Wilderness readers have spoken, and the nominations have been compiled into a stellar list for this year’s Outdoor Awards.
Each nominee was chosen from a lengthy list of entries, whittled down by the persuasiveness of the nominator. We think you’ll agree the finalists on the following pages represent the most inspiring outdoor enthusiasts, the most beautiful huts, and the most reliable and trusted brands and retailers.
The results will be revealed in the June issue alongside our Editors’ Choice Gear of the Year awards.
Here are the finalists along with a sampling of reasons why they were nominated…
Independent retailer of the year
Living Simply, Auckland
Small Planet Sports, Queenstown
MD Outdoors, Nelson
Trek ‘n’ Travel, Hamilton
Outside Sports, Te Anau
Bryce’s Rockclimbing, Wharepapa South
Chain retailer of the year
Hunting and Fishing
The North Face
Online retailer of the year
Brand of the year
Earth Sea Sky
The North Face
Hut of the year
Luxmore is a 54-bunk Gerak Walk hut, located on the Kepler Track in Fiordland. Said one reader: “It has to have one of the best views from the hut in the world.”
A 10-bunk backcountry serviced hut in the Coromandel, Crosbies is one of the more modern huts, built in 2010. “A great hut with stunning views and a great track to get there, and much nicer than the Pinnacles which is just down the valley,” writes one reader.
Heaphy is a 32-bunk Great Walk hut on the Heaphy Track in the Buller area of Kahurangi National Park. “Awesome location,” says a reader. “I’d live there but for the sandflies.”
As Egmont National Park’s most popular layover spot, Pouakai is a serviced hut, and is a relatively short walk (about 3 hours) from the road end. “Any hut so close to a natural beauty as special as the reflection of Taranaki in the Pouakai Tarns is a real winner,” one reader tells us. “I’ll never forget how happy I was to have that fire as company that night while the thick cloud sank. Once it had cleared the nighttime views to New Plymouth and out to sea were breath-taking.”
Chancellor is a serviced 12-bunk alpine hut in Westland Tai Poutini National Park in the West Coast region. The oldest alpine hut still on its original site,Chancellor was carried in and assembled piece-by-piece on site, in the days before alpine air lifts, according to DOC. “Stepping in the door is like stepping back in time,” says one reader.
Lake Alabaster Hut
“A world away from civilisation,” Lake Alabaster Hut is a good seven-hour walk from the road-end. It’s a 26-bunk serviced hut on the Hollyford Track in Fiordland National Park. “Peaceful, gazing across a still lake to Skipper’s Range – beautiful!” writes a reader.
Blue Lake Hut
A serviced 16-bunk hut in the Nelson Lakes area, Blue Lake Hut is described as a “classic backcountry hut in a magical setting that take a bit of effort to get to.” Blue Lake, also known to Ngati Apa iwi as Rotomairewhenua (the land of peaceful waters) is thought to be the clearest freshwater in the world, according to DOC.
Located in Ruahine Forest Park in the Hawke’s Bay region, Sunrise is a serviced 20-bunk hut. As one reader puts it: “Beautiful view and relatively easy action. Good for the whole family.”
Fenella is a serviced 12-bunk hut in Cobb Valley and Kahurangi National Park. One of its most notable features is the loo, which got several nominations. “Who can forget that toilet,” writes a reader. The hut gets its name from Fenella Druce, who was one of four people killed when the Three Johns Hut in Mt. Cook National Park was blown off its site 1977.
Ivory Lake Hut
Located near Waitaha River in the Hokitika area, Ivory Lake Hut is a basic 6-bunk hut in an alpine setting. Propped up on the polished rocks overlooking Ivory Lake, the hut is as remote as it gets, and is a 2-3 day journey from the Waitaha road-end to Ivory Lake.
Young outdoor person of the year, 12 and under
Our youngest nominee at age 10, Sefton Williamson is no stranger to the outdoors. He was nominated by his stepmother Carolyn Ellis, who says he kicked off his first tramping trip at age four – carrying his own pack. He’s named after Mt Sefton in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, which he visited for the first time when he was six. He’s walked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and tramped in Abel Tasman National Park. He’s ventured into other outdoor pursuits, trying his hand at rock and ice climbing. “He’s often seen shimmying up lamp posts and climbing trees,” Ellis said. He also has a penchant for swimming in cold water, recently taking a dip in the ice-rimmed Lake Alta in the Remarkables.
“His love of slogging up rivers in the dark and bivvying under rock shelters make him an inspiration to his friends,” said Ellis.
The Taylor triplets are a force to be reckoned with: at 12 years old, Aotea, Tainui and Tokomaru have completed countless tramping trips, numerous kayaking expeditions, and horse treks over the past five years.
Their father, Bevan Taylor, set up Kawhia Kids Horse Riding and Adventure Club. He said his kids are “survival machines”; they have a goal to walk the entire New Zealand coastline before they turn 14 years old.
They’ll check off a portion of that journey soon, with a week-long trek from Mokau to Kawhia in the works. Taylor said he’ll join them for the trip, adding they’ll be living off the land with not much more than a box of matches.
Young outdoor person of the year, aged 13-17
At just 13, Felix Williamson has an impressive depth of experience and knowledge of the outdoors. Carolyn Ellis, Williamson’s stepmother, said he was introduced to tramping at age two, and already has a number of trips under his belt in Fiordland, Abel Tasman, the Tararuas and Tongariro National Park, where he completed an ascent of Ngauruhoe.
