stadium believed. So expect a full house when Hawke's Bay travel south next Sunday for Otago's first defence of the Ranfurly Shield since 1957. The city deserves it.
My shield advice to supporters of the Big O is simple: Enjoy it like it might be your last. Fifty-six years ago, Otago's reign lasted two games.
Otago had taken the log o' wood off Wellington, 19-11, but survived only one challenge - 6-3 over South Canterbury - before losing 11-9 to Taranaki, when Otago coach Charlie Saxton famously said: "The better team lost."
As one blogger posted yesterday: "I was just a kid in the middle of an icy winter at Mornington School, Dunedin, in 1957 when Otago last lifted the Ranfurly Shield. I never thought I would have to wait 56 years to see my province regain the trophy."
Star-Times Editor-in-Chief Garry Ferris grew up in the shadows of Carisbrook. He can now step out of them
- © Fairfax NZ News

Friday, 23 August 2013

Otago win Rugbi's coveted Ranfurly Shield.

I was just a kid in the middle of an icy winter at Mornington School, Dunedin, NZ,  in 1957 when Otago last lifted the Ranfurly Shield. (Log of Wood). I never thought I would have to wait 56 years to see my province regain the trophy.

Tony Brown couldn't do it as a player but he has created history as coach, taking Otago to their first Ranfurly Shield victory in 56 years.
"The whole of Otago are over the moon," Brown said after his team beat Waikato 26-19 at Waikato Stadium last night to lift the coveted Log o' Wood for the first time since 1957.
"I've got 105 texts on my phone already since the game finished," Brown said half an hour after fulltime.
The Otago team celebrate with their sponsor's product Speights Beer after their victory.

Otago had lost their 22 previous challenges but the winning try scored by replacement flanker TJ Ioane off a 5m scrum after he had got the steal to launch the initial counterattack and the deadly accurate boot of young first-five Hayden Parker ensured it was not 23.
"That's a lot of failed challenges, a lot of challenges when they've been in front with 20 to go, 10 to go, or two to go or one to go.
"I only had the one challenge myself as a player and we were 15 points up with 10 minutes to go [against Canterbury] and I think Caleb Ralph scored in the last minute to win it for them.
"So there's been a lot of heartache for Otago rugby over the Ranfurly Shield and I guess tonight the boys have just put that to sleep."
Brown said they did it for all the players who had gone before who had narrowly failed to win the log because they respected Otago history and the players who had played for Otago before.
"Every time we take the field we want to play for them and especially tonight with the Ranfurly Shield challenge that was our goal.
"I think every one of my players left nothing in the tank and they emptied it for past Otago rugby players," he said.
The massive defence by Otago that kept Waikato to just one try despite the holders  enjoying over 60 per cent of both possession and territory summed up the heart of every player in his team.
"That's always been Otago rugby - a good bunch of Otago Country and Otago players  mixed with a few students who buy into the Otago culture and that's where we perform best," Brown said.
Waikato coach John Walters said his team had not played to their game plan and tried to play catch-up rugby too early, forcing passes early on rather than holding onto the ball andbuilding pressure.
"We were getting good momentum from our big fellas and we started to get points, but we just panicked a little bit and weren't patient enough at crucial times and in a shield match those things really hurt you," Walters said.

Otago 26 (Hayden Parker, TJ Ioane tries; Parker 2 conversions, 4 penalty goals) Waikato 19 (Tim Mikkelson try; Trent Renata conversion, 4 penalty goals) Halftime 16-13

Lifelong Otago fan Cyril McDermott, one of few old enough to witness the last time Otago held the shield, remembers a dominant southern era between 1935 and 1950 when the shield was shared between Otago and Southland.
"There were no superstars but every player was good and they were a strong side", he says of the Otago team.
"Particularly when Southland would come up to challenge for the shield there would be special trains run. It was a huge occasion; everyone flocked to Carisbrook in those days."
McDermott chuckles at the suggestion of a curse on the Otago team.
"I guess for most of those 22 [games] we probably haven't been good enough."

Since Otago last held the shield, it has changed hands 48 times and been held by thirteen different unions.

