Mens names dominate in identifying landmarks, but women are also recognised on prominent points in New Zealand’s backcountry.
History, they say, is written by the victors.
Part of the legacy of a patriarchal-dominated society is the undervaluing of the roles women have played in New Zealand’s history. Maps in particular feature few women’s names.
However, a number of alpine features in Aotearoa commemorate significant women.
Alpine historian Graham Langton researched dozens of names for an article he wrote for the New Zealand Alpine Journal (2018) and says the greatest concentration of women’s names in our mountains appears in the Aoraki / Mt Cook area. These include, for example, three of Aoraki’s most significant glaciers. While two (Caroline and Linda) were named after a daughter and a sister of male mountaineers, the third commemorates Sheila Macdonald, a significant mountaineer and the first woman to climb Kilimanjaro.
Surnames, of course, provide no clues as to gender (at least for Pākehā), making it difficult to know which names on our maps belong to women. A notable exception is Lucy Walker Pass in Westland Tai Poutini National Park, named after pioneering English climber Lucy Walker.
Here are several other worthy women commemorated in our maunga.
1 Peggys Peak, Tararua Forest Park
Peggys Peak (1545m) is a craggy outlier of Pukeamoamo / Mitre, the highest peak in the Tararua Range. According to Tararua expert John Rhodes, it’s named after Peggy Hosking, from Masterton, who was the first Pākehā woman to ascend Mitre, in 1924. Peggys Peak is approached on the Mitre Track from Mitre Flats Hut.
2 Panitahi / Fanthams Peak, Te Papakura o Taranaki
Panitahi, a subsidiary volcanic cone almost 2000m high, lies south of the main summit of Taranaki Maunga. Pioneering tramper Fanny Fantham (1866–1948) ascended the peak in 1887, becoming the first Pākehā woman to reach the summit. For over a century the cone was often called Fanthams Peak, but it is now officially known by its original name, Panitahi. After a gruelling uphill climb from Dawsons Falls to Syme Hut, the peak is but a short stroll away.
3 Nōti Raureka / Browning Pass, West Coast
Nōti Raureka is one of the most important passes in Kā Tiritiri o te Moana / the Southern Alps, and forms part of the popular tramping route known as the Three Passes. Nōti Raureka provides access over the divide, from the pounamu-rich valley of the Arahura into the Wilberforce River. It’s named for the Kāti Wairaki woman Raureka, who crossed the pass from west to east in about 1700. In doing so, Raureka brought crucial information about this route to Ngāi Tahu, which eventually led to this powerful iwi gaining control over the pounamu trade of Te Tai Poutini / the West Coast. Today, on a week-long trip, trampers can follow part of Raureka’s historic route by tramping up the Waimakariri, over Harman and Whitehorn passes, into the Wilberforce, then over to the fabled Arahura.
4 Beuzenberg Peak, Two Thumb Range
This 2070m peak lies above Stag Saddle, the highest pass on Te Araroa. It’s named after prominent mountain guide Erica Beuzenberg. German-born Beuzenberg was the first woman to climb Aoraki / Mt Cook in winter, and also the first woman to climb Argentina’s notoriously difficult Cerro Torre. She died in an accident while guiding two clients over Ball Pass in 2005. Beuzenberg Peak can be climbed from Stag Saddle, which is accessible from Bush or Camp streams.
5 Anna Glacier, Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park
The Anna Glacier descends from Elie de Beaumont, the northernmost of New Zealand’s 3000m peaks, at the head of the Tasman Glacier. It’s named after Anna von Lendenfeld, who made the first ascent of Hochstetter Dome in 1883 with her husband, Robert Lendenfeld, and Harry Dew. A prominent sight from Tasman Saddle Hut, the glacier provides the usual access for climbers tackling Elie de Beaumont.
6 Mt Tinsley, Fiordland National Park
Trampers on the tops section of the Kepler Track can look across to the Kepler Mountains, which commemorate German astronomer Johannes Kepler. Closest of the peaks is Mt Tinsley (1537m), named after New Zealander Beatrice Tinsley (1941–1981), a highly respected astronomer and cosmologist whose research at Yale University helped explain the evolution of galaxies. At night, trampers can stand outside Iris Burn Hut and gaze up at the stars, perhaps contemplating other women whose contributions deserve recognition.