Readers of this history page might recall an earlier article I had here about two Canberra women who loved bushwalking and cross-country skiing in the Brindabellas and the Snowies. This time I'm paying tribute to a Canberra man who was equally entranced by our wonderful high country.
Tim Ingram was born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1912. He arrived in Canberra late in 1926 and worked as a tiler. The family lived in suburban Forrest, and Tim recalled, "You could walk in a straight line from Moresby Street to Manuka without hitting anything. There were only two shops in Manuka and about the same in Civic."
Tim's skiing and bushwalking started during the 1930s and Canberra outdoors stores barely existed. If you wanted to go on a bushwalk you had to buy your rucksack by mail order from Sydney.
If you were intent on skiing, you most probably made the skis yourself.
Bushwalking emerged in the early 1930s with an informal hiking club consisting of mostly young Canberrans who had recently arrived in the emerging capital. Prominent among them were Rover Scouts, like Tim.
The walking group formed around Cla Allen, a scientist at Mt Stromlo Observatory. "Cla was a great outdoor type, with lots of energy," said Tim.
In 1977, Cla recorded the achievements of the group in a very readable little book called Hiking from Early Canberra, which, in Cla's words, commemorates "the discovery by ordinary Canberra people that they had their own mountains and valleys in which to roam".
Roam they did. With little experience and basic maps, the walkers, who numbered as high as 50, were soon exploring over Tidbinbilla to the Cotter, down Tumbledown and Flea Creeks to the Goodradigbee River, climbing Mt Coree and pursuing their major objectives along the Brindabellas - Ginini Falls, Mt Gingera, Mt Bimberi and other peaks.
The first trip to Ginini Falls, in March 1931, saw Cla, Harold Hill and Tim climb from the Brindabella valley up over Mt Franklin and descend to the Falls.
"We were probably the first ones to see the Falls since John Gale in 1875," said Tim. At this time there was no road along the Brindabellas, and while Aborigines had known the peaks for thousands of years and stockmen had been in the ranges for decades, the mountains seemed almost primeval. "It was a wilderness," Tim reflected.
Sometimes the hardier walkers ventured very far afield, to Tumut, Wee Jasper and Cooma. The distances covered were impressive.
As is reflected in the names of some of the journeys, the walks became almost legendary. In June1932, the group mounted The Great Bimberi Trip, when 29 young people walked up Mt Bimberi -the ACT's highest mountain.
At the top snow was flying in a strong westerly wind. Several of the group's ascents of Brindabellas peaks saw the bushwalkers pushing their way through snow.
In spring, 1932, there was The Great Ginini Falls Trip. Nina Webber injured her foot and had to be carried out from the Falls and down to Brindabella Homestead on a makeshift stretcher carried by the young men.
Tim recalled humorous incidents in the bush such as when Geoff Littlewood (or was it Harry Wilson?) left his trousers drying by the camp fire overnight and next morning only the fly buttons were left - the rest of the pants had gone up in smoke. Geoff had to walk back with a rug wrapped around himself.
Tim was often the walkers' truck driver. Pushbikes were also frequently used. The mainly gravel roads out of the capital made for some rough riding.
On one trip the early hikers breakfasted on fresh trout, mushrooms and porridge, and on another walk Tim managed to cook porridge, bacon and eggs without even getting out of his sleeping bag.
Socially, the 1930s walkers were different to today's. There was exuberance in the group, seen in their singing on the truck on the way home. Tim recalls with amusement how the initially all-male group's decision to embark on "mixed walking" was such an earnest one.
Out of the bushwalks grew the beginnings of Canberra's skiing history. Walkers made trips to the Snowy Mountains and learned to ski. At Kiandra in July 1934 they met to form a club. The first motion raised at the meeting was proposed by Tim Ingram. The Canberra Alpine Club was born.
In 1938 the club built its Mt Franklin Chalet in the Brindabellas and Tim was prominent there - it was all about "cheap skiing and lots of fun at the weekend".
The club entered its first interstate skiing contest at the Australian Championships at Victoria's Mt Buller in 1939. Tim, Doug Hyles (owner of Uriarra Station), Fred Piggin and Charlotte Lane-Poole were the club's main representatives. As contemporary reports of the event testify, Tim skied gamely in the downhill, and came second in the langlauf - were it not for a broken ski on the last leg he may have won.
Albina Lodge near Mt Kosciuszko, demolished in 1983, had happy memories for Tim. Perched above Lake Albina it was "a lovely spot to stay, just beautiful. You were right on the tops, handy to all the peaks."
The walking and skiing exploits of Tim Ingram and his friends in the 1930s have left a legacy greater than just the popularity of these outdoor activities among Canberrans today.
Mt Franklin Chalet, by the time of our interview in the 1990s, was the oldest club-built ski lodge in the mainland Australian Alps (very sadly it was destroyed in the 2003 Alps bushfires).
The CAC in the 1950s was the premier bushwalking group in Canberra, and helped provide advice which ultimately assisted the establishment of Namadgi National Park.
Tim Ingram's legacy lives on.
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