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Mt Aspiring -Tititea

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On November 23,1909 Major Bernard Head, Jack Clarke and Alec Graham made the first ascent of Mt Aspiring/ Tititea via the West Face from a camp high on a ridge above the West Matukituki Valley.

The ascent was the culmination of 52 years of speculation and intrigue by alpinists, who’d became fascinated with the mountain after it was first surveyed by JT Thompson in 1857. 2009 marks the centenary of this ascent and will be celebrated with an event in Wanaka on November 28th.

A year before the first ascent Alec Graham, Dr Ebenezer Teichelman and Dennis Nolan had come close to climbing the mountain when they explored its northern flanks from the Waiatoto River. Twenty-one years later the first female, Lilian Familton, reached the summit with guide Frank Alack and Jack Aspinall (manager of Mt Aspiring station).

Mt Aspiring/Tititea has gone on to become a major attraction for both New Zealand and international alpinists. The only mountain to rise over 3,000m outside of the Mt Cook region, it’s ridges and faces offer a range of challenges. The sweeping South West ridge had become one of the classic ‘ice-climbs’ of the Southern Alps, the first ascent, using the step-cutting technique having been made by Harry Stevenson, Doug Dick and David Lewis in the summer of 1936.

Wanaka mountain guide Geoff Wyatt has climbed the mountain more times than anyone else and is renowned as the ‘Aspiring expert’. After moving his fledgling guiding business to Wanaka in the early 60’s he has gone on to climb Aspiring more that 70 times. Mr Wyatt will be the keynote speaker at the centenary event.

Perhaps the most difficult ascent of the mountain was made in 1978 by Don Bogie and Lindsay Bell. They committed to climbing the long and treacherous North East face in the depths of winter, a ground-breaking achievement at the time.

To celebrate the original ascent, the New Zealand Alpine Club in conjunction with the Department of Conservation, Wanaka, hosted a celebration on the evening of November 28th, 2009 at the Lake Wanaka Centre, Wanaka.

The event featured speakers, slides, archived footage of an early ascent of the mountain, and music. There was also a photo competition running in conjunction with the event, to find the best shot of Mt Aspiring/ Tititea. The winner announced on the night.

The event was open to anyone with an interest in the mountain, not just mountaineers. There was a range of speakers, including John Aspinall, whose family have owned Mt Aspiring Station, at the gateway to the National Park, for almost 100 years, and Alan Uren, who spoke on aspects of mountaineering in the area in the modern age.

You Tube videos – climbing at Mount Aspiring

On November 23rd 1909, major Bernard Head, Jack Clarke and Alec Graham made the first ascent of Mt Aspiring/ Tititea. To celebrate, the New Zealand Alpine Club, in conjunction with the Deparment of Conservation and a number of Wanaka locals, held an evening of speakers, archived footage, music and photography at the Lake Wanaka Centre on the evening of Saturday 28th Novembet, 2009.

Speakers for the event were: Geoff Wyatt, Alan Uren, John Cocks, Martin Hill, John Aspinall and Martin Curtis (music). Chairman of the Otago Section of the NZAC, Paul Prince, MC’d the event.


Photo Competition

As part of the celebrations, the NZAC, DOC and Mainly Tramping (Wanaka) hosted a photographic competition to find the best image of Mt Aspiring/ Tititea. They invited all photographers, keen and not so keen, to submit a photo. Entries are now closed and the winners were:


1st Prize – awarded to Iain Guilliard for ‘Storm Clouds Over Mt Aspiring’




2nd Prize – awarded to Michael Archer for ‘Looking Down The Quarter Deck’



3rd Prize – awarded to Trevor Chinn for ‘Mt Aspiring from the North-West’


Photocomp Entry Specifics

  1. The competition is open to everyone, not just NZAC members, and is limitted to one photo per entrant.
  2. The photo can be a landscape, an aerial shot, or can include an outdoor pursuit involving Mt Aspiring/ Tititea, like climbing or parapenting.
  3. Digital images only will be accepted. These must be in jpeg format between 500KB and 2MB and be submitted on a CD. Images may not be digitally manipulated in any way apart from cropping, resizing, exposure or tonal adjustments.CD’s must have the name of the photographer on them.
  4. On entering, competitors automatically agree their images can be displayed to the public in Wanaka and used by the competition sponsors, Mainly Tramping, the Department of Conservation and the NZAC for promotional activities.
  5. Entries must be accompanied by the entrants name, email address and phone number.
  6. Entries will be judged by a panel of two or more judges and the winner announced at the Mt Aspiring Centernary Celebration at the Lake Wanaka Centre, Lake Wanaka on November 28th.


  • First prize: Mainly Tramping voucher for $500 worth of climbing equipment.
  • Second prize:Department of Conservation (Wanaka) book voucher valued at $50.
  • Third prize: NZAC new updated “Mt Aspiring Region: Guide for Mountaineers” valued at $25.


The Competition was proudly sponsored by




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