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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




Mountaineering consists of travelling and climbing in mountain country and encountering the scenes of grandeur and beauty, with the discipline and adventure which all this involves. And New Zealand is a country which offers great opportunities for such a sport which, during the last 30 years especially, has been widely and increasingly followed. The bush, forest, and tussock-clad hills of the North Island – the Waitakere, Ruahine, Kaimanawa, and Tararua Ranges, for example – are mainly fields for tramping, and many clubs actively use them. The four volcanic mountains of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, Ruapehu, and Egmont provide some scope for rock and snow climbing, while Ruapehu in particular is a large and growing centre for skiing. But it is the central chain of the Southern Alps, with its innumerable sub-ranges stretching from Arthur's Pass in the north to Mount Tutuko in the south, which gives to this country its reputation among mountaineers. Further north are the Kaikoura and Spenser Ranges and further south the rugged terrain of Fiordland. The greater peaks and glaciers, however, lie between.

The Southern Alps are highly glaciated. This means that the problems of snow, ice, glacier, and icefall are significant, and that many of the major climbs require sustained icecraft of a high standard. Moreover, since the rock faces in many regions tend to be somewhat unsound, New Zealand climbers are inclined to prefer snow routes. Particularly outside the Mount Cook district, climbing trips tend to retain their expeditionary character, for the climber in many areas still has to contend with long days of pack carrying, river crossings, and high camps before he can get to his peaks. Indeed, in the early days these factors played a very considerable part in the climbing programme. But the approach to the mountains has its own charm. There are the wide river flats of Canterbury, the lovely grass and beech-covered valleys of Otago, and the steep-sided gorges of the West Coast.


John Henry Leonard, M.SC., Secretary, Auckland Section, New Zealand Alpine Club, Auckland.

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