Perhaps the best thing about the Levin Waiopehu Tramping Club is that chances are the six year old contesting the annual club junior ski or snowboard slalom is a greatgrandchild of a founding member from 1927.
Her grandmother, auntie and father probably skied for the same trophy as children.
Our club started like many others in small provincial towns shadowed by tall forested ranges.
Members would put down the farm tools on a Friday and bushwhack till Sunday lunch. They left a fine legacy of huts like Waiopehu, Ohau and South Ohau, suspension bridges like the Blackwater, and tracks connecting the Horowhenua to Wairarapa and Kaitoke. In a comfortingly Kiwi civic way they did search and rescue too, becoming reluctant
heroes along the way.
Our ranges are the Tararuas. Waiopehu, our highest local summit, tares a straight line down Levin's Queen Street. From the 1940s and 50s this side of the Tararuas has been the weekend destination of choice for train-loads of pack-bearing public servants from Wellington,and the high tussock beyond Waiopehu was the venue for those early club and inter-club annual ski races.
Fortunately for LWTC's 450 or so current members, our fathers had the foresight in 1951 to buy a site on the Whakapapa side of Mt Ruapehu. In six months they built a hut for £962, only the second habitable building on the mountain and a true credit to those Waiopehu trampers. It was another ten years before electricity was connected. The hut grew and grew, and now has 32 bunks and a custodian's flat. It has been a shared holiday home for three generations of members.
The "brain drain" saw many of our members depart for greener pastures. But funnily enough their names never disappeared off the members' list, and annual subscription cheques would arrive from all parts of the world. Now,as the serenity and beauty of New Zealand beckon, those children are steadily returning with their own children, keen to instill a little Kiwi-kid attitude in an environment guaranteed to challenge.
W h i l e p r o v i d i n g s k i - t o - t h e - d o o r accommodation to members, visitors and school groups is our focus, we like to be grounded by the fact that our club is only as strong as its tramping. In 2002 we celebrated our 75th jubilee by opening Waiopehu Hut III, built in partnership with DOC.
We welcome new members, and existing members of other tramping clubs need pay only a joining fee. Our active family-oriented calendar takes in popular Kapiti-Horowhenua attractions and more challenging tramps including Mt Taranaki, the central North Island volcanoes and the South Island mountains. Please visit us at www.lwtc.org.nz