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January 2016 Issue
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The grin masks the steel

Jane Morris on the upper Tasman Glacier. Photo: Jamie Robertson

Mountaineer Jane Morris follows the path less travelled, writes Kester Brown.

When you meet Jane Morris in the street, she’ll probably be wearing bright fashionable clothes and have her hair in pigtails. She’ll certainly greet you with a broad, unassuming grin. Yet this first impression belies her reputation as a hardcore mountaineer.

Morris is a Mt Cook-based guide and climber who recently became only the fifth New Zealand woman to fully qualify as an IFMGA guide. She also holds the position of vice president of the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association.

She is a lover of mountains, and possesses a deep appreciation of the natural world. She occasionally works as a heli-ski guide, but much prefers a quiet day on a remote peak, building a connection to the mountain environment with a small group, or in solitude.

In 2013, Jane completed some notable solo ascents in the Aoraki/Mt Cook area, including a non-stop solo traverse of Aoraki/Mt Cook via the Sheila Face in 24 hours – a remarkable feat of speed and endurance. Afterwards, Jane told me: “I honestly don’t go very fast, I just don’t stop.”

But efficiency equals speed, and that kind of aptitude for climbing can only come from a life spent among the high peaks. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Morris is how in tune she is with the mountains.

She has a knack for making climbing fun (she once climbed Aoraki in a dress!), her enthusiasm for the mountains is always infectious, and her pared-back approach to life encourages an appreciation of the hard-earned rewards of following the less-beaten path.

– Kester Brown is the editor of The Climber magazine and the New Zealand Alpine Journal