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Mountain man mourned

Clareville crash victim clocked up 839 hikes up Mt Holdsworth


By Emily Norman

[email protected]

Tramping in the Tararuas was Eric MacIntosh’s life.

Now he is “free to roam the wilderness he loved”, his family says.

Mr MacIntosh, of Masterton, died on Saturday at Wellington Hospital after he was critically injured in a head-on crash last Thursday near Clareville.

He was two weeks away from celebrating his 80th birthday.

Mr MacIntosh moved to Masterton in 1985, and was later made redundant from his post office job at the age of 53, after 37 years with the company.

Shortly after that, tramping became an integral part of his life.

Eric MacIntosh at Pinnacle Peak, with Mt Holdsworth in the background. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Eric MacIntosh at Pinnacle Peak, with Mt Holdsworth in the background. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

At the turn of the century, Mr MacIntosh was averaging 11 visits to the Mt Holdsworth summit each month, and had spoken to the Wairarapa Times-Age numerous times about his expeditions.

He said the tramp usually took him six hours – “then I go home or go to the pub and have a beer. You get pretty thirsty sometimes”.

In total, he had made 839 trips to the summit, and had also walked the peaks of Australia’s Mt Kosciuszko (2228m), Mt Warning (1157m), and Uluru, Ayers Rock.

“I’m not a mountaineer. I’m just a tramper who likes to climb peaks,” he had told the Times-Age.

“You can keep tramping till you’re 80 or 90. As long as I can walk, I’ll keep tramping.

In 2001, he said: “I may not be able to tramp in 10 years’ time. I want to enjoy it while I can.”

Yesterday, his brother and sister, Don MacIntosh and Maureen Talbot, were looking through countless tramping journals and photo albums at Mr MacIntosh’s home in Solway.

As a former rugby referee, Mr MacIntosh had got into the habit of writing down every game he refereed and this carried on into his climbing expeditions.

He wrote down every tramp he ever did, and had photos of more than 700 huts in New Zealand he had visited.

“He was an unreal fella,” his sister said.

“There’s six of us siblings altogether, and we’d often meet up on tramping trips.

“We would walk and time it and say, oh that’s 30 minutes, and he would say, no it’s 27 minutes. He was always to the exact minute.”

She said, even though her brother was a diabetic and needed to inject himself three times daily, he didn’t let that hold him back from tramping, and was all the more healthier because of his active lifestyle.

His brother Don said Mr MacIntosh had been “quite a private individual” but was well-known among the tramping fraternity.

He was a long-term member of the Kaumatua Tramping Club and had been “a bachelor all his life”, he said.

Mr MacIntosh was the eldest in the family, and had five siblings, Colin, Maureen, Nola, Evan, and Don.

Mr MacIntosh logged each tramp to Mt Holdsworth. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN
Mr MacIntosh logged each tramp to Mt Holdsworth. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN

He was a huge All Blacks and Hurricanes fan, and a “meticulous keeper of records”.

In his lounge was a collection of hundreds of tramping books, maps, and handwritten accounts of each tramping trip he embarked on.

His siblings often joked to him saying that when he had reached the top of Mt Holdsworth 999 times, they would hire a helicopter to go to the top for the 1000th time.

Mr MacIntosh was taken to Wellington hospital by Life Flight last Thursday in a critical condition after a serious crash between Carterton and Masterton.

The crash closed the stretch of SH2 for more than four hours, and the Serious Crash Unit are continuing to investigate.

His funeral service will be held at Wairarapa Funeral Services Chapel on Lincoln Rd, Masterton at 12.30pm on Saturday.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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