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Joy of the Mountains – A Climber’s Life


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No death in the mountains in the middle years of the 20th century affected the New Zealand climbing community more than the loss of John Harrison in the Mount Rolleston tragedy of June 1966.

John was one of the most admired climbers of his generation. His loss was felt keenly not only because of his achievements as a mountaineer, in New Zealand and and overseas, but also because his character and personality endeared him to people of all walks of life.

He was a member of a significant generation of New Zealand climbers. Growing up through the years of World War II, this generation, after the war’s end, completed the exploration of the New Zealand mountains and ascended the last of the country’s unclimbed peaks. This was also the first generation of New Zealand climbers to test their mettle, in many numbers, on mountains overseas.

This book describes not only his life and climbing career, but also set his life and career in the broader context of the history of New Zealand mountaineering. More broadly still, it makes a contribution to our understanding of New Zealand’s social history in the middle years of the 20th century.

Book review The Climber #82

244 x 210mm paperback
colour and black/white images

257 pages

Published: Nov 2012

ISBN: 978-0-908714-11-7


Author: John Wilson

A keen climber from the 1950s to the 1970s, John Wilson climbed in North America and Peru as well as in New Zealand. He now lives surrounded by mountains in Arthur’s Pass. With a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, his has embraced both history and journalism. He was a leader writer for the Christchurch Press and the founding editor, in 1983, of the magazine of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

In 2012 he published Joy of the Mountains — A Climber’s Life, about John Harrison, one of New Zealand’s leading climbers of the 1950s and 60s in association with the Canterbury Mountaineering Club and the New Zealand Alpine Club. His other published works include histories of two rural areas of Canterbury, Cheviot and Waikakahi and NZ Mountaineering: a history in photographs.

John Wilson author.medium


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