I cannot describe adequately what it means to have the Ranfurly Shield in your home town; not dissimilar to winning the Rugby World Cup

Thursday, 22 August 2013

90 years of one of the greatest mountaineering and tramping clubs in New Zealand

Tonight,  23 August 2013, climbers and trampers (trekkers) are gathering in Dunedin to celebrate  90 years of the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club with its long tradition of exploration, tramping (trekking) rock climbing and mountaineering.  Here is my take on how it became a climber's nursery and how many of us learned skills that took us to remote mountain ranges of the world, the Amazon forests and to the Antarctic and Arctic  

The jewel in Otago's crown, Mount Aspiring. Most climbers in the OT&MC aspired to climb to these heights. Many did, and went on to greater heights: Photo by Colin Monteath

So many competent New Zealand climbers came out of Otago, and it is interesting to look back at the origins of mountaineering in Otago, and wider afield to see why ? Here is a bit of a history of the club up until 1974, with special emphasis on why the club produced many outstanding mountaineers.

The N.Z. Alpine Club, formed in 1891, was the first organised mountain club in New Zealand. Several more were formed early last century, particularly after the First World War--the Tararua Tramping Club in 1919, The Otago Tramping & Mountaineering Club in 1923 and the Auckland Tramping Club in 1925. In Canterbury, a Christchurch Tramping & Mountaineering Club was formed in 1925. Later its male members formed the Canterbury Mountaineering Club.

With the Southern Alps well traversed regularly by Maori in search of Greenstone, food and for the general draw of what lays over the ridge, early New Zealand mountaineers and trampers generally ignored a lot of information available in Maori records and folklore. Here is an extract from my article on Maori mountaineers of South Westland.

The mana and beauty of the Pounamu was an added attraction to cross the Divide again and again, all the while gathering further alpine experience. Their pre-European glossary of snow and ice, whilst not as comprehensive as the Innuit (Eskimo), certainly proved that they had rubbed their paraerae (sandals) on the high mountain passes. Whenuahuka described the permanent snow on the high peaks and hukapapa was the name for the huge snowfields. The snow slides from the high peaks were hukamania, and as they grew and took on avalanche proportions, they became hukahoro. The glaciers that drained the snowfields were called hukapo, the glacial sediment waiparahoaka and the snow-fed water, waihuka. Kipakanui, or ice, was seen in the shady valleys in winter, and the thick ice which never saw the sun was named waiuka, meaning solid water.

Early runholders and goldminers in Otago often crossed passes in the late 1850s and early 1860 and set a path for later European climbers who followed. My great grandfather James McKerrow surveyor /explorer a true-blue Otago mountain man, surveyed many parts of remote Otago, Southland and Fiordland frequently climbing peaks, not only once but sometimes four times before he got the right weather to take a bearing. So many of us young mountaineers in Otago had a lineage from explorers, shepherds, runholders, goldminers, sheep stealers and surveyors and with our tough outdoor upbringing, we took to the hills of Otago, like ducks to water.

James McKerrow (pictured left) was the first person to climb Mount Pisgah in Fiordland in 1863. McKerrow noted that 'from its summit, the mouth of Caswell Sound and the ocean beyond, were seen on 3 January 1863. At that time there was a strong desire to find an overland route to the West Coast. 'The sighting of the West Coast from the interior for the first time, so far as I know, brought to my mind the sighting of "The promised land" by Moses from Pisgah, hence the adoption of the name."

One hundred and thirty years later, Southland mountaineer Stan Mulvaney wrote of how this was a very difficult task.  More on James McKerrow
So with this background of rugged Maori travelers  surveyors, runholders, goldminers and explorers, the spirit of the hills started a new era with Malcolm Ross of Dunedin heading for Mt Earnslaw in 1885 on an expedition which was characteristic of the 'pluck and daring', colonial ingenuity and self-reliance which typified the early exploits of New Zealand's homebred mountaineers (Ross 1892). Ice axes were improvised from manuka saplings and the blades of sheep shears, while horseshoe nails provided extra friction for his boots (Gilkison 1957: 32). Ross's expedition triggered a number of attempts on Mount Earnslaw, which was finally climbed in 1890 by one of the original expedition members, a young local shepherd and tourist guide called Harry Birley.

