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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.



The First Period

The history of mountaineering in New Zealand, as distinct from exploration, had its beginning in 1882. In that year the English climber W. S. Green, with Boss and Kaufmann, of Grindelwald, climbed to within 200 ft of the summit of Mount Cook by an approach from the Tasman Glacier. The main result of Green's achievement, however, was to arouse the interest of New Zealanders themselves in mountain climbing, and provided the stimulus for its further growth. This interest then led to the first complete ascent of Mount Cook in 1894 by three New Zealanders, Fyfe, Clarke, and Graham. They made their climb from the Hooker Glacier, but on account of its difficulty their route was not repeated until 1955 when it was used again, appropriately, for the hundredth ascent of that mountain.

Not unnaturally the first epoch in New Zealand's alpine history, roughly 1882–1904, was chiefly concerned with the central part of the Alps among the Tasman, Hooker, Murchison, and Godley Glaciers, and with quests for the highest peaks. In the nineties there was a steady but small band of overseas and indigenous climbers struggling against big difficulties and making important climbs. Names such as Mannering, Dixon, Fitzgerald, Zurbriggen, and Ross stand out. Douglas and Harper were exploring the valleys of the West Coast and Grave and his companions the Milford regions. During this period there took place the founding of the New Zealand Alpine Club in 1891, the building in 1884 of a valuable base for expeditions into the Mount Cook area, the Hermitage, and the ascent of seven of the 17 peaks over 10,000 ft.