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Unclimbed New Zealand

Unclimbed New Zealand, by John Pascoe. 8vo., pp. 236, with numerous illustrations and maps. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1939. Price $5.50.

Exploratory mountaineering in New Zealand and elsewhere should have a big boost if this excellent book enjoys the circulation which it so well deserves. The author is one of a growing group of young New Zealanders who have rescued the sport from the doldrums where it had languished in that country, from early in the century up to the late twenties. The book itself is most attractively gottenup, the style simple and direct, and each sentence worth while and interesting. The author has a facility for vividness without flowery expression. One who has visited and climbed in New Zealand feels that the illustrations are remarkably adequate and well chosen to give the reader the correct picture of the country so well drawn by the text. Excellent maps with the parties’ routes shown make it easy to follow the narrative.

There is a foreword by H. E. L, Porter who in the post-war decade did more than any one else to set the example of a high standard of performance to local guides as well as amateur climbers and aspirants. The experiences of the author and his companions are skillfully woven into episodes of the life and history of earlier days in the central mountain groups of the South Island. One feels that these climbers in their wanderings have come close to the true spirit of pioneer New Zealand.

The young climbers seem mostly to be people of moderate means whose outings are limited to week-ends or at best to one or two weeks’ holiday. The Canterbury and Westland Ranges, chief field of activity, lie W. of Christchurch and N. of the Mt. Cooke district. A favorite week-end is: to leave work early Saturday afternoon, drive several hours, have supper, begin climbing almost at once and often right through the night, arrive at the objective (most frequently a virgin peak) Sunday forenoon, descend in the afternoon, and return home by the wee small hours of Monday morning in time for a few hours’ sleep before resuming work. Then there are one- or two-week trips in which the most notable exceptions to the daily program are an occasional day off, either through sheer exhaustion or impossible weather, although the latter is allowed to interfere less often than one might expect. Offsetting this apparent tour de force attitude there is throughout a spirit of appreciation and enjoyment and a fair sprinkling of humor. Snatches of verse come here and there.

Perhaps more than anywhere outside of the Alps mountaineering in New Zealand is becoming a national sport. Nearly all climbing is done guideless. Snow and ice work predominates, although there is an occasional rock climb which European climbers have rated six, seven being “the degree of a climb which was judged impossible, until someone did it without being killed.” Bush-whacking becomes an art. Huts, if any, are primitive, andtents are generally carried. Special techniques are developed for crossing streams with rope, and so on.

There is a bibliography, but no index, though one is shown in the contents. One should include this book in any short list of books on the mountains desirable to own. It is, whether or not so intended, good propaganda for New Zealand.

H. S. H., Jr.