By erecting a cairn on the summit, he left not only proof of his ascent, but also marked the advance of man further into this remote wilderness.

Between the first and second World Wars, in the context of social dislocation and economic hardship, young men and women in Otago were drawn to mountain environments for an experience which diverted them from, and in a sense gave meaning to, the world and time that they were living through. It was also a time increasingly characterized by the 'more rigid structures, impersonal forces, and sprawling cities' of the historical momentum of rationalization and bureaucracy (Olssen 1981: 278). explore 'their' mountains and that therein they discovered a sense of self.

From its inception, the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club ran trips to remote parts of Otago and Southland and members quickly gained bush, river, snow and ice techniques. Photo: OTMC archives.

So the formation of the Otago Tramping Club club was not an isolated event. Dunedin had been the home of a good many noted trampers and mountaineers such as Malcolm Ross, Kenneth Ross, H.F. Wright, J.K. Inglis, E. Miller and E. A. Duncan. In the earliest post-war years groups of Otago University students - G. M. Moir, R. S. M. Sinclair, D.R. Jennings and many others - had been exploring and track-cutting in the Hollyford and Cleddau Valleys. And both the hills around Dunedin and the Routeburn, Greenstone and Hollyford areas saw an ever increasing number of visitors. Amongst these the idea of forming a Club had been discussed informally, and the idea was quick to gain acceptance.

In 1923 the new Club immediately started with a flourish, and forthwith set out to walk. There was an immediate rush of new members, and at the end of the first year the roll was 157. The first tramp was planned for Saturday afternoon, September 1. About 50 members assembled at Ross Creek reservoir and set off up the Pineapple Track to Flagstaff - a clear sunny day, with a cold south-westerly wind, the kind we know so well. The following Saturday some 60 persons gathered at the Gardens corner for a climb of Signal Hill and down the other side to Burkes; and this was followed the next day by a trip to Whare Flat, where various parties converged on a pleasant river-bank below McQuilkan's (long since washed out by floods and ruined by the invading gorse).

Ben Rudd at his hut with Otago Tramping Club visitors 1923.

A fortnight later while one group climbed Mt. Cargill, two others set off for Whare Flat - one of which made the journey successfully, but the other was stopped and warned off by Ben Rudd, the old hermit whose property was long afterwards purchased by the Club. Scott Gilkinson was one of those cut-off and still remembers the feelings of alarm as they encountered the stocky, bearded little man with the shot-gun. As a result of this, the Club arranged with Ben Rudd that he would cut a track through the manuka scrub, thus providing a route to Whare Flat while keeping members well away from Ben's property. For this he was paid the princely sum of £5, and the track was under very

By 1930 then, the Club was well established as a force in the community. Whereas previously trampers had been looked on almost as cranks, or at best as rare curiosities, their activities were now accepted as rational and respectable. The 'thirties, and the onset of the Depression, saw the Club ready to play its part.

At 4350 feet (1325 m) above sea level Big Hut. In 1946 the Otago Ski Club opened this spacious 70-bunk ski lodge near the summit of the Rock and Pillar Range. The Otago University Tramping Club, then the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club, took over the hut in the 1980s and did repairs that kept the elements out.

On the local scene there was extensive development of active interest in the mountains. For seven years the Otago Tramping Club had been building up its activities. The Otago University Tramping Club was functioning—very actively in some years, more modestly in others. Under the influence of Ellis, Miller, Boddy, Aitken and others, Otago men had been taking an active interest in the higher mountains in North-west Otago. At the end of 1930 the Otago Section of the N.Z. Alpine Club was formed in Dunedin, this being the start of a long period of friendly co-operation between trampers and mountaineers. In 1932, as a result of five weeks of continuous ski-able snow on Flagstaff, the Otago Ski Club was formed; the Tramping Club " learned with interest of its formation and extended to it its good wishes for a successful future ". The three clubs operating in their respective fields worked in well together, with some members common to all, and with members of one of the clubs not infrequently becoming interested in the others.

