Club Hut reaches 60th Birthday

Trampers celebrated this significant milestone with either a day trip or an overnight stop at Mangaturuturu Hut, on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th April 2018. The building of the Mangaturuturu hut was undertaken and opened six years after the WTC’s establishment on 5 April 1952.

With the weather cool and cloudy we visited Tom's Garden on the way to the hut and assembled indoors. During lunch President Margret spoke briefly on the beginnings of the hut and acknowledged those who had the vision for the hut. After a toast and some birthday cake, the overnighters decided to go on a further afternoon walk near Lake Surprise and the day trippers walked back out via the cascades.

Margret McKinnon and Brian sixtus with the 60th Birthday Cake for Mangaturuturu Hut

Saturday lunch with day trippers and overnighters

Trampers at Tom's Garden on the slopes of Ruapehu, above Mangaturuturu Hut

Our Southern Man Heads Home

If anyone in our club deserves the title of a "good, keen man" it has to be Brian Sixtus. Sometimes I think he's really a character straight out of a Barry Crump novel. Go tramping with Brian and you will see a display of his bush skills. He's a trail-finder, wood-chopper, fire-lighter, eel-catcher, track-mender, practical-joker, and -- being a caring bloke -- a cheerful pack-carrier for those who are lagging. He's a man who thinks outside the square. On our recent round-Mt Ruapehu trip he produced wine and a range of snacks for happy hour on not one but both the nights he was with us.

Brian has been a stalwart at Possum Lodge. He loves staying there, cutting wood and doing chores and maintenance. He's an explorer and has been involved with Basil Hooper on his Tunnel Gully project for an alternative route to Trains Hut in the Waitotara as well as discovering old timber tram lines around National Park. For a long time he has been on the trips committee, organising our programme. Brian's many contributions to the club were recognised when he received the Doughty Boot Award in 2010. And there were further accolades at the AGM in June.

But though he's very much at home with us, Brian is true to his Southern Man roots. He has been hankering for his home turf of Takaka and his beloved Kahurangi National Park. And he's now decided to make the break and go back. Many of us are grateful for the trips Brian has led in Kahurangi over the years and there may be more as Brian says he will definitely maintain his links with the club. Thanks for everything, Brian, good luck and safe tramping! By Dave Scoullar

Luff Booklet Launched

The Tom Luff memorial booklet was launched on 1st  March 2017 at the Tramping Club meeting, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Great Stove Carry-in to Mangaturuturu hut, orchestrated by Tom. 

The booklet is packed with Tom’s poems and writings as well as many photographs of Tom and articles about him. According to our proof-reader, “After going through Tom’s Book, I can report that it is a great, laugh-out-loud, little book.“ 


Our Founding Father!

'Mother of the Wanganui tramping Club'

Late in August 1952, sixteen-year-old Margaret Murch (now McGuire) was a member of a party from the Aramoho Methodist Bible Class which travelled up to the mountain for an outing. Margaret was so taken with this experience that on Friday 5th September 1952, she placed an advertisement in the personal column of the Wanganui Herald, soliciting interest in the formation of a tramping club. 

Margaret Murch

Margaret Murch

Margaret received a good response to her advertisement and Arthur Bates quickly organised an inaugural meeting in the Jockey Club rooms. She was overwhelmed with the number of people who turned up. The meeting formed the Wanganui Tramping Club and Margaret was elected Secretary/Treasurer and Ron Wilson President. The meeting also decided that the minimum age to join the Tramping Club would be nineteen. She kept very quiet about her age!

Foundation members she can recall include Colin Watson, Hugh Clapham, Helen Liddel (later Mrs Clapham) and her sister Ada as well as Fred and Mary Johnston.

Margaret McGuire

Margaret McGuire

Margaret recalls that the club's first tramp was from around Papaiti to the Blueskin Road followed by a tramp in the Tokomaru East area and then one from Parihauhau, overnighting at Firmins' and coming out somewhere near opposite Upokongaro.

When she married at nineteen, the Club presented her with a cup, saucer and plate, which she still has. She then left the Club because of moving to the back of Hunterville to live. Margaret McGuire was chuffed to have been asked, as 'Mother of the Tramping Club' to cut the Club's 25th cake as well as being special guest at the Golden Jubilee Weekend held over Labour Weekend in 2002.

In December 2012, on the occasion of the Club's 60th Anniversary, Margaret was presented with Honorary Life Membership of Wanganui Tramping Club.

