Mark Pickering, inspiring people into the hills through the written word
When I began tramping in the mid-1980s, few tramping guidebooks existed, and there was certainly no internet to provide endless information. Mark Pickering’s 75 Tramps in New Zealand (later expanded to 101 Tramps) opened my eyes to the extent of possibilities beyond my local ranges. His second book, The Hills (1988) was a tribute to New Zealand’s bush, mountains and rivers, as well as our backcountry lore.
Originally from England, Pickering emigrated to New Zealand in the 1970s, and served his tramping apprenticeship in the Tararua Ranges – which didn’t seem to put him off! He worked as a printer, but after shifting to Canterbury began a second career as a tramping guidebook author, and later, backcountry historian. His excellent 2004 book A Tramper’s Journey, is the closest we have to a tramper’s autobiography: ‘I experienced rain on the fly sheet, muddy swollen rivers where you couldn’t see your feet, clear frozen dawns, nights of top and tailing and sometimes bush solitude, though club tramping was hardly a lonely business.’
As well as influencing where trampers go, Mark writes skillfully about the whole gamut of the outdoor experience. In Huts (2010), Pickering turned an obsession (having bagged more than 1250 huts) into a tribute to these simple but important structures. Other books have covered day walks, explorers and gold miners, making his contribution to tramping literature wide-ranging.