My hero, my guru, Vern Leader, a great Otago cricketer, mountaineer and tramper, was alienating himself from New Zealand's traditional Alpine fraternity in the late 1930s by carrying on the Mount Earnslaw tradition  set by a young local shepherd and tourist guide called Harry Birley who soloed Mt. Earnslaw in 1890. Birley, Leader and Denz, all revolutionaries had something in common which I wrote on my website.

Bill Denz on  one ocassion  took a large coffee jar from the house I lived in at Mount cook in 1972 which he used as a water bottle on his new route on Mt. Cook. Some weeks later when I did a Grand Traverse with Aat Vervoorn, when we guided 64 year old Vern Leader, we discovered the infamous coffee jar on the ridge. You had to admire Bill for the sheer audacity and guts of this young emerging mountaineer.

Vern Leader, 44 years older than Bill at the time, probably identified with Bill Denz better than most, despite the age gap. Vern who did a number of large first ascent solo climbs in the Earnslaw group, had written up his climbs in the NZAJ, and was publicly criticised in NZAC publications for dangerous practices. So when we found Bill Denz's abandoned coffee jar, Vern understood better than most, what solo climbing was about, and the flak you get for being bold.

Right: The trusty 'Mountain Mule' pack carried the loads for over four decades, perhaps longer. From lugging 90lb bags of cement and 4 x2s on the frame, huts were built. On Christmas trips 90 lb packs were not uncommon. Photo: Bob McKerrow

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

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

John Armstrong. One of the strong and visionary Presidents the club had in its long history. John was behind the Freedom March that broke the Government's THC stranglehold on the Milford Track in 1965.

It is interesting to note just how advanced the Club had become by the end of '63, with parties as far afield as Cook, Homer, Harrison, Tutoko, Matukituki, Dart and Rees. A considerable number of peaks were climbed in these areas, and while this may be commonplace today, it was then regarded as another milestone in the Club's history. In November 1963, the Club moved into its (then) present premises in Lower Dowling Street. By 1964 the Club was under the capable control of President Gerry Kampjes who initiated skiing within the Club, and expressed a desire for the Club to build a hut at Coronet Peak. Models, plans and specifications were prepared, but even up until 1968 " red tape foiled all plans to go ahead with this.

John Armstrong carried on the tradition of capable and innovative Presidents with entrepurnurial skills, a sense of adventure, and an even bigger sense of humour.

Women always played a leading role in the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club. Robyn Norton (now Armstrong)  went on a number of  big, remote journeys such as this one in Forgotten River, the Ollivine Ice Plateau and climbing peaks at the head of the Rockburn before coming down the Rockburn in 1967 with future husband John Armstrong and a young Bob McKerrow.

On January 8th and 9th, 1966, six Club members climbed Mt Cook - M. Jones, G. Kampjes, J. Armstrong, G. Hasler, I. Meyer and H. Laing. Although Club members had climbed Cook before, and have since climbed far more formidable peaks, this does serve to give some idea of the standards reached during this period.

Murray Jones right with Sherpa friends on a trip over the Lumding La In Nepal where we had an attempt on Kwandge. in 1975. Photo: Bob McKerrow

A change in attitudes was noticed in 1966, and is evidenced in the following report which is worth a place in history:

At a lively extraordinary general meeting held on October 26, 1966, the grandiose plans of the committee, led by radical President John Armstrong, were amended. Chief Guide James consented to remain in the cabinet, as tramping is still an 'approved' sport.

The following motion was passed after hours of discussion and much amendment. "This Club should continue to encourage tramping, climbing, ski mountaineering and ski-ing without detriment to the Club's prime aim of tramping."

Bob Cunninghame: " There has been a considerable change in the last five years. There was next to no climbing up until that time."

Gerry Kampjes: " Five or six years ago there was little ambition in the Club and less than half the number of people."

