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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 3 (June 1, 1939)

“Unclimbed New Zealand”

page 41

“Unclimbed New Zealand”

A Decade of exploration in Canterbury's mountain hinterland has qualified John Pascoe to write vigorously and with authority on every aspect of mountaineering in that great Alpine region. His numerous published articles, well illustrated with his own pictures, have provided captivating reading for many people—lowlanders as well as climbers and trampers—and it is safe to say that in “Unclimbed New Zealand,” in which he breaks new trail in descriptive style, he will win many additional admirers. After reading the book one appreciates the aptness of its title and all that “Unclimbed New Zealand” means in terms of rough pioneering work. Moreover, the modesty of its author cannot conceal the big part he personally has taken in routing much new country for the growing army of less-intrepid climbers.

“Unclimbed New Zealand” is a chronicle of some of its author's many eventful exploits in the mountain ranges that extend northward from Mt. Cook to the Lewis Pass. Arduous expeditions into unexplored fastness of the Southern Alps, assaults on virgin peaks, perilous crossings of flooded, glacier-fed torrents, are related in a style so grippingly clear that the reader becomes a kind of spiritual companion of Pascoe in the story he so ably recounts.

The reconnaissance and ultimate traverse of Mt. Evans, provides the author with excellent material and his graphic account of the experiences undergone by his party during their conquest of this, one of the most impregnable peaks of the range, is a record of prudence, endurance and tenacity of purpose that surely places them in the front rank of mountain explorers. One of the hazards of their siege of Evans was a night spent with neither sleeping bags nor tent on the open, frozen tops. In describing this experience, he says: “We arrived on the Red Lion Col at 8.30 p.m. Mist filled the County and Wanganui Valleys. Brilliant silver moonlight on the slopes above made crevasses and glacier shadows blend into icy caverns. Our food was limited to dates and lumps of cheese. The col was broad and flat rather like the design of a running track. We would trot around the track till our numbed feet regained feeling and then we would sleep against a rock till our feet worke us up again. The instalments of sleep averaged half an hour.”

Throughout the book, Mr. Pascoe pays tribute to the assistance received from run-holders, deer stalkers, shepherds and others whose ready help and advice, he freely acknowledges, was a material factor in the success of many of his expeditions.

Apart from its mountaineering interest, the book, because of its valuable historical references and colourful descriptions of the high country of Canterbury and Westland, is an excellent piece of publicity for both provinces. “By any of the tortuous routes that link Canterbury with Westland,” says the author, “they may encounter varied scenery and objects of interest.
(Photo., J. D. Pascoe.) The summit of Mt. Evans, from the Southern Cornice.

(Photo., J. D. Pascoe.)
The summit of Mt. Evans, from the Southern Cornice.

The traveller over the Southern Alpine Passes meets broad river beds, deep gorges, silky tussock, dense scrub, red rata forest, sombre jungle, keas, glaciers, waterfalls and serrated mountains. Traversing the little known passes can be as fascinating as climbing ice-clad peaks and jagged rock ridges.”

Enthusiasm for the “hills, rockribbed and ancient as the sun,” sustained alike through success and defeat, is the keynote of every chapter, but the author's love for the mountains does not find its only outlet in climbing and in the creation of vivid pen pictures; his eighty camera studies which illustrate the book are a superb collection—a gallery of photographic gems.

Sections are devoted to the practical side of mountaineering and these contain valuable advice for beginners, but everyone will find incentive and inspiration in this narrative of exploration, fortitude and achievement in New Zealand's Alps.

page 42