Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The big fellow - Mt Aspiring

One hundred years ago Mt Aspiring was climbed for the first time by Jack Clarke, Alec Graham and Major Bernard Head, and so over the weekend in Wanaka there was a celebration of this in the Lake Wanaka Center on Sat. evening.

I made this photo exactly a year ago while helping on a bird survey of the Matukituki river little realising that a local friend John whom I admired very much had just fallen off the south west ridge [top left]. On the celebration night as above his surviving companion Martin gave a very good presentation on Aspiring in the context of environmental art/photography, and to honour John. Hopefully it was a healing experience...

Most of the public see the big fellow from Glendhu Bay. That's him in the distance on the right...

Tele shot from Glendhu...

In winter from the Snow Farm...

Another good spot is from Rocky Top - a popular walk near Wanaka...

The evening started with extracts read out from Head's diary, then local farmer John gave a fascinating presentation on farming in the area - his family back 3 generations. Next there was a presentation on the history of the huts on the mountain, including historical footage of the transportation and building of Aspiring Hut. This interested me greatly as there were shots of people who mentored myself in
the mountains when I was a youngster. After an interval an old friend Geoff gave the keynote from the perspective of having climbed it well over 70 times guiding. Then having run out of puff I came home a bit early [but late] opting to miss the modern day interpretation of climbing [but there was an earlier brief narration from a guy who has skied [gulp] the route of the first ascent - the West Face]

All-in-all though local folk singer Martin stole the show, for me at least, with his poem he performed on the antics of keas on a hut roof.

Doing this post has shown me I've not really made many photos of this iconic mountain on my door step. Maybe that can be a goal!

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Blogger Ruahines said...

Kia ora Donald,
Quite a timely post as I see the Nats have now set aside a fifth of the 350,000 ha of Mt Aspiring National Park for possible mining exploration! Jowly Gerry Brownlee once again announcing that Nationals plans for a "stocktake" are 'No Secret". This is really dangerous stuff, and I find it very disheartening that so many just don't seem to get it. Maybe if these plunderers read your words, viewed the photos, much less actually go there, there could be a more relevant discussion. I am coming to the conclusion it is the system we live in that must change and I wonder what the tipping point will be as we rape more and more wild places. I think the Real fight has begun Donald, see you at the Front.

December 1, 2009 at 11:20 AM  
Anonymous marg said...

Hi there - a very similar reply from, me actually- Front page of the ODT today - mining forecast in Mt aspiring national park and the other headline disputing the veracity of the person who made the first climb.

December 1, 2009 at 9:50 PM  
Blogger Bob McKerrow said...

Head was a complete A'hole according to many sources, but particularly Alec Grahham (who would never use those words) who told Ebenezer Teichelmann he would never climb with him again. Alec's daughter Dorothy has a lot of interesting information on Head and that ascent. I think it is sad we make heroes out of the likes of Head who did nothing useful for the NZ mountains except peak bagging. At least Alec and Jack were there to stamp the Kiwi spirit of alpinism, and I hope they put their feet on top before Head. I just wished Head had have gone 'headfirst' off the top.

Thanks mate.


December 7, 2009 at 12:32 AM  
Blogger Donald said...

Hi Bob

Yes, must say I've wondered about Head, and at the celebrations the speaker obviously did not know about the comments of Alec Graham. It reminded me too of Samuel Turner and how many years ago I met an older climber at Cook who showed me a pocket knife Turner had given him for witnessing something or other. I think it was Edgar Williams from memory, and there was some controversy I gather as to whether or not Turner had done an ascent of Cook.

btw the Grahams have always totally inspired me.

There was a write up in the ODT about the celebrations, which apparently motivated a fellow to contact them, as Marg mentioned above, saying his uncle had climbed it 27 yrs. before the so-called first ascent...


It's got quite a ring of truth to it, and knowing at least two of my friends have climbed it in the autumn in running shoes shows what is possible with careful route and conditions selection. I've also long maintained that claiming first ascents could be a bit of an egotistical claim on many mountains given our countries rich history of gold prospecting and surveying etc.



December 8, 2009 at 1:16 AM  
Blogger Donald said...

Hi Robb

I'd heard a rumour about the idea of doing some prospecting in our Mt Aspiring National Park, and expected it to be the area known loosely as the Olivines, so I was a bit surprised to read it is an area closer to home. Sort of makes me wonder if it's a bit of a red herring! Especially as it's an area all will relate too - from tourist interests on both sides of the divide, Maori cultural interests through to thousands of tourists per year. We've all been over Haast Pass many times.

But lets not forget that this National Park does not extend right to the coast line of our West Coast and the concept of pushing the road beyond the Cascade river gets mooted almost cyclically.

Whatever crazy ideas are hatched 'though, the area having World Heritage status perhaps needs to be restated.

Having given these times we live a lot of thought of late in the face of an irresponsible New Zealand Govt. and worrying about how we can make sure places stay protected for future generations, it's occurred to me that the real answer lies not so much in our generation, but with the values of those Indigo and Crystal children I see about me. The kids who seem to have been born with some sort of inner knowing - "old souls" I call them, these are the ones we must nourish!



December 8, 2009 at 1:31 AM  

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