Ellis said he’s assisted on bushcraft courses, is familiar with survival skills and even snow-caving, which he first experienced when he was just five. He’s also an accomplished rock climber, skier, mountain biker, sailor, trail runner – the list goes on. Williamson’s aim in life is to be an outdoor instructor and guide, a pursuit for which he seems well on his way.
At just 15, Josh Cornah is regarded as one of New Zealand’s up and coming rock climbers. He has been nominated for his climbing accomplishments both at home and internationally.
Cornah has been a member of Climbing New Zealand’s Youth Team, competing for the last two years against climbers from around the world. “He’s streets ahead of anyone else,” said David Sanders, chairperson of Climbing New Zealand, noting that Cornah took seventh in last year’s international championship for overall score in lead climbing, speed climbing and bouldering combined. Sanders, who has kept an eye on Cornah for several years now, said it takes an immense amount of dedication and willpower to climb at his level.
Cornah is also one of just a handful of Kiwi climbers to have completed one of the hardest graded sport routes in the country, the grade 33 Colossus.
Outdoor hero of the year
Nick Allen, 31, has been nominated for his ongoing work to help the Multiple Sclerosis Society and for encouraging and inspiring others with MS to enjoy the outdoors. When he was diagnosed at age 25, Allen was relying on a mobility scooter to get around. But in the past five years, he has shown it’s possible to live with MS and be active. He’s adopted a strict diet (no gluten, dairy, or sugar) and a regular exercise routine. He took to the mountains instead of the gym, and developed his passion for the trails.
Allen recently founded Mastering Mountains, a non-profit for people affected with MS. He’s now writing a book about his experience climbing in the Himalayas, and is also planning a fundraising tramp in Queen Charlotte Sound to raise money for the trust.
“MS is increasingly a young person’s disease,” Allen said. “I’m keen to help sufferers realise they can still have a rewarding life – they don’t have to give up.”
Jaime Sharp, 35, takes his adventures to extremes: in September 2015 he became one of the first to circumnavigate Svalbard Archipelago in Norway. The 2300km trip was six years in the making and took Sharp and his friends 71 days to complete. They encountered polar bears, freezing temperatures and a 300km uninterrupted stretch of glacial cliffs. Amy England, who nominated Sharp, said the expedition was “an extraordinary achievement and speaks volumes not only to Jaime’s skill as a paddler but to his ability to dream big, and have the courage to follow those dreams, and for his outstanding leadership which drove this team to complete an amazing journey.”
Sharp is also co-founder of World Wild Adventures, an adventure tourism company taking clients to Central and North America and Africa. He’s currently working as a dogsled guide in Norway.
“Being outdoors and connected to nature is Jaime’s life, he is constantly exploring and constantly finding ways to help others discover their own connection to special places on our planet,” England said.
Daniel Joll, 35, is a dedicated and seasoned mountaineer, known for bringing together climbers and alpinists in various ways over the course of his outdoor career. Joll was nominated for his work in starting the NZ Alpine Team with Steve Fortune and Ben Dare. The group aims to encourage and mentor young climbers, teaching them climbing and safety skills and providing support and structure. Started three years ago, the team chose eight climbers and paired them up with mentors. They’ve just chosen six new climbers for the next round of mentoring.
“It’s risky, but you want people to take safe risks,” Joll said, explaining that the team provides crucial mentoring that he says used to be more common in the early days of tramping. He hopes the team can support young alpinists, passing on skills and knowledge to the next generation of climbers.
Joll also helped start the annual Remarkables Ice and Mixed Festival.
Max Dorfliger, 71, has been nominated for the time and effort he’s put into renovating and restoring alpine huts. Originally from Switzerland, Dorfliger has spent much his adult life tramping and climbing here, and was once known as ‘Maxi the Taxi’ because he was often seen carrying huge packs around Mt Cook. He was also the first person to solo the Caroline Face of Aoraki/Mt Cook in the early 70s, which he accomplished in 15 hours of continuous climbing.
These days Dorfliger can be found volunteering his time and working hard on alpine huts. A skilled carpenter, he’s been instrumental in fixing up Centennial Hut and Old Julia Hut, and recently spent three weeks restoring Pioneer Hut. “He has a reputation for being very tough and very humble,” Sam Newton from the NZ Alpine Club toldus. “Alpine huts wouldn’t exist without volunteers like Max.”
Heather Grady, 55, is passionate about making outdoor training accessible to all. She’s been nominated because of her dedicated involvement with wilderness safety training; she and a group of outdoor instructors formed Outdoor Training New Zealand, which offers bushcraft courses ranging from survival skills to navigation and safe river crossings. Many course participants are young people, which she says is an eye-opening experience for kids who have never had the opportunity to explore the outdoors. “Bushcraft is vital to keeping people safe in the outdoors,” Grady said. “Young people learn leadership skills as well as safety, and develop a love and respect for the outdoors.”
Grady developed OTNZ in her free-time; she’s also a lecturer at UCOL Polytechnic in Palmerston North.
Top Left: Ivory Lake Hut (Photo: Mark Watson). Top Right: Jaime Sharp. Bottom Left: Heather Grady, Middle: Sefton Williamson, Right: Blue Lake Hut (Photo: Pat Barrett)