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Experience NZ’s back-country, by yourself

William is a well-known Shore identity, a sought-after motivational speaker and an accessible role model to New Zealand youth. He was one of two young climbers caught in a volcanic eruption on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu in 2007. William is passionate about the outdoors and education and has worked as a primary school teacher on the North Shore. However, an exit from teaching has seen William set up the William Pike Challenge Award which is a popular Intermediate and Middle School outdoor education programme run over one school year. He is a monthly columnist for Channel Magazine.

A question I’m often asked is, how did you get into the outdoors in the first place?

The story goes a little like this; at the age of 11 my parents enrolled me into Scouts. If it wasn't for them taking that first step, my chance of a life in the outdoors would have been less likely.

At that age I was still, very much in a formative stage of my life. I was trying to work out the complex world around me, trying to find something that tickled my fancy. Scouting introduced me into the world of the outdoors. Although I opted out of scouts around the age of 13, it was enough of an introduction to whet my appetite for a life long adventure; the NZ outdoors.
A few years later I signed myself up for the Outdoor Education Class at Westlake Boys High School. One of our first trips was to the Kaimanawa Ranges, in the central North Island. This was a week long trip that included walking for hours with a decent weighted pack, cooking for ourselves, camping in the middle of nowhere in amongst NZ’s back-county wilderness. The crux of the trip, and the most memorable was the Survival Night.
The Survival Night consisted of spending a night out with a classmate, without a sleeping bag, tent or cooker. We were lead down a track in pairs and assigned a patch that we could build a bivouac (bush shelter), build a fire and prepare for the night. Watching the sun dip below the horizon against a pink sky, all by ourselves and nestled in our bivouac was something special. Our fire gave everything close by a bright orange glow. As the morning broke we had a feeling of independence, accomplishment and satisfaction that we couldn't describe. I was hooked, and forever thereafter addicted to just about everything the NZ outdoors has on offer.
As a teenager in a formative stage of my life, the outdoors gave me the opportunity to develop sound social skills and step outside of my comfort zone. I proved to myself that I could overcome the simple barriers in every day life. I was an un-coordinated sportsman at school, so for once I have something I was good at.
The outdoors consumed me, in a healthy way. My focus was tramping (bush walking). I became a sponge for more information and I was in search for any and all books on safety in the outdoors. Second to safety, I was on the look out for exciting places to go, and that I did.
A rule of thumb is; to learn from those with more experience than you, so off I went. I jumped at any opportunity to go on a trip with anyone that had been there, done that. As the years have passed I built up my experience, and with that came confidence to tackle, more challenging, committing, and unforgettable adventures with my own group of friends and family. From tramping, followed mountaineering, then kayaking, and then hunting.
There’s a lot to be said for getting into the outdoors from a young age. If you’re a late starter, there are plenty of ways to build on your experience and confidence, to tackle the outdoors yourself. The best probably being - join a club.
Going on an adventure under your own steam, with the right experience, the right planning and preparation - can be rewarding beyond your wildest dreams.
Take the first step…
A few places to get started on your on adventures: (North Shore Tramping Club)

Is your local school participating in the William Pike Challenge Award?!
The WPCA provides Full Primary and Intermediate Schools with support, resources and motivation to facilitate high-quality Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC). The WPCA is an outdoor activity-based programme run over one school year. Groups of students participate in outdoor activities, community service and personally develop a new sport or hobby. Some key outcomes of the WPCA include: the establishment of positive connections across home, school, peer and community life; empower students to overcome, embrace, and manage challenges in their everyday lives; provide students with an opportunity to interact with local places and local communities; and produce students that are confident, proud, well-rounded, and can draw upon life skills and experiences in the future.
This year, the WPCA has reached capacity with 31 schools nationwide. Schools are spread right over the country, from top to bottom, with both high and low decile schools on board. There are close to 600 students participating in the WPCA. If you’d like to find out more information on how the WPCA works, please request an information booklet at:

by William Pike