Graeme Hasler: "Safety is of paramount importance. We must have a balanced club"

Laurie Kennedy: "Something must suffer if we run a climbing course"

Jim Freeman: " People now have more money and are able to spread out into areas and sports not previously possible. Now less scope for tramping. Climbing is the natural outcome of tramping"

Alan Thomson: "Need to support tramping"

Arthur James: " Far better to have a small specialist club where you know most of the people rather than a large social ski-ing and climbing organisation."

Jim Cowie: " If the O.T.C. does not run an instruction course in climbing there is little incentive for the likes of me to remain in the Club."

Roger Conroy: " Let's change the name to the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club"

Ross Adamson: "Too much advertising on ski-ing by word of mouth and publications"

Photo below: Bob McKerrow (l) Graeme Lockett and Keith McIvor on the summit of Mt. Huxley, Easter 1967. photo: Jim Cowie

Easter '67 still saw climbing being carried out with Bruce and Ken Mason, Heather and Stu. Thorne, Logan McGhie and Dick Brasier climbing Mt McKenzie. Mt Strauchon was climbed by Stu. Thorne, Logan McGhie and Dick Brasier, and Mt Huxley by Bob McKerrow, Graeme Lockett, Jim Cowie and Keith McIvor.

Christmas 1967-68 saw Club trips led by John Armstrong and Bruce Mason to the North Routeburn, North Col and Rockburn, other's going on to Fohn Saddle and the Beansburn. Parties led by John Fitzgerald went to Martins Bay, Big Bay, Pyke, Alabaster Pass, Olivines, Cox Saddle, Hidden Falls, Park Pass and Rockkburn. Trevor Pullar looked after a party from the Arawata River to Mlilford Heads, Laurie Kennedy's party went into the Olivines whilst Jim Cowie, Keith McIvor and Bob McKerrow spent 10 days in the Cook region and 10 days at Aspiring. Graeme Hasler also ,was back in the Cook area. All in all, a fantastic amount of tramping and climbing was achieved during this season - on a scale which was to continue until the end of the '60's.

Keith McIvor right and Bob McKerrow left, on the summit of Malte brun in 1967.

Club member Boh McKerrow was a member of the 1968 Andean Expedition, and in return for some assistance from the Club, provided interesting accounts of his exploits.

The number of Club members who went south to the Antarctic during the '60s included Ken Gousmett, Keith McIvor, Bob McKerrow and Frank Graveson. A large number of members have tramped and toured overseas, with some distinguishing themselves on the climbing scene. Two names that spring to mind readily are Bob McKerrow and Murray Jones.

Bill Denz  (right) went on to be one of, or if not the greatest, New Zealand mountaineer,  started in the Otago Tramping Club. While I was climbing in Peru in 1968, Bill Denz at the AGM August 1968, was elected onto the club committee. As his biographer Paul Maxim writes, “through the OTC, Denz and his friends met some of the seasoned local climbers Bob Cunningham and John Armstrong, overseeing his first climbs at Long Beach. Perhaps that is a good place to stop as Bill went on to be not only New Zealand’s greatest mountaineer, but one of the best in the world. We owe so much to the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club, and the mighty mountains of Otago.

Calum Hudson carries on the OT&MC tradition of rock climbing at Long Beach with the first ascent of "Sticky Fingers" in 1973.

A recent bulletin of the OT&MC shows a very active club with membership rising and the nursery alive and well.

I was not entirely happy with the above history up until the early 70s, so I wrote to Calum Hudson asking if he could fill the gaps.

Dear Calum
I know you are a busy man, but believe you can fill a huge gap in my Otago mountaineering history. You are from Dunedin, and I
believe Murray Judge and Phil Herron are too ? Correct? After a few years
working at Mount Cook, I left in mid 1973 for Vietnam and spent the next 8
years overseas so I missed out on a lot of top climbing. From reading the Bill
Denz book, Murray and Phil come on the scene in 1973 and do the 1st ascent
Marian Nth Face and then NW face of Sabre. Any information you can provide will
be much appreciated. Thanks, Bob

Calum wrote a very comprehensive reply.

Hi Bob,
Please forgive me my tardiness in responding to your request.

