The Author
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A brief history

In 1971 as a young student I started walking with friends from the Gordon Institute of Technology in Geelong. We were soon hooked and formed the Gordon Bushwalking Club which evolved over the years into the Deakin Outdoors Club (Gordon Institute became Deakin University in the 1980's). After 3 years I left Geelong to study at Melbourne University and joined the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club (MUMC) where I was able to take up rockclimbing which was the activity I really wanted to do most. In many ways it was good that I first found bushwalking. While a member of MUMC, I was Climbing Convenor then later Treasurer. Later on, I was made a life member of MUMC.

Over the next 10 years I did around 700 different rockclimbs with more than 50 first ascents and was treasurer of both MUMC and the Victorian Climbing Club (at the same time!). On many new climbs I was often the photographer and swarmed up after the route had been led, it was fun and at times quite challenging. I climbed with the best (Law, Friend, Lindorff, Tempest, Carrigan, Mathieson (HB)) but  while close to the top (only a grade or two below), was never quite ranked in the top few. Looking back, it can be seen that this was probably the greatest period of growth in free climbing standards with grades rising from 19 to 30 in 10 years! In the mid 80's I faded away from the climbing scene after the death of many climbing friends in the Himalayas and left the mountains and cliffs to the new generation of young guns. My climbing period was busy as I still regularly went bushwalking and even tried canoeing for two years.

In 1976, after some encouragement by other bushwalkers, I printed a set of track notes on South West Tasmania. These were based on very outdated notes that had been produced in the 1960's by the Hobart Walking Club. Interest in the notes was higher than I first thought and this encouraged me to do another 9 week walking trip in the south-west to update all the notes. In 1978 the guide book 'South West Tasmania' was self-published. A publisher (Algona Guides) then asked me to join with John Siseman to research and write the guide to 'Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park' which was published in 1979. In 1980 I produced a large format all colour photo book to Cradle Mountain. The two guides now have multiple editions but the colour book has become a collectors item as there was only one edition (nmainly because the publisher did not pay me!). At that stage I also did a lot of work writing articles and providing photos for the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club yearly magazine, 'Mountaineering'. It was sold commercially in the bushwalking shops for 4 years from 1978 to 1981. The magazine ceased when WILD started.

When WILD magazine started in 1981, I wrote one of the feature articles in the first issue (for free) and have continued a close relationship since with that excellent publication. Just to dispel the rumours, I have never owned any share or part of WILD, I just write for and get paid the same casual rates like every other writer. I have contributed more than 130 articles and photographs to WILD. A number of articles have also been published in Outdoor Australia and in overseas outdoor and photography magazines in USA, Spain and the UK. In 1989, along with my wife, Monica and good friend, John Siseman, we took over the Age weekly newspaper column on bushwalking when Sandra Bardwell retired on her 200th column. Due to financial cut-backs, the column ceased in 1995 and was revived breifly in 2003, in all we wrote 290 columns plus a dozen feature articles for other sections of the newspaper. Its funny how many people remember Sandras column and not us even though we wrote more columns than she did over a longer period, I guess she was first though.

In the 1980's, I worked as a professional walking guide in South West Tasmania (6 walks) and then as a trekking guide in Nepal and India with Peregrine Expeditions (led 12 treks) and, while the pay was poor, it was an interesting activity to do for a while as you learnt how to handle and tolerate all types of people. I did some mountaineering on some lower Himalayan peaks but regular deaths of friends in those ranges discouraged me to continue climbing. Many of my friends have climbed Mt Everest and other 8000m peaks but many also died (more than 20). Instead, I decided to see more of Australia at my own pace; this really is an interesting diverse country. This led to another book in 1986, 'Bushwalking In Australia' which was a joint effort with my wife, Monica. The first three editions were published by Lonely Planet. It covers overnight and longer walks in every state around the country. The fourth edition is an all colour book and was self published in June 2003. In 2009, I was presented with a 'Special Recognition Award' by Bushwalking Victoria, the peak body for bushwalkers and clubs in Victoria.

