The comfortable interior of the Canterbury Mountaineering Club Hut at Arthur Pass.
In the Arthur Pass National Park there stands a comfortable little base-hut built during Easter, 1936, by members of the Canterbury Mountaineering Club. On opening the door of this attractive chalet the climbing visitor is immediately impressed by the interesting collection of pioneer mountaineering souvenirs and rare treasures of polar exploration that adorn the walls of the comfortable interior. The first item to attract attention is an old ice-axe. The heavy head has a curved pick and blunted blade, and the well-sunk spike has seen lengthy service. It is labelled “Zurbriggen's Ice-axe. Presented by Estate late Sir J. J. Kinsey,” and the romantic history attached to this valuable relic is fully described by Malcolm Ross in “A Climber in New Zealand.”
“My axe weighed heavily on my mind. When passing through Christchurch I had to ask Mr. Kinsey to lend me an ice-axe, and he generously gave me Zurbriggen's. When a mountaineer gives away the trusty axe that has stood him in good stead on many an arduous expedition, it is like a soldier giving away his sword. Zurbriggen had presented his axe to Mr. Kinsey. It was an axe with a history, and prized accordingly. It had accompanied the famous guide to the top of some twenty peaks in the European Alps—the Gabelhorn, Dent Blanche, Monte Rosa, Matterhorn, Weisshorn, Roth - horn, Jungfran, Silberhorn, Schreckhorn, Dome, Nadelhorn, Mont Blanc, Finsteraarhorn, Aiguille de Charmoz (five peaks), Kuhalphorn, Aiguille de Dru, and Aiguille de Geant—truly a goodly array. On the top of the Nadelhorn, which is higher than Mt. Cook, Zurbriggen had this axe with him when he spent the night. It was also with him on the summit of Mont Blanc for eight days and nights. Subsequently, in New Zealand he carried this same ice-axe on Mount Cook, and to the summits of Tasman, Sefton, Haidinger, and Sealy, also over Fitzgerald's Pass to the West Coast and back over Graham's Saddle. Later, it did good work with me on the ascent of Haidinger, De la Beche, the two
The original skis used by Captain Scott.
Minarets, the descent of the pass from the head of the Great Tasman Glacier to the Wataroa, and the first crossing of Fitzgerald's Pass from the West Coast. An axe with such a record had never before been seen in New Zealand, and it was naturally greatly prized by its new owner. Therefore it was that, though light enough in my hand as ice-axes go, it weighed heavily on my mind, and I was as careful for its safety as my own. But there was always a haunting dread lest I should let it slip and never see it again. I was then half sorry that I had brought it, but when we came to a slope up which steps had to be cut in the hard ice we prized it highly, for it was cunningly made and of excellent design for that kind of work.”
Above the doorway are placed the original skis used by Captain. Scott during the last expedition. The wide, heavy blades and rawhide toe bindings
Zurbriggen's Ice-axe, presented by the Estate of the late Sir J. J. Kinsey.
are a contrast to the ultra light-weight equipment of the modern ski runner. A fine set of red deer antlers and a spread of kea wings are near the entrance to the bunk-room. The bright green and blood-red feathers of the kea's plumage make a colourful display and one is reminded that this park offers a sanctuary to these inquisitive birds that are being slaughtered on the high-country sheep runs. On one wall are hung a series of early panoramic photographs of the Main Divide of the Southern Alps and a water-colour painting is of historical value. It is signed “W.S.G. ‘82” and the faint pencil notes on the reverse explain that it is “by W.S.G., from a photo. by W. S. Green, 1882.” It recalls the pioneer attempt by the Rev. Green and his two Swiss guides (Boss and Kanfmann) to scale Mt. Cook. They travelled half-way around the world to conquer our highest peak but were beaten by approaching nightfall after reaching the ice-cap and within reach of the summit. The painting depicts the three climbers traversing a snow plateau towards the Linda Glacier under the clouded peaks of Mt. Cook. A fine fallow deer head is mounted above the fire-place and below it is framed a pleasing picture of the “Red Lion Peak” in the heart of our inaccessible Alps where energetic club members have penetrated hidden valleys, explored unmapped rivers, and
climbed virgin peaks; and have brought back a wealth of information to improve the maps and increase the knowledge of our great alpine chain.
In a corner is “Captain Scott's Ice-axe,” a long-shafted axe with flawless grain. This relic would be considered a rare treasure in any museum for it had been the trusty companion of the famous polar explorer and is linked with the immortal story of “hardihood, endurance and courage,” which is known to every Britisher. Below it is a metalwork design depicting scenes on the South Polar Plateau and the final tragic events of the last expedition. The menu from a welcome dinner to Lieutenant E. H. Shackleton given by the Savage Club, in 1909. is cleverly worded and makes a novel decoration. Under a portrait is a bronze tablet to the memory of a young climber who was overwhelmed in a snow avalanche on the nearby Avalanche Peak. A striking contrast is obtained from an early print of Mt. Sefton hung beside a recent aerial view of Aorangi; and a series of bright designs from Swiss and Austrian alpine centres make a cheerful display around the upper walls of the room. The excellent preservation of every exhibit is a sign of good care and attention, and a letter from the Arthur Pass National Park Board commends the club for the fine condition of their miniature museum, and a glance through the visitors’ book shows
The menu designed for a dinner of welcome to Lieutenant E. H. Shackleton, at the Savage Club, Christchurch, in 1909.
Captain Scott's Ice-axe.
numerous entries expressing the enthusiasm of climbers and tourists who have viewed this unique collection.
After strenuous days' scrambling among the peaks and passes of the Park it is a pleasure to plod wearily back to this warm, hospitable haven, and when the fire burns low to reflect upon the history of skis that have borne explorers across snowy wastes, of ice-axes that have been the first to cut a way to the crown of great mountain monarchs, of hunting trophies that are the reward of the stalkers' skill and souvenirs of the hardy, pioneer mountaineers.