Cam Walker was sitting on a ridge on Mt Rolleston in Arthur’s Pass National Park when he decided to change his life.
After leaving high school, he’d worked as a chef for five years and the hours were keeping him from the outdoors.
“I tried my best to keep rock climbing, tramping and kayaking, but it didn’t work because of the hours and the nature of that industry,” Walker says. “I got to the point where I was so unfit that when I did try to go for a climb I was just hopeless.”
Walker grew up in an active household and always wanted to gradually develop his abilities in the outdoors.
“The big decision to get out of hospitality was because it wasn’t allowing me to do my trips which are the most important thing to me,” Walker says. “I thought if I could work in the outdoor industry then hopefully I’d get out a lot more.”
After being inspired by articles in Wilderness written by Adventure Philosophy trio Mark Jones, Marcus Waters and Graham Charles, Walker enrolled in AUT University’s two year Diploma in Outdoor Education and Leadership course.
Afterwards, he secured a job with Tihoi Venture School.
Walker says AUT’s “strong relationships” with industry and school’s like Tihoi help students gain experience and find employment.
“As soon as I got going with the programme, I could see the different avenues in terms of work opportunities that could come from the course,” Walker says. “If you’re prepared to put in the effort then there’s definitely work out there.”
Walker worked for Tihoi for two years, teaching rock, alpine, kayaking, caving and first aid. While there, he also gained NZOIA qualifications in bush, white water and alpine.
He enjoyed teaching the boys at Tihoi, but felt he needed to keep challenging himself.
Now Walker and his partner Kelly, who also studied outdoor education at AUT, are travelling the South Island climbing mountains. Walker’s long term goal is to become a mountain guide.
“We’ve found we’re at the stage where we’ve got lots of good work experience, but we need to gain more personal experience and better judgement for our trips and to push ourselves in order to become better in the outdoors,” he says.
In April next year Walker and Kelly are going to work as field assistants on Macquarie Island, which lies halfway between the bottom of New Zealand and Antarctica.
“It’s a good opportunity to get down to a really interesting place and save tons of money,” Walker says.