My interest in photography started as a means of showing others the unusual places I visited. Early on I enjoyed moderate success by winning some photo magazine competitions so this spurred me to learn more and I tried the open exhibitions. These competitions are completely anonymous and are a great way to see what others are doing and having your work compared. While initially confusing, you soon work out how its judged and what the judges look for. After a brief spell in National Exhibitions I tried the larger International Exhibitions where there are thousands of entries. Winning over 150 awards in 38 countries with 1,800 acceptances in a nine year period starting in mid-1980s, I became one the most successful exhibitors from Australia and have judged numerous national and international exhibitions. Exhibition success has also given me various photographic honours such as Grand Master of the Australian Photographic Society (GMAPS) then Exhibition Medal from the same society (APSEM), Grand Master of the Photographic Society of America (GMPSA) and the EFIAP/p (platinum level - FIAP is the international photographic federation) and Honorary Membership and other honours from several overseas camera clubs and societies. If you want to be able to apply photography across a wide variety of subject matter, the exhibitions are full of new ideas and worth persevering with. Recently ( late 2013) I started exhibiting again  and the standard is similar to what it once except there are more exhibitions and also more photographers entering. In 8 years I have gained over 8000 acceptances with more than 200 different images obtaining awards, have new ideas for photography and also become proficient with new techniques for processing them (very helpful for processing images for books).

My major outdoor photography interest is with landscapes, nature and wilderness photography, which generally do not do well in competitions - the problem is they are normally not spectacular enough - they get accepted but rarely win. So while I was taking climbing and sport photographs for competitions I was still taking landscapes for myself when bushwalking in both colour transparencies and black and white. I have more than 35,000 transparencies and 12,000 black and white negatives - mainly of bushwalking places. I converted to a digital camera in 2004 and now have a large digital library. The exact number is more than 100,000 images but is impossible to determine as I often use panorama and HDR techniques where multiple exposures are combined into a single output image plus I delete any trash thats not worth keeping. As I do a review every now and then and delete old images, the total goes both up and down.

Once I stopped climbing, ski-touring became a more major winter activity (before that I often did snow walks) and week long ski trips on XCD skis to Mt Kosciusko and Mt Jagungal became regular events. However bushwalking is my main activity and I spend several months each year walking. Tasmania is the favourite place with more than 930 days walking in that state which is around 30% of all my overnight walking (more than 3000 days). Some think I spend all my walking time in Tasmaina but I also spend considerable amounts of time in other states and other countries as well (I would call 70% considerable). While some of these areas do appear in my writing, there are also places I have visited but don't advertise, thus allowing others to explore some places for themselves. Many walkers think I write up all my walks but I try to juggle the fine line between the demands of other walkers (who want notes to everything) and the land managers (who often want minimal publicity). This issue was debated in more detail in a letter I wrote that was published many years ago in WILD issue 42.

I am still very active with both day walks and regular long bushwalks to a variety of places which have included a few 50 day trips!. In 2009 we did some major walking trips in the mountains in Morocco, Spain and the USA - it was probably about time as its been more than 20 years since visiting the northern hemisphere. Also in 2009 we printed Australian Alps Walking Track and South Coast Track plus research for future walking books. In 2010 there were multiple visits to Tasmania (Southern Ranges, Overland Track in winter plus many shorter walks) plus we did lots of repeating walks for a new edition of Day Walks Victoria. We also completed Day Walks Sydney which went on on sale in January 2011. During 2011 we also did more long trips, 19 days on the Great Dividing Trail in Victoria, 14 days off-track in the MacDonnell Ranges in central Australia and a month long trip exploring the canyons in Utah and Arizona in the USA. In early 2012, we walked the Sabine-Travers circuit at Nelson Lakes (7 days)  then did the more difficult high route along The Dragons Teeth (Douglas Range-9 days) in New Zealand. Autumn was several visits to Tasmania which included the Overland Track plus completing checking for the new edition of Day Walks Tasmania and in October we spent 15 days walking near Mt Kawa Kharpo on the eastern end of the Himalayan Range in Yunnan Province in China.