Mangaturuturu Hut

Wanganui Tramping Club's Mt Ruapehu Hut

In mid 1954, the fledgling Club had a major setback when the Waitotara County Council asked for their Kauarapoa Hut back, 'as someone wanted to live out there permanently' resulting in all the Club's contents being stored back in town. This reversal eventually led to the Club's President, in October 1955, remarking that the Club was firmly established and should taken on more difficult projects. He suggested that the Club build a hut, and the AGM passed a resolution 'that we work towards building our own hut in the Mangaturuturu Valley on Mount Ruapehu. The Committee eventually got Park Board approval for the site, but the Board did not like the look of the suffused 'rather rustic' style of the construction.


An important person in the first two years of the saga of the hut was an English immigrant called Brian Carter, a quantity surveyor at the old Ministry of Works. It was Brian's suggestion to put a hut here on the terrace on the Ohakune side of the Mangaturuturu stream. After further exploration Brian decided the hut would be better sited where it now resides because of better shelter and views. Brian sowed the seeds of a hut idea, did the planning, and when the foundations were down, disappeared in the direction of Canada in pursuit of a Canadian girl he met down Mt Cook way!

Mangaturuturu Hut

Mangaturuturu Hut

Mrs Heather Oliver (nee Hall) recalls the enthusiasm of Club members being tremendous. "As I remember there were working bees to raise money such as hedge cutting, baby sitting, building a concrete garage, moving lawns etc. The first working party was scheduled for 11 - 12 February 1956. There were endless trips up the mountain to cut a track along the bush ridge and down into the Mangaturuturu Valley, and to carry timber and building materials to the hut site. The route was by way of Horopito through a short stretch of bush, then across the swampy flats up to the ridge bush line, to the first timber dump. One or two planks were carried on our padded shoulders, but they still hurt. The next timber dump was halfway along the bush ridge, where we sometimes camped in a very shady damp area.

The Club was lucky to have the help of Alf Timmo who owned a sawmill in Raetihi. He bulldozed a track through a piece of bush to Thoroson's Flat. Thoroson lived on the Horopito Road and also had a small hut near the bush edge. Les Frederickson, who farmed at Horopito, lent the Club two horses and sledges to load timber onto. Carl Gedye and Kenny Hawkins, who were in charge of the horses, drove them and their load across Thoroson's Flat to the edge of the bush near the main ridge. Timber was off-loaded and a fast trip was made back for the next load.

At the Mangaturuturu hut site we pitched tents while construction was in progress. Several of the Club members were builders who kept a watchful eye over the willing workers! When the roof was on, and building paper was on the sides, we slept in the hut. Floorboards were placed over the floor joists for a sleeping area. There were so many of us we were packed in like sardines. There was plenty of snow around as it was now winter - Queen's Birthday weekend, the last weekend before the Winter Recess!"

Through the earnest endeavours of many club members, the hut was finished with the official opening on the 5th April 1958. Regular maintenance's the Mangaturuturu Hut in excellent condition and expect to see her still serving the public in 2058!

Getting into the great outdoors in our area

Wanganui Chronicle / Midweek Article/ 29 June 2016



CLASH! A case for the Fashion Police? Clothing tragics like this Whanganui tramper will remain nameless for their own protection.


Wanganui Tramping Club is grateful to Midweek for a monthly column to air its activities. This column has run for many years. The original writer was Dubbin - the name of a preparation of grease for softening and water-proofing leather boots. Not so many people use dubbin these days, so this shows how long ago the column began.

The first Dubbin, Dave Scoullar, eventually handed over to Tom Luff. Since Tom died in 2011 the contributors, who continue to this day, have been Dave Scoullar (again) and Margaret Walford, who take alternate months.

The writers have covered many subjects from club trips to outdoors and environmental issues to gripes about Conservation Department actions or non-actions. They don't always take themselves seriously. For instance, the writers have not been above making fun of quirky activities of their club mates. And on occasions they have been fearless in exposing examples of bad taste clothing in the Whanganui tramping fraternity.

The bottom line has always been to promote the great outdoors, to highlight the message that we are blessed with an array of magnificent walks at our doorstep. What other communities can boast three national parks nearby plus several forest parks and conservation areas?

Last March DoC and the US Embassy celebrated national parks and the benefits of getting out into nature during a visit to Tongariro National Park. Walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was the first in a number of events planned in partnership with DoC to promote 100 years of USA national parks and to highlight DoC's role in the newly-launched Healthy Nature Healthy People programme.

