Hillary 71 back together… 50 years on - Outward Bound

Hillary 71 back together… 50 years on

Life after OB

In October 1969, 14 young men met in Anakiwa and would become Hillary watch 71. 

Fifty years on, in November 2019, nine of the watch members got together in Picton for a weekend reunion.

Sadly, three of their watchmates had passed away and two others couldn’t make it. One travelled from Australia, and the other eight came from all over NZ, from Dunedin to the Bay of Islands.

Words by Neil Bowman - Hillary 71

On the Saturday we were warmly hosted to the school by the Operations Manager Catherine Kircher, who showed us around the current Anakiwa site.

We recall back in 1969 there was a much smaller instructor body of just 6 or 7, now there are around 30. The place has grown enormously and has been almost completely rebuilt and much was unrecognizable, although some areas, like the ropes course and the rock climbing and abseiling face were still very familiar.

We admired the new accommodation and ablution buildings and in the main dining hall we were treated to tea and flapjacks -no cabin breads these days though! In 1969 we went to the various off-site activities on the back of an open deck truck (no seats or seatbelts), now there are air-conditioned buses. Looking at the surrounding peaks we had ascended, they seemed imposingly high – did we really get to the tops?!

We all enjoyed an opportunity to meet and talk with a number of current attendees and listened to their take on the Outward Bound experience. It was much the same 50 years earlier, although it seems, because of current OSH requirements, some activities have become less of a challenge. Back then we had to fend for ourselves, these days there must be a staff member involved in all activities.

The onsite visit brought back many nostalgic memories, a lot of forgotten ones and a lot of reminded ones. We all agreed it was a privilege to have attended OB. For many of us, if not all, it changed our lives and how we viewed the world around us, then and now.

For almost all of us there had been no contact with each other from the day we left Anakiwa 50 years ago and a big part of the enjoyment of the weekend was listening to each other’s 50 years of life experiences. I personally found this fascinating. Achievements, failures, whatever, it all added up to very interesting conversations, we all had our stories to tell. Three wives attended with their husbands which added another very welcome dimension to the weekend.

The following are additional comments from three of our watchmates:

“Great weekend. Best thing we ever did. I wondered, as a group, if we might feel a little awkward on first meeting after such a long time, but it was quite the opposite. Those first handshakes, hugs and smiling faces said it all. The comradery had never broken, it was always there.”

“The words of wisdom from our instructor John Scapens stayed with me through my many years as a DOC ranger after Outward Bound. "Just take it [life] as it comes". No matter what plans we have in life we must be able to accept, adapt and be prepared for change.  Tragically John died in a fall during a goat cull at Cape Brett in 1978. We sadly missed you at our reunion Mr Scapens RIP."

“I was impressed after returning to Anakiwa, to see that it appears to be flourishing and tailoring its courses to not only continue the classic course, but a number of others aimed at different groups and needs within today’s society. The motto "to strive, to serve, and not to yield" seems as relevant now to new generations as it did so long ago to us. Many organisations, as old as Outward Bound, have had to completely reinvent themselves along with ideals, goals etc - not so Outward Bound. I have never been one for going to school or other reunions, but was up for this one, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend.”

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