The joys of tramping

Jon Dumble has been tramping since the 1960s and now at 78, he still regularly heads out on one of New Zealand’s great walks, the Routeburn track, as well as the hills and mountains on his doorstep near Queenstown.

Jon is a member of the Wakatipu Tramping Club, along with several other over-70s, and until recently was a walking guide for NZ Nature Walks.

He’s also a telemark skier at nearby Coronet Peak skifield.

John still runs his farm in the Wakatipu Basin and finds the physical work and tramping complement each other.

Jon Dumble approaching the Cascade Saddle overlooking the Dart Glacier.

The Wakatipu Tramping Club grades tramps into easy, medium and fit and Jon doesn’t always go for the easy ones.

Carrying a pack is no problem for this extraordinarily determined man.

He enjoys the challenge tramps offer such as crossing streams, wading through mud or using a tree as a handhold as he negotiates a steep bank.

A few years ago, Jon experienced the highlight of his tramping life when he crossed the Cascade Saddle between Queenstown and Wanaka.

Poor weather conditions prevented him on nine earlier attempts but he finally made it over the saddle to Aspiring Hut.

Experience an adventure

He says tramping is a great way to make new friends and catch up regularly with mates.

As well as keeping him fit and active, it allows Jon to view some spectacular scenery many people don’t get to see.

“I love the remoteness, the views and there’s no one else around. There’s always something different to see and an adventure to experience.”

If you’ve never tramped before and would like to try it, join a tramping club.

They offer bush craft courses and useful tips on equipment, food, safety and the most suitable routes.

Travel costs are shared so kept as low as possible.

Jon’s top tips are:

  • Check the weather before you leave
  • Only pack essentials – don’t make your pack any heavier than it needs to be
  • Good walking shoes or boots and a waterproof/windproof jacket are essential
  • Wear thin layers of clothes so you can take something off if you get too warm.

Jon’s love of tramping goes hand in hand with the Department of Conservation’s Healthy Nature, Healthy People theme launched during Conservation Week recently.

It’s about the link between looking after special natural places and the tangible health benefits you can enjoy from experiencing them.

Research from the University of Otago, published in 2013, highlights the physical and mental health benefits people get from taking part in outdoor activities and conservation efforts.


Finding suitable tramps

On DOC’s website you’ll find a useful guide to walks all around the country, and you can sort them by the region you are in.

You can also the find the tracks that are the easiest to walk or and those which are suitable for wheel chairs or buggies.

1. Select your region.

If you know of a park in your region that you are particularly interested in you can select that park under ‘place’. You can leave this blank and it will search all parks.

2. Choose the difficulty.

The ‘easiest’ walks have even surfaces and no steps or steep sections. The ‘easy’ ones may have steps, but still have even surfaces and bridges across all streams. If you want to limit the time go to ‘duration’ and tick ‘under an hour’. The approximate times it take each walk are listed in the results.

3. If you want to find a track that is suitable for a wheel chair select ‘other’.

Walking New Zealand has a list of walking groups, including some specifically for seniors, as well as a list of walking events around the country.