The Wanganui Tramping Club's monthly column in Midweek has been promoting healthy nature, healthy people for years and will continue to do so. Thanks Midweek, for the opportunity. - Wanganui Midweek

50 Year Celebration for Pine Pulling, November 2015

Wanganui Tramping Club members have been eradicating wilding Pinus contorta trees since 1964

A group usually goes up the mountain in November and in March each year to pull out seedlings, camping overnight under the beech trees. The longest serving volunteer was Ridgeway Lythgoe, who began to pull pines in 1978 when he worked as a ranger for Lands and Survey. David Scoullar has been coming for thirty years. They needed chainsaws to cut the trees in the early days, but today a handsaw is sufficient. The pines are now sparse and the group covers hundreds of hectares each weekend hunting for the seedlings. They removed 282 trees this weekend.

50th Birthday Cake for Pine Pulling

50th Birthday Cake for Pine Pulling

Dave Scoullar cuts a wilding pine

Dave Scoullar cuts a wilding pine

Old-timers to swap tall tales from bush

MAKING TRACKS with Billy Tea (June 2016)

Old trampers never die, they just sit in front of the fire and dream of tramps gone by. And old-timers in the Wanganui Tramping Club were given a chance to warm their feet and swap tall tales when the club hosted a special afternoon tea for them in June 2016.

The event is a new one on the club's social programme and is open to all members, whether they consider themselves old-timers or not. Trampers who have drifted away from the club are also welcome to renew their acquaintance with former comrades and exchange yarns of being caught in force nine blizzards, staying in huts with dirt floors and times when they were sure the track was just over there -- but wasn't. Running from 2-4pm at the Deerstalkers' Hall on Sunday 19 June, the event could become a regular occurrence.

Another social event in July is the annual quiz night which has been running for about a decade and is always a lot of fun as teams of three or four compete for the title of kings or queens of quiz. The quiz is in the hall on the night before the old-timers' afternoon tea making this a full-on social weekend for the club.

From quirky to generic, long drops fill an essential role at bush huts

MAKING TRACKS with Billy Tea (August 2016)

One of the first things trampers do when when they get to a bush hut is to locate the long drop toilet. And what a great range we have-- which is not surprising when you consider the Conservation Department has over 950 huts.

Some long drops are old, some are grotty, some offer great views, some have elaborate systems to indicate they occupied, some are hard to find, some seem a long way from the hut -- particularly on a wet and cold night. Some long drops stand out for their quirky or other features and trampers will have their favourites. Among my most memorable is the long drop at Fenella Hut in Kahurangi National Park because of its stained glass window.

Long drops have been the subject of books and even poems. Next time you visit the long drop at the Wanganui Tramping Club's Mangaturuturu hut in Tongariro National Park check out the poem on the wall.

Sadly a lot of the old character long drops are being replaced by plastic loos. These may be more efficient as far as DoC is concerned but they are generic and boring, but then I don't have to clean and empty them.

Almost all DoC huts have at least one long drop and serviced huts can have two or more. Occasionally a bivvy or basic hut doesn’t have one. In these circumstances under the environmental care code promoted by DoC trampers are encouraged to bury toilet waste in shallow holes well away from waterways, tracks, campsites and huts. Unfortunately this is not always followed.

A tip for the uninitiated: If you are going to a bush hut, take your own toilet paper as it is seldom supplied in long drops.

Taranaki Weekend long-standing club tradition

MAKING TRACKS with Billy Tea (October 2016)

One of the enduring traditions in the Wanganui Tramping Club is the annual weekend in Taranaki. This trip, scheduled for October, has been going on for nearly 25 years. The usual format is that we organise our own tramp there on the Saturday, stay the night in New Plymouth, and join the New Plymouth Tramping Club on the Sunday.

Over the years the WTC has explored many tracks in Egmont National Park and tracks and walkways all over Taranaki and in New Plymouth. On top of this, the NPTC has taken us to some hidden places. This year (2016) they will lead us over a 12km circuit in the national park which incorporates a Conservation Department hunting and trap line and includes new territory.

The Four Friends Trust

Tragedy Strikes: Four Friends Killed

In 1977, a group from the Wanganui Tramping Club went South to the Lake Ohau-Hopkins River region for several says of camping and climbing. Included in that party were Tom and Betty Luff and family, Irene Back and family, Cushla McKay , and Neil and Barbara Simpson. When the family groups were pulling out, Hollis (Bill) Bennett, Rob McLean, Fennella Druce and Craig Benge were intending to come out at the Hermitage via Hopkins and Dobson Rivers then up to Three Johns Hut and down Mueller Glacier. (The Luffs had decided that son John was a little young to be part of this party).