Summer of 2013 had us busy with multiple visits to Tasmania checking our guide books plus in March we did Gillespie and Rabbit Passes (14 days) then the Five Passes walks (9 days) in New Zealand. Winter saw us climb Mt Zeil (5 days return from Redbank Gorge) then the next 17 days was a repeat of the Larapinta Trail researching the second edition. In Spring it was several weeks walking in Tasmania. 2014 was another varied year with 18 days in Tasmania in February, 16 days in the Gammon Ranges in South Australia then a long driving trip to the Northern Territory for 11 weeks walking in Katherine (5 days), Kakadu (22 day circuit), Litchfield (4 days), Uluru, Kings Canyon etc. 2015 started with another visit to New Zealand doing the Tongariro Circuit (very unusual landscape) then an 11 day walk from Lewis Pass to Nelson lakes via the Matakitaki Valley crossing multiple high passes. An easy trip followed with a pleasant week of walking on Lord Howe Island. We then skipped winter with a week long circuit of Carnarvon Gorge in Queensland, a 41 day walk following most of the Sierra High Route in California  (supposedly the USA's hardest walk) then a month on the Snowman Trek in Bhutan. In 2015 we printed new editions of Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair & Walls of Jerusalem and Larapinta Trail plus published the 4th edition of Walking The Otways as a joint effort with Geelong Bushwalking Club.

2016 saw us back in Tasmania repeating the Western Arthurs, numerous day walks to update the next edition of Day Walks Melbourne then a 3 month trip in Europe following the Pyrenees High Route followed by the GR20 in Corsica. On our return we were home one week then headed off to Western Australia for 6 weeks checking walks over there. In December 2016 we were in the Eastern Arthurs doing checks for the next edition of South West Tasmania which was printed later in 2017. In early 2017, we spent 7 weeks in Africa seeing the wildlife, peaks and cultural history of Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia. For the first time for a decade we stayed home during winter and repeated many walks for a new edition of Day Walks Mellbourne. In November and December we headed to Patagonia (Chile and Argentina) for a few weeks of spectacular and unusual walks. 2018 started with a 6 week trip tramping in New Zealand and for winter a long trip to Morocco (Mt Toubkal), Germany and the AV1 in the Dolomites in Italy. We stayed home for a few months in late 2018 to complete two new books, Short Walks Southern Tasmania and Short Walks Northern Tasmania. In 2019 its been Mt Kilamanjaro in Tanzania, the Drakensbergs in South Africa and Madagascar. There was then a month long trip in The Kimberley with Willis Walkabouts then two weeks after that we headed off for three months walking in the Sierra Nevada in California for 45 days completing our Sierra High Traverse then three weeks in autumn in the New England states in north-east USA.

December 2019 saw us walkiing McMillans Track as research for a new guide book which was printed in late 2020. 2020 started with a 13 day walk in New Zealand on the North-West Circuit of Stewart Island. Covid-19 then hit and we had to abandon our other plans for more walking trips to the USA and Europe in winter and the Australian Alps Walking Track in spring.. 2021 started quietly with multiple trips into the Victorian and New South Wales Alps doing checks of the Australian Alps Walking Track. We have completed all of the checking that we could do (due to fires, one section was closed) and also between lockdowns managed to re-walk all of the Larapinta Trail. Late in the year, new editions of both guides were printed. Overseas travel opened in 2022 and we spent another 8 weeks walking in the Sierras in California to obtain more photos and complete checking for our new book, Sierra Grand Traverse. 2023 started with 3 months walking in Europe, Portugal, Italy, Austria and Germany. It was all day walks as it was spring and the mountain huts were not yet open and was a nice change. The northern summer saw us back in the sierra Nevada in California for another month of walking before flying to various US cities visiting friends. Late in 2023 we added in another a three trip walking and wildlife viewing to India.

On a professional level, I have worked briefly as a Civil Engineer (found it boring), then in outdoor shops selling outdoor equipment for 9 years with periods away as a trekking guide/climbing etc. During that period, as a hobby, I built and programmed several 4 and 8 bit computers and designed some hardware additions (that was the start of PCs). That led to a a short period in the software industry then I changed jobs to Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) where I lectured in Computer Science for 17.5 years specialising in graphics, web and java programming. I retired from paid employment in 2004 and now spend more time walking and producing walking guide books. Guide books dont pay very well (read about online publishing!) but the benefit is being able to go away more often on extended walks at almost any time of the year.

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John Chapman, PO Box 5042, Laburnum, 3130, Australia
Photographs and text are copyright 1998-2023 John Chapman.
 Last updated : December 6th 2023