For more than 50 years, Launceston's Rod Howell has never discussed publicly his involvement in a bushwalking trip that claimed the lives of a student and teacher in 1965.
Recent rescues in Tasmania during the depths of winter brought back the tragic deaths of teacher-in-training Ewen Scott, 27, and Riverside High School student David Kilvert, 14.
As a 14-Year-old Riverside High School head prefect, Rod took part in the ill-fated five-day-walk at Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair.
"I have never spoken publicly about the events of 1965," Rod said. "Avoidance and conscious denial have been my coping strategies."
Rod, who later went on to become Riverside High School assistant principal and Exeter Primary School principal, was in the first intake of students at Riverside High School in 1962.
He remembered that time vividly. "The school was built upon acreage of Brownfields dairy farm where my father and I would gather mushrooms, at first light when in season, for breakfast," he recalled.
"We had good teachers and knew them well."
The Riverside High Outdoors Society was formed under the guidance of experienced bushwalker and science master John Chick.
Rod joined the society because his friend and fellow head prefect Dianne Batten enjoyed bushwalking.
"I was a kid from West Tamar Road with no bushwalking experience who thought the society offered a chance for adventure," he admitted poignantly.
Rod wells with emotion when describing events of May 1965.
The inquest heard Rod was the first to show exhaustion. The group stopped and Rodney's pack was distributed amongst the others.
The 14-year-old had a weight off his back, but a burden to carry on his shoulders for more than 50 years.
"I may have contributed to the loss of two lives," he struggled to conclude with tears flowing.
Feelings of guilt that he was the first to falter have never left.
During early 1965 two preparation walks were organised.
"I remember walking from Duck Reach to Lake Trevallyn as a rehearsal," Rod recounted.
"We began the trek close to the Carmelite Monastery in West Launceston and made our way back along the South Esk River to the Lake. It was a solid walk but not even close, by comparison, to the challenges we faced at Cradle Mountain."
The students met at the shops below Pomona Road, carpooling to Arm River Track to begin the planned five-day walk.
A convoy of parents deposited 16 excited students and three teachers: Mr Chick, physical education teacher Rosemary Bayes, 22, and teacher-in-training Mr Scott at their designated starting point on May 16, 1965, with the students to be taken home from Waldheim on May 20.
Rod remembered Mr Chick as an "experienced bushwalker", Miss Bayes as a "lovely person" and Mr Scott as an "experienced outdoors' man who the students regarded highly".
He would boundary umpire football on the weekends to keep fit, was a member of the Launceston Walking Club and represented Tasmania in the 10,000 metre Australian Cross-Country Championships.
By modern understanding they weren't well prepared, but these were different times.
Rod carried an external aluminium framed backpack made of canvas. "It was so terribly uncomfortable," he recalled. "We had a change of clothes and food: eggs, bacon, fruit and packet soup, along with a sleeping bag and wet-weather coat."
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair Reserve ranger Gordon Saunders advised the group to only do day trips from Waldheim and not a full walk through the reserve, because of the weather conditions.
However, the walk went ahead and he was "powerless" to stop it "even though the weather could mean loss of life to those taking part."
He later told the inquest of his frustration that the walk went ahead and was deeply distressed by the tragedy.
The early stages of the expedition were uneventful with students and teachers, in good spirits, enjoying the clear, sunny weather that accompanied the first day and a half after walking to their base at Pelion Hut.
However, even on the first day of trekking the group had started to split, with slower paced students arriving later to Pelion Hut on Sunday, Windermere Hut on Tuesday and Waterfall Valley Hut on Wednesday.
"Snow and rain were falling as we approached Waterfall Valley and, on reflection, we were beginning to tire, were poorly equipped and inexperienced, which challenged our resilience," Rod recalled.
"Waterfall Valley had a small hut. It was three to a bunk top and bottom."
By Thursday morning, with rain continuing to fall, the party delayed the start of their final push to Waldheim.
On the Cirque, the blizzard struck with settled snow gathering as a result of gale-force winds. The party decided to take the Lake Rodway Track to Waldheim rather than the track known as Kitchen Hut, because it was considered too exposed.
"We knew we were in trouble. We had wet feet and were extremely cold. When the blizzard struck, some of us in the main group were able to press on but the snow was knee-deep each stride."