First of all Murray Judge is from Wellington and had climbed at Titahi Bay, and
came to Dunedin in the early 70's to study medicine. He was a brilliant
technical climber right from when we first met in about 1972 and was climbing
much harder than anyone else around! Phil Herron was from Dunedin, his father
Jack was the rector at Bayfield High School and was a pretty tough character! I
believe he had been awarded a DFC in WW2 but I have tried verifying this on the
Internet to no avail. As far as I know there was no connection with the David
Herron you mention.

Murray Jones from the OT&MC together with Graeme Dingle showed that New Zealand climbers could match it with the best in the world when they were the first mountaineers in the world to climb all the six great North Faces in the European alps in one season in 1969. In New Zealand, Calum Hudson together with Phil Heron from the OT&MC took our reputation into the 1970s with some gutsy climbs. In the 80s Calum was at the cutting edge of new routes such as this photo on "Maori Alphabet", Double Cone, Remarkables; during the first ascent with Kim Logan and Rob Turner in Jan.1986.

Despite what Paul Maxim says in his Bill Denz Bio, Phil did not "learn the
ropes" from me! He and I climbed Mt Ollivier together at labour Weekend
1970 (both aged 14) on an OTC trip to MT Cook. We were accompanied by Judy
Knewstubb, Pauline Robilliard and Rod McKenzie and the following day were taken
aside by Gordon Hasell and taught the invaluable art of step cutting which I am
eternally grateful for!

Phillip went to Mt Cook with John Broad and Trevor Glossop at the end of 1971,
a trip that I was to go on as well until Judy Knewstubb phoned my mother and
suggested that I should not be allowed! I was heart broken of course and to
make matters worse Henry Stoddart refused my participation in the OTC Xmas trip
to the Olivines as he deemed me too small to carry the necessary food and
equipment! So I went to Fiordland with my father and made a double crossing of
the Routeburn via the Pass beneath Emily Peak in atrocious conditions and then
went to Homer where l climbed Barrier with a chap from Tasmania.

I had priorly made my first trip to the Darrans at Labour Weekend of 71 on an
OTC trip where I ventured to Moraine Creek and climbed a small unnamed peak
between Apirana and Revelation with Colin Strang, Eugenie Ombler and Heather

Later in the Summer of 71/72 I returned to the Darrans twice more. In January
72 whilst at Long Beach I overheard the Big Boys discussing their plans to
climb a new route and asked if I could go! So the following weekend with Alan
Smith, Bruce Clark, Ken Calder and Pete Glasson I made my first new route on
the Sth Ridge of Apirana. A couple of weeks later I was invited to join a
Venturer Scout climbing course at Homer Hut. Along with Peter McKellar and
Murray Kokich from the OTC, we filled in a vacancy on what was to be a very
beneficial week of learning in my climbing career. Under the experienced and
colourful tutelage of Harold Jacobs, Austin Brookes and Don Morrison we got
stuck in to a fantastic week of climbing which culminated in an East/West
traverse of Sabre. I was well and truly hooked on the Darrans by this stage!!

Anyway, back to Phil. Sometime in 1972 I realized I had not seen him for some
months and rang him up to ask why he'd not been climbing. About that time, we
had decided to investigate why the crag at Mihiwaka had not been climbed on and
if there was any basis to the rumours that "the rock was loose" and
"the crag was so steep one would need a ladder to get started"! So
the rush was on, and one day I led Phillip and Eugenie Ombler up what was the
second route at Mihiwaka, "Living in the Past" , the climbing went on
and on, none of us had climbed anything as high before. But from that day on,
Phillip never looked back and was into climbing like a man possessed!!

At the end of 1972 Phillip and I carried our brand new Galibier RD's to Malte
Brun Hut (to preserve the new rubber soles) and proceeded to Tasman Saddle the
following day where we mucked around and climbed Aylmer. Then after a spell at
the Mt Cook Village where we had the privilege of a meeting with Max Dörfliger
who visited us whilst we were camping in the picnic shelter, we headed in and
up Haast Ridge for a couple of days and climbed Silberhorn. Then we were off to
the Darrans in early Jan 73 with Rob Turner and Colin Strang for an ascent of
the Notch route on Talbot and the West Ridge of Sabre.

