The story of an Auckland Tramping Club map

In May 2018, Auckland Tramping Club donated a fascinating map of the Northern Slopes of Mount Ruapehu to Auckland Libraries. Notes on the map indicate the survey was done by C.W. Stewart and J.C.McComish, and it was McComish himself who compiled and hand drew the map, and signed it with the date of October ’57.

Further handwritten notes on the map note that it was restored in June 1972 by D.B.F. Brown, which is possibly when the map was laminated.

Ref: Auckland Tramping Club, Map of the northern slopes of Mount Ruapehu, 1957. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZ map 9151.

The map covers the area from the Upper Scoria Flat to the Crater Lake and it really is a work of art – mainly black and white, it has roads, streams, huts, ski patrol bases, chair lifts and power lines in colour, although very faded after sixty years of use. As well the map, there is information on safety, distances and the locations of the three telephones on the mountain - essential information in the days before mobile phones.

It is easy to see why the map was so useful to the tramping club, and why, according to Auckland Tramping Club President Tony Walton, it had probably been up on the wall of their Ruapehu Lodge since it was first created. However, in March 2018, the club handed ownership of the Lodge over to the Central Plateau Schools Mountain Lodge Trust, and so felt that something as unique as the McComish map should be removed for preservation. They did leave a copy of the map in the lodge, and Auckland Libraries has given a digital file of the map to Auckland Tramping Club for their records. 

Ref: Retrieved and used with permission from Auckland Tramping Club website, 17 June 2018.

One of the intriguing things about this unique map is the fact that Auckland Libraries already have an almost identical version, purchased at auction in 2017 (NZ map 9045). We did think that the map we had bought was an original, hand drawn one, but since we have received the Club one, we are not certain. The 2017 purchase has a hand drawn note on the back – ‘Mr L.M. Lennad Ski Grounds’. Perhaps Mr Lennad, seeing the splendid map produced for the Auckland Tramping Club, asked if he could have a copy for his own use, and McComish produced another, and had a copy made using the sepia diazo process. The map done for Mr Lennad is much clearer than the original and has slightly more detail – perhaps McCormish took the opportunity to make an even better job of it the second time around. But this is all speculation. If anyone does know the story of the two almost identical maps, we would be very happy to have more information about them. Please feel free to email the team at:

Ref: R. Lyons, Auckland Tramping Club. A group of climbers from the Auckland Tramping Club nearing the summit of Mount Ruapehu, 1931. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 282-373.

As well as the Ruapehu map, Auckland Tramping Club has made other donations to Auckland Libraries. We have their Minute Books from 1928-1975, an interesting selection of early photos of club activities and a wonderful collection of lantern slides – a search for Auckland Tramping Club on ‘Heritage Images’ on the library website, will bring up a selection to view. 

We have two histories of the club – founded in 1925 with a meeting in the crater of Rangitoto – and runs of several of their publications, including the long –running newsletter Wanderlust. The image below is of the masthead they have used since July 1941, although the magazine has been published since 1936, which is an impressive record. And if you should want to read any of those issues, just ask for them at the Research Centre desk at the Central Library.

Ref: Auckland Tramping Club. Masthead of Wanderlust magazine, Vol 92, no 10, November 2017.

Author: Katrina Laan, Map Librarian, Heritage Collections