Story: Mountaineering

Page 10. Mountaineering today

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The revival of guiding

By the late 1960s guided climbing had all but ceased. The Hermitage hotel served tourists not mountaineers, and rangers were no longer guiding clients.

However in 1968 guiding re-emerged when two leading amateur climbers, Lynn Crawford and Pete Farrell, started Alpine Instruction Ltd, based at the Ball Hut. Besides taking individual clients up high peaks, guides now offered training in mountaineering skills, which young climbers had in the past gained on club courses. Clubs continued to offer instruction.

The new guiding companies were initially based at the Hermitage and the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. In 1973, Geoff Wayatt established Mountain Recreation at Wānaka. By the early 2000s there were also guiding firms based at Lake Tekapo and Twizel.

The New Zealand Mountain Guides Association was formed in 1974 to ensure professional standards were maintained. The association became affiliated with the Union Internationale des Associations des Guides de Montagne.

Rock and sport climbing

In the later 20th century, rock climbing became an independent sport. Alpine climbing had always required at least rudimentary rock climbing skills, but a distinction developed between general alpine climbers and those expert on steep rock, who were sometimes content to climb on rock faces without tackling alpine peaks.

Bouldering and crag climbing became as popular as alpine climbing. Places like the Mt Eden Quarry in Auckland, the Titahi Bay cliffs near Wellington, and Castle Rock on the Christchurch Port Hills became destinations in their own right, no longer just training grounds for the mountains.

Some rock climbers later applied their skills to alpine routes. Some walls in Fiordland exceeded 500 metres, and Cloudy Peak in Canterbury was the scene of exacting new rock climbs.

The distinction between rock and alpine climbing was evident in the rock climber’s lack of interest in summits, and preoccupation with technique and style. Most alpine ascents were classified crudely as easy, moderate or hard. Rock climbers graded climbs more exactly and could compare their performances with those of others.

With the advent of indoor walls for the sport, climbing ceased to be an exclusively outdoor activity.

How to cite this page:

John Wilson, 'Mountaineering - Mountaineering today', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/mountaineering/page-10 (accessed 27 June 2019)

Story by John Wilson, published 24 Sep 2007, updated 2 Feb 2017