After this it seemed Phil was determined to head onto the front line so to
speak and by the following Summer he was in the thick of it with Bill and
Murray. I meanwhile took a gentler approach making do with first ascents on the
Nth and Sth faces of Belle, the 4th ascent of the Nth Buttress of Sabre and a
solo ascent of the Jones/Campbell Route on the Summit Pyramid of Talbot before
heading in July 74 off to Europe and Yosemite Valley for 2 years sadly never to
see Phil again!

Phil was nicknamed the "Kamikaze Kid" because he was apparently
Fearless and it did not seem to phase him at all to find his runners
disappearing below his feet as he climbed. He was in my memory not particularly
talented technically as a rock climber, just incredibly cool and brave! He also
had amazing stamina due to his penchant for cross country running. Phil was in
fact 19 when he died being 2 months short of his birthday.

I have a couple of incredibly funny stories about Phil, and of course there are
a few regarding my time with Bill as well, who was very good to me as I grew as
a climber. However I will save them for some time when we can meet in person!

We must have crossed paths or come near enough during those early years Bob.
But my only real recollection of you was at an OSONZAC dinner at the new
Northern Oaks Union Rugby Club in Great King Street when you were making a
speech and a fellow named Johnny ?? had some disagreement with you and there
was a bit of a Fracas ensued!!

Calum Hudson on the first ascent of "Aqualung" at Mihiwaka in 1973.

Kim Logan and I met at Homer Hut in the early 80's and in December 1981 we
walked up the Hooker to Empress, not together mind and the following day I made
a solo ascent of the Sheila Face of Cook and Kim made an ascent of Earles
Route. I sat on the summit smoking for an hour before Kim arrived with bare hands
and bleeding knuckles, and on asking where were his mittens he replied, "I
stuck them down my Bush-shirt and they fell out!" We worked together for
the Park at Mt Cook the following year when the infamous rescue of Mark Inglis
and Phil Doole occurred and we were both in the Iroquois helicopter when it
crashed on the Empress Shelf!! I ended up staying in Queenstown with Kim and
his then wife Sharon in the mid 80's and that is when Kim and I with my old
friend Rob Turner from Bradford in Yorkshire made the first big rock climb on
Double Cone on the Remarkables in Jan 1986 with our ascent of "Maori
Alphabet" a route which for some reason has been erroneously misreported
in everything that has been published to date!! Hopefully the next edition Guidebook
to the area which is currently underway will have the True Story which is also
a rather funny tale I will relate to you at some time! Kim and I did one other
shorter and harder rock route above Lake Alta that Summer which thus far has
failed to make print at all! I have not seen a hell of a lot of Kim for quite
some time, we seem to move in different circles these days and it appears on
the few times I have dropped in to see him in Cromwell he has m not been at
home. However, I have very fond memories of the times we hung out and climbed

Kim Logan without shirt 2nd from left with Peter Hillary to his right and Matt Comesky to his left in Islamabad after their fatal K2 expedition in August 1995 when Bruce Grant of Queenstown and Jeff Lakes from Canada died. I met them in Islamabad before they went and helped with transport and met the the survivors on arrival. For further information, read this. 

Well Bob I really have got carried away here and written something of a small
Essay! But I hope it fills a few gaps in your history of Otago Mountaineering.
I am more than happy to dredge my mental archive for anything else it may hold
that would interest you!

Until then I wish you all the best in your work and further adventures, and I
look forward to catching up with you in person in the not too distant future!

Cheers, Calum.
Keith McIvor with Vicky Thompson at Sefton Bivvy in 1969. Photo: Bob McKerrow

PS: I did read your Blog on Keith McIvor too which I found very moving. I met
Keith at the OTC in 1972 and went on an OTC trip to Ball Hut that Winter where
we spent the weekend ice climbing on the Tasman white ice. Keith was very good
to me as well and such a delightful person to be around. Bill Denz was on that
trip too and the three of us ended up returning to Dunedin in Keith's old
Austin A40. I saw him once again at the Alpine Club after that and will never
forget the day at OBHS when I learned of his death on the Caroline. I was
devastated as you can imagine. The day I learned that my friends could die in
the mountains! And that sombre day following with a Memorial Service at the
Church in James St in NE Valley. Wow!

