Macquarie Mountaineering Society – Ric Daniel remembers the early years
Ric Daniel caving


Macquarie Mountaineering Society – Ric Daniel remembers the early years

February 17, 2020

The Macquarie Mountaineering Society (MMS) was founded in 1967 and still today it’s members keep in touch.  They’ve held a number of reunion events and have collated a wonderful book full of anecdotes and images from those carefree days.  

“From the vantage point of our 60- and 70-year-old selves, it perhaps seems amazing that a group of mainly 17 to 21 year olds could accomplish what we all did”, says Richard Lansdowne (MMS President 1971). “This is especially so given that back then there was no internet, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no GPS, no Google maps or satellite imaging”.

Ric Daniel, the club’s founding president, shares an account of the first year of the club’s history. 

In late 1966 and living in Orange, NSW, I was invited to attend the 6th Biennial Australian Speleological Conference (1967) in Eastern Victoria, on behalf of the Orange Speleological society.  The conference included a week-long trip to Buchan Caves in Victoria, which was really thrilling as they were relatively remote caves in those days.  But, an even better opportunity came up at the conference, when I was invited to join a 2-week mapping and meteorological expedition into Mullamullang Cave, on the Nullarbor Plain, which was the longest and largest cave in Australia at that time.  So ensued a fantastic time of ‘bush walking’ under-ground – an 8km round trip to the exploration point climbing over very friable rock. During this trip we also spent over 48 hours camped at the Southerly Buster (400m into the cave) collecting half hourly underground weather data in up to 35 km/hr winds blowing in and out of the cave, along with another party similar collecting data 1.5km further into the cave.


Shortly after returning to Orange I received the news that I’d been accepted to study at Macquarie University and it didn’t take long to realise that the only suitable option to take was to enrol in Earth Sciences: a blend of both geology and caving!

After meeting Harry Luxford, Klaus Hueneke and other like-minded students at Macquarie, and rather than have disparate groups, we decided to put out a call for interest for a mountaineering group; hoping to pass on the skills and amazing experiences to other students and staff.

Life opened up with enthusiastic new members and the burgeoning passion of combining the skills in walking, climbing and caving, and later canoeing and skiing.  The first official trip of the MMS was a bushwalk along the Wollondilly River around the Goodman’s Ford area, starting from the top park.  Here I learnt important lessons for longer walks; don’t carry so much, and know how to make mulled wine – Yes! Klaus had brought wine along and, raiding our packs for goodies and stoking the fire, he came up with the liquid motivation that was just right for great conversations and star gazing on a cool night!

The first Macquarie Mountaineering Society Committee and Inaugural Committee Meeting was held in mid-March ’67 and the Sport Association was notified of the group after the inaugural meeting. It actually started out as MUMS, but the mother’s club really wanted the acronym, so after a couple or three months we notified the Sports Association that we’d changed the name to MMS (just left out the U) and everyone was happy.

The Foundation Office Holders in 1967 were:
President: Rick Daniel,  Secretary: Megan Williams / Joy Ling
V. Pres. and Trip Safety Coordinator: Harry Luxford,     Treasurer: Klaus Hueneke

1968 Committee - President: Harry Luxford,   V. President: Ric Daniel,   Secretary:  Klaus Hueneke  and Treasurer: Joy Ling, Patron: Dave Roots

1969 Committee - President:  Col Eglington, Vice President: Ric Daniel, Secretary: Graham Carter and Treasurer: Steve Collins

1970 Committee - President: Steve Collins, V. President:  Colin Davidson, Secretary: Helen Hartgerink and Treasurer: Alan Young

Harry was the most experienced of the members at that time, but didn’t want to take on a committee position initially, although he did want to make sure that all trips had been planned safely (re timing, equipment and responsible trip leadership). Megan spent about 6 or 8 months at the University then eased off to other things and Joy Ling moved into the Secretary slot for the rest of the year.

Klaus organised bush-walks. Harry organised climbing trips. I organised caving trips in conjunction with SUSS (Sydney University Speleological Society) and SSS (Sydney Speleological Society); as MMS didn’t have any gear for quite a while and it was also quite difficult to obtain permission for certain caving areas without belonging to known caving group.

It was also during this year (1967) that Harry harassed the Sports Association into incorporating the climbing wall onto the new stage II of the sports/gymnasium building (based on the then-new Liverpool University (UK) Climbing Wall).  This wall was used constantly for a fair while once completed, then suffered the problems of liability and eventually climbing on the wall was disallowed.

One of the more notable trips during this adventurous period was when Harry and I decided to do a New England trip to climb some of the gorges that we’d heard about. This included Wollomombi Gorge and Falls, and a new route from the bottom right of the falls to the plateau! About 230m, few belays, flaky rock, several hours and gallons of adrenalin later, we made it to the top, where Harry almost disappeared down the other side, as the top was only a few of feet wide. After very gingerly traversing along the spine to ‘solid’ ground, we headed off the long way around to our camp, very happy to take the easier path after a very interesting ascent.

Around the same time we were going on many day excursions, climbing with Harry and Col and other ‘crazy’ members to Narrow Neck and Mt Victoria, amongst others. Caving and walking trips were also interspersed at frequent intervals through the year.

It was on the caving trips to Cliefden and Bungonia where the true art form of ‘slothing’ was developed and practised. It was mostly as a result of late-night caving trips, on arriving at the camp or just enthusiasm to be underground. Hence slothing around in daylight hours was highly beneficial to one’s wellbeing above or below ground. This continued through my time working off-shore and even while teaching field geology through the nineties and noughties, a lunch time ‘spine bash’ was always in order and is still a noble practise!

RIc slothing

RIc slothing

A photo of the first page of my trip book from 1967 shows the first few trips that MMS undertook that year. The first few are trips on the page are with other groups, but the Wollondilly Walk was the first official trip of MMS. Members present were Klaus Hueneke, Rosemary Taplin, Harry Luxford, Joy Ling, Pat Bazley, Chris Kirkby, Bruce Kirby, and a couple of others whom I can’t remember.

MMS 67

Members of the Macquarie Mountaineering Society recently met for a weekend reunion. Here are some of them on Wally’s Walk during a walking tour of the campus.


If you’re interested in reconnecting with members of MMS, or other alumni networks, visit

Comments (2)

  1. Graham Carter

    Great to read these articles and especially as I was an MMS member during my time at Macquarie -1968 to 1972, finishing with a BA(hons)/Dip Ed – and was secretary of MMS in 1969 as mentioned in Ric’s article above. I formed many long term friendships while a member and still meet up with several of them each year! A few of these are in the colour photo – I can recognise Steve and Helen Collins, Jean Vanry and Chris Pavich.
    A couple of things though – the leading photo does not show Ric but is of Coralie Eglington and has been rotated 90°.

  2. Graham Carter

    Me again – actually looking at the photo at the start again I am wrong in saying it has been rotated – just noticed the mini calcium formation that could not possibly form sideways – oops!!


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