The four friends reached Three Johns Hut at Barron Saddle above the Mueller Glacier, and reported in via radio at 7 pm on January 30th. A severe storm hit that night, and having failed to hear from the party for the next two nights, two rangers were sent to investigate. The rangers discovered that the guy wires that anchored the hut had been either torn from the ground, or sheared apart at ground level, and the hut had been lifted and blown off a 2135 metre saddle into Dobson Valley, killing those inside.

Trust Formation 

During 1977, The Four Friends Trust was brought into being to commemorate their deaths, through no fault of their own, at the Three Johns Hut: Dr Fenella Druce (age 25, only recently graduated, a keen alpinist with close associations with Wanganui), Craig Benge (25, president of the Wanganui Tramping Club and an NZR signals specialist), Rob McLean (19, club member and National Park Service trainee and Hillis (Bill) Bennett (19, club committee member and National Park Service trainee). It was felt that the most suitable way of commemorating these young people was to perpetuate their memory by stimulating others in outdoor pursuits. The Trust would provide interest that would be used to pay for or subsidise a person onto some outdoor pursuit course. The Trust was initially set up and run by members from the Wanganui Ski Club (now Wanganui Ski and Snowboard Club), The Mountain Safety Committee and the Wanganui Tramping Club.

This Trust is still functional and further details can be obtained from the Trust Secretary. Up-to-date contact details on the 

Objectives of the Four Friends Memorial Trust:

Deed of Trust creating "The Four Friends Memorial Trust":

This deed of trust is made on the 30th day of January 1978 by the Wanganui Tramping Club (Inc) a duly incorporated society under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908.

Whereas the Club has had donated to it by the public a sum of money for the purpose of establishing a trust to be known as The Four Friends Memorial Trust. Such a trust be created to record with gratitude the memory of Craig Wilson Benge aged 25 years, Hillis Leonard Dorrell (Bill) Bennett aged 19 years, Robert Lachlan McLean aged 19 years and Jean Fenella Druce aged 25 years, who were all killed on the night of January 30th 1977, when the Three Johns Hut (at the head of the Dobson Valley in the Mt Cook National Park) in which they were sheltering was destroyed by a freak accident. All four of the young people being remembered had a deep love, enjoyment and respect for New Zealand outdoor life which they shared with so many others.

The Trustees may use the net annual income to be derived from the Trust Fund...within New Zealand for, or awards any one or more of the following:

1. To promote safety in the mountains.

2. To promote safe tramping.

3. To provide lessons in safe alpine work.

4. To provide grants to any person or persons interested in starting a career in the National Park Service or furthering such a career.

5. To promote the work of the National Park Authority or the work of the State Forest Park Authority.

6. To provide grants to any person or persons wishing to extend their knowledge of any of the sciences such as botany, geology etc. associated with the outdoors.

7. To provide grants to any person or persons wishing to extend the knowledge of appreciation of photography of the outdoor or of the scientific application of photography.

8. The Trust shall act primarily in the Wanganui, Rangitikei, Waimarino and South Taranaki districts but the Trustees shall have power to extend beyond this are should they so desire.

Fenella Druce Memorial Hut

"Beyond Cobb Hut the track climbs about one hour up a series of glacier-worn rocky steps to Fenella Hut (20 bunks)."

Following the death in 1977 of his second daughter Fenella (one of the Four Friends), Tony Druce, one of the greatest contributors to the botanical exploration and discovery of New Zealand, assisted by family and friends, organised the building of Fenella Hut in the Upper Cobb Valley as a memorial to her.

Fenella Hut

Fenella Hut

Four Friends Remembered 40 Years On

The death of the four friends was marked in January 2017 by a reunion and chapel service at Collegiate School during which a plaque was unveiled for the four. There was also a boat trip on the Wairua during which a wreath was thrown into the river in their memory. Another plaque is planned on a bench beside the river. There is already a plaque for the four at Mangaturuturu Hut. 

Many people, young and not so young, have been assisted on outdoor courses such as Outward Bound, Outdoor Pursuits Centre and Spirit of Adventure. Two tracks at Ohakune have received substantial grants-- the Rimu Track which provides for wheelchair access and the Mangawhero Walk. In addition, at Raetihi the Ameku Road Walkway and Whanganui’s riverbank walk have also received assistance. Grants to the Waimarino Forest Kiwi Research Project and the printing of the map of Mangapurua Valley historic sites show the diversity of assistance given.