In early 2020, aspiring club trip leaders and experienced mentors from multiple clubs came together, pooling resources to successfully run two regional leadership development courses. 

Planting the seed of the idea in May 2019, and assisting with encouragement and funding support, FMC was delighted to have played a small part in these successful courses. 

Maintaining a healthy pool of trip leaders is one of the foundations of an active club, and pooling resources to achieve that goal makes very good sense when volunteer time is precious. (FMC has put together a detailed resource on Leader Development, which is well worth a look)

Heading off-track in the Remutaka Range. / Matt Conway

The two events were run by the Waikato Tramping Club and the Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering Club. A third event, planned for Southland, was a collaboration of Hokonui, Southland, Fiordland and Wakatipu Tramping clubs, but unfortunately the COVID19 lockdown meant the event had to be cancelled. (well, postponed for an unknown length of time..)

We had a chat with John McArthur from Waikato TC, and Matt Conway from Wellington TMC to hear how their courses went. John and Matt were able to share what worked, what didn’t and to offer advice and ideas for other clubs to consider if they find themselves looking to do the same in years to come. 

Course planning

The end of year holiday season caused a few headaches with the organisation for these February and March courses. Especially when it comes to collaborating with other clubs, whether co-hosting or simply inviting their members to attend, there needs to be a bit more lead time than you’d allow for your own club event. It’s worth getting in touch with other clubs as soon as you’ve finalised a date, so they can juggle their trip calendar to avoid clashes.  

Late spring seemed to be one suitable time to run the course; planning and promotion through the quieter winter months, and leaving a whole summer ahead for the newly minted leaders to consolidate their learning by leading a few trips in warmer conditions. Either that or far enough away from the holiday period, that most of the planning can be done in the new year. 

“[Waikato TC] sent an invitation to 17 other tramping clubs around the Waikato and BOP, down to Taupo, across to Whakatane, up to the Bombays.”  but only four clubs responded. 

As the course dates came around, a few clubs discovered the invitations sitting in the junk mail folders, sadly too late for them to pass on the invitation to their members. A good reminder that unless you’re emailing a personal contact in another club, it’s always worth picking up the phone and having a yarn!

Keeping costs down for people volunteering their time for the good of the club was important. Wellington’s organisers accepted the partial funding support from the FMC Mountain and Forest Trust. They were able to use TTC’s Waerenga Hut in the Orongorongo Valley at a discounted rate, and travel costs were low by keeping close to home. 

Made it! Home (and classroom) for the night / Matt Conway

Waikato’s event was held at the Pirongia Forest Park lodge, an affordable venue with suitable dining / classroom and access to the bush for practical exercises. Catering was efficient and costs kept down by  the club organising the food, using the skills and experience from operating their club lodge at Ruapehu. Waikato TC members had their courses subsidised by their club. 

Who was there?

Both organisers had aspirations of a significant turnout, but both reported that having smaller groups was much more suitable, easier for the organisers and more beneficial for the participants. 

Waikato had a group of 8 WTC mentors and support people and 14 attendees, which included two participants each from Nga Tapuwae O Taneatua (Whakatane), Kauaeranga (Thames) and Hamilton TC’s and one from Hamilton Wanderers.

Further south there were three mentors from Wellington TMC and one from Tararua TC supporting 9 participants:

“We naturally tend to do our own thing [with our own club], we found we had lots of ideas to share, which was really beneficial for everyone involved” said Conway. 

The smaller numbers allowed everyone the chance to contribute to discussions, as well as a better opportunity to build relationships with peers as well as with the mentors, that will set the stage for further development opportunities after the course.

A smaller crew gives a more personal touch 😉 / Matt Conway

Both courses promoted the event with an ‘open invitation’ to those who were interested in leading club trips, but in hindsight, some earlier shoulder tapping could have been beneficial. A few likely candidates couldn’t attend due to unavoidable date clashes. Other potential leaders who were suitable in the eyes of the mentors might not have signed up because they weren’t confident that they were suitable or ready for the course.  

Both regions are planning to run the course again. Wellington aims to make a regional leadership course an annual event in early March, while Waikato is considering the best timing to run again, with plenty of advance timing, making for no excuses for clashing dates!

The Wellington course

This was predominantly practical, although there was a short run over the club’s leader documentation and a theory overview [PDF] on the Friday night. Thanks to Matt Conway and WTMC for allowing us to share their course outline and club leader resources. 

The 9 participants were split into two groups with two mentors each, then given a couple of key points to visit, before returning to the hut for the night.  

From Waerenga Hut, the route involved heading up to Mt McKerrow and off to visit the Turere Stream waterfall, a varied trip involving on and off track navigation and some stream travel

View Larger Topographic Map

Along the way, mentors would facilitate discussions as real-life situations presented themselves; navigation decisions, deteriorating weather, a mentor who was beginning to feel ill and so on.  The mentors also had a number of pre-planned scenarios and discussions, such as dealing with emergencies, group management, route and time planning, intentions and so on. Matt explained; 

“WTMC does run an annual leaders course, but it’s classroom based. The mainly practical course was just right for a cross-club activity, as it minimised any club-specific trip protocol training. The participants had the right foundations to be leaders, but some lacked the confidence to actually take the step up. Each person had the chance to lead, and to participate in the debriefs; it gave people the valuable opportunity to build confidence in leading, with the safety-net of supportive peers and experienced mentors”

After dark, only the instructors had the energy to stay awake… / Matt Conway

The Waikato course 

This was more of a residential course, with indoor lectures, discussions and activities balanced with short scenarios and exercises in the nearby trails. These “on the tramp” training scenarios included a fall with broken leg, medical extraction, plus a tramper who won’t obey instructions.

Each of the mentors was tasked with developing and delivering sessions on their assigned topics.

The venue suited a few participants, who could drive home for the night for family commitments, plus the Kokako living behind the caretakers home were an added bonus.  

John reflected:

“A full weekend [in this format] might be a bit long; anecdotes are helpful, especially from club members with vast experience, but they do need to be to the point and brief when there are lots of topics to cover.”

What advice do you have for other clubs?

Matt said that:

“We’d been considering something like this for a while, and the suggestion from FMC was just the push we needed, plus the funding support was appreciated!  You don’t need to do a big course for it to be a success, just a few people was still really worthwhile.”

“As a mentor, It wasn’t all work and no play. I got heaps of satisfaction sharing my knowledge and watching people learning, leading and enjoying themselves. Plus I personally learnt new tricks and ideas from the group discussions and exercises” 

Stream bashing on the way to Waerenga Hut / Matt Conway

John felt that

“Waikato TC has run Trip Leaders’ training before, crammed into an evening. We felt we needed another course and this course format was a success, but had plenty of points to fine tune. It was well worthwhile, but next time we’ll make certain that our invitations to other clubs get through so they can join in! Meeting members of other clubs and gaining their input was a major benefit – not to mention the social story sharing.”

FMC is proud to have been able to provide the encouragement and support to start the ball rolling on these successful courses. If your club is thinking of doing something similar in the future, please get in touch to see what we can do to help you.