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CLIMBS IN THE NEW ZEALAND ALPS: BEING AN ACCOUNT OF TRAVEL AND DISCOVERY Edward A. Fitzgerald 1896 1st UK edition Near Fine
By Fitzgerald, Edward A.
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London, 1896, 1st UK edition. 363 pp, 46 plates, map in pocket. TEG, Uncut. One of the major books on New Zealand mountaineering. Fitzgerald and his guide Zurbriggen did the second ascent of Mt Cook, and other first ascents. Exterior has a little soiling and scuffing but overall looks very handsome; inside on the endpaper are two old owners signatures, one dated 1896; foxing on the title page and frontispiece only, none elsewhere; binding is solid, very tight and not been repaired, the large map in the rear pocket appears unopened; clearly Near Fine in all respects.

The scarce and fascinating early account of mountaineering in the mountains of New Zealand. Edward Arthur Fitzgerald (1871-1931) was a British soldier and mountaineer, who led important expeditions to New Zealand and South America, and accompanied Martin Conway on parts of his 1894 tour through the Alps. The light-hearted style used in writing about his New Zealand adventures met with much critical disapproval from New Zealander mountaineers.

In his Preface, the author states: 'The pages I am about to lay before the public contain the simple record of a journey of adventure, undertaken with a definite purpose...I went out to climb and to explore.' He had become interested in the mountains of New Zealand for two reasons: 'Partly because of the many unsuccessful attempts that had been made to ascend Mount Cook, their highest peak, and partly because I knew that a long, and so far fruitless, search had been instituted under the auspices of the Government Survey Department with the object of discovering some passage across the Southern alps to the West coast.'

He states that 'I have not aimed at a picturesque account of varied travel. I went out to climb and explore.' The author acknowledges the assistance of other writers and his illustrators: C. Barrow wrote the chapter on the ascent of Mount Sealy, Miss Walpole wrote the opening poem, and a trio of artists helped interpret the 'spirit of Alpine adventure and peril' - Pennell, McCormick, and Willink. McCormick is known for his illustrations in 'Himalayas' and 'Alps from End to End' by Sir Martin Conway.

From the Preface: '...That the settled and fertile colony of New Zealand should have still afforded virgin peaks to scale, that new passes were yet to be discovered and new valleys to be traversed - this may indeed surprise those of my readers who have no especial knowledge of the conditions and features of the Southern Island. How many of us have ever realized the existence of that vast range of Alps, of those glaciers surpassing the greatest in Switzerland, of those noble peaks whose crags re-echo to the thunder of almost perpetual avalanches?

'From the time when first my attention was directed to a region so insufficiently explored, I felt attracted by the hope that I might in some measure contribute towards the work of opening it up to future generations of Alpine climbers. How far these hopes were actually realized I leave the reader of the following pages to determine...'

Contents include: Leave Colombo; Leave Fairlie Creek; Mackenzie country; Camp at the Hermitage; Mount Sefton; Alpine climber's diet; Crossing the Hooker; Hochstetter bivouac; Start for Tasman; First glimpse of Sealy; Another attempt on Sefton; Pukaki; Return to Hermitage; Sunrise on Mount Tasman; Summit of Tasman; First view of Westland; Sefton bivouac; Goldwashing; Fox Glacier; Mount Gaskell; On the Eyre Glacier; Last look at Mount Cook; Summit of Cook; Appendices: Rock specimens from New Zealand Alps, Flora of Southern Alps, Birds, Equipment for climbing, and trout; Index.

First attempt

New Zealand mountaineering in the European alpine tradition began in 1882. A visiting Irishman, Reverend William Green, and two Swiss, Emil Boss and Ulrich Kaufmann, discovered the Linda Glacier route on Aoraki/Mt Cook but turned back less than 60 metres from the summit. It was a remarkable achievement.

Irishman William Green and his friends spent their first night out in the mountains high on Aoraki/Mt Cook. During the long, rain-soaked night his mates, whose tobacco was stowed far below, sucked at their pipes and ‘by sheer force of imagination, enjoyed several good smokes’. Green, and Edward FitzGerald after him, were representative of many European climbers who, from the late 1860s, attempted unclimbed peaks in ranges all over the world.


The first accommodation house near Aoraki/Mt Cook, known as the Hermitage, was built in 1884. This made attempting the high peaks easier, and New Zealanders began to take on the challenge. Guy Mannering was the first to take up climbing as recreation, and made his first attempt on the mountain in 1886. In 1890, with Marmaduke Dixon, he repeated William Green’s near success.

Also making early attempts on the peak were the Dunedin brothers Malcolm and Kenneth Ross, and A. P. Harper, who returned to New Zealand in 1889 after two seasons of climbing in the European Alps. Three young men who worked at the Hermitage, Tom Fyfe, George Graham and Jack Clarke, began climbing on their days off.

From 1884 to 1894, this small group of men brought New Zealand climbing into existence. The tradition of self-taught climbers, carrying in swags to set up alpine camps, and finding routes without the help of guides or guidebooks, is the main strand in the country’s climbing history.

The first ascent

At the end of 1894 the New Zealanders trying to climb Aoraki/Mt Cook learned that an English climber, Edward FitzGerald, was coming to claim the prize. The local group were determined the summit would be first reached by a New Zealand party, without the help of a guide.

In late 1894 Fyfe, Graham, Kenneth Ross and Dixon climbed onto the ice cap up the Linda Glacier, but failed to complete the ascent. Fyfe, Graham and Jack Clarke then turned their attention to the Hooker side of the mountain. On 20 December they climbed the Middle Peak, but the High Peak eluded them.

Finally, on Christmas Day, the trio of New Zealand climbers reached the summit, up the North Ridge. The route was not repeated until the 100th ascent of the mountain in 1955.

Christmas triumph

Tom Fyfe recorded the moment the summit of Aoraki/Mt Cook was reached for the first time: ‘[T]he reckless way inwhich we romped over those last rocks was very fool-hardy, but one would indeed need to be phlegmatic not to get a little excited on such an occasion. The slope of the final ice-cap was easy and only required about 100 steps … at 1.30 on Christmas Day we exultantly stepped onto the highest pinnacle of the monarch of the Southern Alps.’

FitzGerald, piqued, refused to attempt Aoraki/Mt Cook, but he and his Italian guide, Matthias Zurbriggen, climbed Mts Tasman, Silberhorn, Sefton, Haidinger and Sealy. In March 1895, Zurbriggen made the first solo ascent of Aoraki/Mt Cook.

Other early climbs in the central Southern Alps

Significant ascents in the central Alps had already been made. In 1883, Robert and Anna von Lendenfeld climbed Hochstetter Dome, the first ascent of a major peak in the central Alps. Fyfe and Graham climbed The Footstool and Mt De La Beche, and Fyfe and Clarke climbed Mt Darwin. Most impressively of all, Fyfe made a solo ascent of the north face of Malte Brun.

Early equipment

From the start, New Zealand climbers had the use of ice-axes, nailed boots, ropes and goggles, some secured from Europe with the help of William Green, but some improvised locally. When Mannering was preparing for an attempt on Aoraki/Mt Cook in 1886, he reported that ‘ice-axes of excellent design and finish had been turned out by a Rangiora smith which were found to answer admirably on the mountain.’

ABOVE FROM:
http://www.teara.govt.nz/TheBush/BushAndMountainRecreation/Mountaineering/3/en

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