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August 2019 Issue
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Heroes tramp through twilight years

The tramping exploits of Horton's Heroes proves age is just a number

If life experience is the measure, Horton’s Heroes may be the most experienced tramping club in the country.

First taking to the backcountry in their mid-60s, the group of up to 10 mates have tramped through their ‘twilight years’ under their leader Michael Horton.

Now all in their 80s, the senior trampers have ticked off 39 trips since the club’s inception in 1998. Their adventures have been chronicled in the book Thirty-nine Tramps by member Peter Carr-Smith.

The memoir is a celebration of the club’s accomplishments, and Carr-Smith hopes it will inspire the members’ children and grandchildren to enjoy the backcountry as they have.

“We’re just like any normal bunch of Kiwis tramping – we’ve just done it longer and at a later age than most,” he said.

The Heroes have ticked off a who’s who of New Zealand’s classic tracks since their first trek in the Abel Tasman, and they have five more planned.

“Even though we’re all getting on a bit now, we have quite big trips planned – we just have to be a bit more careful about how long we stay out each day,” Carr-Smith said.

“We’ve lost two guys over the years, but in a sense they still come with us.

“We travel as a team, and we look after each other pretty well. It’s never a race – we walk our own tracks, as a lot of people do,” Carr-Smith said.

Once at a hut, the Heroes tend to “inspect the insides of their eyelids for about an hour”, before enjoying a splash of grog and a biscuit.

Carr-Smith said the group is the talk of the track when they’re encountered by younger trampers.

“They’ve never seen anybody so old doing it,” he said.