Words and images:  Sienna Robinson
Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Qualifying Trampers:  Sienna Robinson, Mackenzie Wagstaff, Caleb Prewer, Devon Robinson, Christopher Harrison


The Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Qualifying Journey in the Coromandel was definitely an experience to remember. As a team, we faced many challenges together. Through the preparation, planning and journey stages, our leadership skills were constantly being developed and tested. We’re creating this report to showcase our growth and development as leaders, and to reflect on what we could have done differently. 

Lunch in the Bush – Day 3:  Being a very new group, I was surprised at how quickly we bonded. Our banter and humour kept us pushing through the hike, even in the toughest of times.

Our Journey and Growth as Leaders

As a team, we faced many challenges throughout our journey. From having to change our route multiple times to completing up to 20 river crossings in one day, we had our hands full with different opportunities and challenges each day. We also had to adapt to drastic changes in terrain and weather, as well as each other since we were a very new group with little idea about each other’s personalities and leadership styles. 

Group Selfie – Day 1:  One hour into the hike, we wanted to capture our excitement before tackling the challenges we would soon face. We took this at a small waterfall with an ankle-deep water crossing.
River Crossing – Day 3:  After much discussion, we decided to cross the semi-flooded river in a specific spot to save us more than an hour of walking. The last ones to cross, Chris and Gerry, practice a safe, two-person mutual support river crossing.

Through these mental, emotional and physical trials, our leadership was constantly developed and tested. We were physically tested by persevering through freezing and painful weather, difficult inclines, and rough terrain. 

We were mentally tested by having to make tough decisions and having to lead in areas of possible inexperience, especially when not in good physical condition. We were emotionally tested by trying to keep ourselves on track through four days of tramping. 

Pinnacles Landscape – Day 1:  The view after the very steep climb up was absolutely worth every step. It was breathtaking, even with the eerie cloud cover.
Macka’s Pickaxe Head – Day 3: We always ensure to pick up any rubbish we see while exploring the New Zealand bush, as any good tramper would. However, what we didn’t expect to find was a whole pickaxe head that was potentially over 100 years old. Severely rusted and very heavy, Macka took it upon himself to carry it out of the bush and take it as a memento – even with his already very heavy pack.

As a team, we solved most of our challenges through our flexibility and persistence. For us to grow as leaders, we would have to move into an area of discomfort. No growth occurs when comfortable. Our qualifying journey is a prime example of this. Below is a specific example of a challenge that we faced on our journey and how we overcame it. 

Almost to Pinnacles Hut Group Selfie – Day 1:  After a tough climb, we had a rest at one of our waypoints before completing our first day of adventures.

Helicopter Rescue

There was one particular event that occurred during the second day of the hike, which really tested our leadership and stress management skills. We were already exhausted from tramping through wind, rain, and hail and were ready to set up camp and have a nice, early night. Less than ten minutes away from Billy Goats Basin Campsite, we came across a party of three day hikers in the middle of the track. There were two adult women and one adult man. As we neared the group, one of the hikers called out to us with urgency asking for food. It was very clear that something was wrong. The male was having difficulties walking and was supported by a female member of the group.

To identify what was happening, we assessed the situation and chatted with the able members of the group. We later came to understand that two of the members had a condition similar to diabetes. We discovered that they only had day packs and didn’t have enough food, as they were relying on being able to get back to the carpark with a car full of food. This also meant that they were ill-equipped and not prepared to have to stay a night.

After discovering that their original path was blocked by a river that was allegedly uncrossable, they searched for an alternative route to no avail. Their conclusion was to try and come back up the original path to complete a 3+ hr alternative route in darkness with two very ill members.

We found them in quite a poor state, suffering from mild hypothermia, exhaustion, and low energy due to lack of food. After some quick deliberation, we thought it would be best to help the party to the nearby campsite where there was a clearing with benches upon which they could rest. This also gave a clear reference point for help to come. We knew the group would not make the hike out as it was close to nightfall, so we set off a PLB at 6:30 p.m. to get further help.

Helicopter Rescue Mid-Air Shot – End of Day 2:  For privacy reasons, I’m only able to share this image from the rescue to protect the identities of the rescued. The entire rescue lasted over two hours from when we found them.

Through first aid training, we knew that we needed to keep patients warm and cover them in sleeping bags, offering puffer jackets and mats to keep them off the ground. We offered warm sugar water to restore glucose and warmth, made hot chocolates, fed marshmallows, and comforted the patients whilst waiting for help. This also included an attempted 111 call at 7 p.m. to increase our chances of getting help.

The helicopters soon arrived at around 8 p.m. which began a very long process of getting the patients lifted up into the helicopter. As our job was done, we waited until the helicopter left and continued getting to set up camp in the dark.

Communal Shelter – End of Day 3:  On our third and last night, we set up a fly using some of our hiking sticks so that we could spend more time together before it was over. Special thanks to Caleb who used his knot-making skills to make this possible and to the possums who were attacking Macka’s feet while he slept – making this the most memorable night.


This tramp was an amazing experience with many hurdles and challenges. We were able to overcome these challenges together through persistence and became better leaders of society because of it. The nature of our tramp reflected the significant variability of the wilderness. It acted as a good reminder of the importance of prior preparation and being ready for any potential situation.

Furthermore, the training that we had completed allowed us to be ready for any unexpected situation. This is specifically relevant to our tramp as many things did change and we were able to display a level of flexibility through them.

Flexibility was especially important with the helicopter rescue as there were lives on the line. We had to quickly change our plans to prioritise their safety. We’re proud of how we adapted and handled situations that arose, but know that there are many things upon which we can continue to improve.

On behalf of the Gold Team, thank you for aiding us in the completion of our journey.

Waterhole Landscape – Day 4:  Our final day. After walking for the majority of the morning, we went to a well-known but very peaceful swimming hole to finally relax and reflect on our adventures. While it was very cold, it was a great way to end our journey.
Top of Pinnacles:  A little tired, but happy to have reached the top. We conquered the Pinnacles!

We’re delighted to share another trip report from recent recipients of FMC’s Youth Award Grant. These grants are awarded four times a year, so if you’re inspired to get some financial support, head over to FMC’s website to apply.