Mr Saunders was alerted to the plight of the cold, distressed, exhausted and hungry group by three students who bravely went ahead to raise the alarm.
Head prefect Dianne Batten, Bernard Hay and Peter Williams, all 15, courageously left the group to find help at Waldheim. They spent a night in freezing conditions, unable to test the depth of a river crossing due to darkness. Showing remarkable tenacity and wisdom, they waited until morning to cross and alert the ranger.
A search party was assembled and, in an incredible coincidence, included Rod's future father-in-law.
Although Rod collapsed from exhaustion, he was able to recover and stay with the main group.
David Kilvert was not so fortunate. He was exhibiting severe exhaustion and struggling to breathe.
The party had split into four groups. Mark Whittle, 15, who had been assisting Mr Scott to support David, recalled at the tragedy's 50th Anniversary the moment he was told to join the main group by the teacher-in-training.
Mr Scott instructed, "You go and leave David with me". Mark did as he was told. He would be the last to see Mr Scott and David alive.
"As we left, Mr Scott was carrying David," Mark added. "They fell and began to get up again. This vision has returned to me many times."
The Examiner reported that during the last 14 hours of the trek Mr Scott made a heroic effort to carry David to safety on his shoulders down Hanson's Peak track.
David would be found just 400 metres from where Mark left them to join the main group. Mr Scott would continue and died from exhaustion and exposure just 200 metres from the Dove Lake boatshed.
"Mark Whittle was incredibly level-headed and experienced for someone so young," Rod offered with admiration.
The main party were able to make their way to the boatshed with Miss Bayes. The 22-year-old physical education teacher comforted the cold, exhausted and wet children through the night. She was described as a "heroine" in the daily papers.
"We arrived at the boatshed with cold feet and departed the next day wet through as the rain blew in horizontally and the lake was lapping the shelter," Rod said.
"Miss Bayes sang songs with us through the night to keep our spirits up. I can remember singing She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain.
"Following our rescue, we sat in front of the open fire at Waldheim. Porridge and soup were served by Mr and Mrs Saunders."
Rod's parents Bain and Madge Howell heard on the radio that two of the party had perished and were so distraught by the news they asked a family friend to drive them to Cradle Mountain.
Those students whose parents could not collect them were sent home on a bus.
There was no trauma counselling and no diagnosis of survivor's guilt as part of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Rod can't remember attending the funeral service on May 25, 1965. He returned to school after the second week of school holidays; making a statement to police and going to class.
Rod's parents rarely spoke of the tragedy. Mr Howell Snr may not have said much, but he did keep the daily newspaper clippings reporting the events and inquest; carefully scribing the details of the tragedy on a map published in The Advocate.
During the inquest, Rod would read of the tragedy in the daily Tasmanian newspapers, detailing that he was the first to exhibit exhaustion, which took its toll.
The lasting impact on a 14-year-old boy was significant.
Recent rescues don't trigger uncomfortable emotions in Rod, however, there was one event that freshened supressed trauma.
"During 1987 on an outing to Cradle Mountain, when the weather changed dramatically, I carried my seven-year-old son Andrew to the car and safety. He was semi-conscious and exhausted. I was distraught; asking myself, 'How could I take a seven-year-old out here?' It was déjà vu," Rod lamented.
He would finally speak to his parents about the impact of the tragedy due to this experience with his own son.
Rod rarely runs or walks in bushland more than an hour from his car to this day, as a result.
This tragic tale of courage, fear, guilt, heroism and, ultimately, death, in its aftermath, finds solace in acknowledging the power of the human spirit, and a deep and ongoing passion for nurturing young minds.
The memorial Scott-Kilvert Award seeks to recognise unselfishness, a spirit of mateship, comradeship, courage, loyalty to a cause and dedication to a task.
The prize has been presented annually since 1966, but never by Rod, because even as a former student, head prefect and assistant principal, not many knew of his involvement.
"No one asked and I never told."
But Rod said the final words should be left to a grieving mother, recounted in an address to Riverside High School by principal the late K.J. Walker soon after the tragedy.
"As Mrs Kilvert simply stated, 'You must let your children adventure for themselves. If you over protect them, you spoil their lives'," Mr Walker said.