Thanks to Lee Davidson for permission to use extracts from her publication:

The Spirit of the Hills: Mountaineering in Northwest Otago, New Zealand, 1882-1940.

Special thanks to Calum Hudson for providing an excellent history of his era.


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Another large earthquake predicted in Wellington area in next week

Another large shake on both sides of Cook Strait is highly likely over the next week, experts say.
The chance of a jolt of magnitude 5 or more in the next seven days is 90 per cent, according to GNS Science seismologists, and the likelihood of a magnitude 6 or more quake is about 21 per cent.
Seismologist Caroline Holden warned people to be vigilant and expect another large shake. Since Friday afternoon's 6.6 tremor, there had been another 59 aftershocks reaching magnitude 4 or more, by 4pm yesterday.
Dr Holden's colleague Martin Reyners said the area near Seddon where the earthquakes were recurring was known as an active one. There was a magnitude 6 quake there in 1966, and another in 1977.
The level of horizontal acceleration, which is the amount of movement people feel from a quake, was similar to that felt during the Christchurch earthquakes, but not as significant.
"It's a different experience for everyone, depending on what soil your house is built on. At its worst acceleration, there were reports of people not being able to stay standing upright," he said.
The sequence of quakes was slowly tracking southwest, away from Wellington, but on to land in Marlborough.
"Friday's quake was situated so that the people of Seddon were sitting pretty much on top of it, which explains the damage. Each quake changes the stresses in the fault. In areas where the stress has gone up, near a fault, it can trigger another event."
In the case of the recent quakes, there had been some triggering as the stresses shifted south. This would mean the effects would be felt less in Wellington, but more in Seddon. Thanks to Fairfax media for permission to run this article.

I think of all the graphics and predictions I have seen in the last year, the one below from stuff explains the situation well. Please make sure you stock up on food, and read what to do in the Yellow Pages smd ahare with friends and family. Stay safe.

June 28, 2012 – NEW ZEALAND – GNS Science and University of Nevada-Renoscientists have found that the southern part of the 800 kilometre-long fault which runs along the western edge of the Southern Alps from Marlborough to Milford Sound causes quakes of around magnitude 8 every 330 years on average. Dating leaves and seeds from a river terrace at Hokuri Creek near Lake McKerrow in far northwestern Southland, just north of Milford Sound, revealed 24 Alpine Fault quakes between 6000BC and the present. Other research has found the most recent was in 1717, meaning the next may be only 30 or 40 years away, based on averages. Professor Richard Norris, from the geology department at Otago University, said the Alpine Fault had the highest level of probability for rupture of any fault in New Zealand. “Westland obviously is at high risk, with widespread damage likely and roads, bridges and other transport links likely to be badly affected (as well as the tourist trade),” he said. The fault crossed the main West Coast road in many places, and with an estimated 8m displacement would completely destroy it. “Intensities further east in places like Queenstown, Te Anau, Wanaka and Mt Cook will be high enough to cause landslips and do damage,” Norris said. “Further east in the major cities of Christchurch and Dunedin, the intensities will be lower but the duration of shaking could still be sufficient to damage poorly constructed buildings…and possibly cause some liquefaction.” Places such as Nelson, Wellington and Invercargill could also expect to feel some shaking. Project leader Kelvin Berryman of GNS Science said “a major earthquake in the near future would not be a surprise. Equally it could be up to 100 years away. The bottom line is, if not in our lifetimes then increasingly likely in our children’s or our grandchildren’s.” The study’s findings, published today in the journal Science, were new and internationally significant, Berryman said. Auckland University biostatics professor Thomas Lumley said the intervals between quakes on the Alpine Fault tended to be quite close to the average interval, with relatively little spread. –Stuff