Monday, November 1, 2010

Freda du Faur and Ebenezer Teichelmann

On 3 December 1910 a woman stood on top of Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain. Freda Du Faur felt “…very little,” and “…very alone,” after climbing to the summit of New Zealand’s highest mountain.

She wrote: 'I was the first unmarried woman to climb in New Zealand, and in consequence I received all the hard knocks until one day when I awoke more or less famous in the mountaineering world, after which I could and did do exactly as seemed to me best.'

That was a hundred years ago today. Let's clebrate this wonderful feat.

During a 15 year period while researching and writing the book I eventually published on Ebenezer Teiuchelmann, who was a climbing contemporary of Freda du Faur, I  interviewed countless people who knew Peter and Alec Graham, and others who has heard second hand from Darby Thomson, who all climbed with Freda de Faur. I also came across many notes, snippets and photos of Freda du Faur, and my respect grew for her courage and ability. Although I have no written evidence of Dr. Teichelmann opinions of her, those who knew Teichelmann and the Graham brothers well,  believed he would have been one of the few male climbers who would have supported her whole-heartedly.

Graham Langton in the 2010 New Zealand Alpine journal acknowledges the influence Dr. Teichelman had on her.  " In late 1906 she and her father visited  the Christchurch Exhibition where mountain photographs by men sucs as Dr. ebenezer Teichelmann inspired Freda to journey to the Hermitage, while her Father returned to Sydney.".

They did meet twice, but more on that later.Here is one of his classic photographs of Aoraki Mount Cook taken in 1905.

Aoraki Mount Cook taken by Ebenezer Teichelmann in 1905 from around Glacier Dome. The East ridge on the left, East Face in the centre and Zurbriggen's ridge at the immediate right of the east face.

Emmeline Freda Du Faur was born 16 September 1882 in Sydney Australia, but lived and grew up 25 kilometres north near the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Much of her youth was spent exploring the diverse terrain of the park, ranging from wetlands to sand stone cliffs, a perfect introduction to the world of rock climbing.

Upon completing her education at Sydney Church of England Grammar School for Girls Freda started training as a nurse. This did not work out and there is some suggestion that she was suffering from bi polar disorder.

Freda spent the next few years traveling and in 1906 made her first visit to New Zealand’s South Island to gaze upon Mount Cook. Photos of the mountains inspired her to go and see it for herself. She stayed at the Hermitage Lodge with its views of snow-covered peaks.

On her second visit to Hermitage in 1908 she met local guide Peter Graham. Under his influence and guidance she progressed from youthful rock climbing to full fledged mountain climbing. By this time she had already decided that she was going to climb all of the major peaks of the Southern Alps of the South Island.

Freda first ascended Mount Sealy within the Southern Alps on 19 December 1909. At the Hermitage, she fell afoul of other women, who insisted she should not spend a night alone with a guide, not even Peter Graham. It is unknown whether Freda was aware of her attraction to other women at this point, and how she privately responded to these concerns about morality. Unfortunately for Du Faur, the designated chaperon proved to be an encumberance. Her well-learnt ropework expertise saved his life when he slipped.

Given the rigour of the alpine environment, Freda dressed practically. She wore a skirt to just below the knee over knickerbockers and long puttees while she climbed. Du Faur wore it on all her subsequent mountaineering expeditions. She contradicted gender expectations after some of her major climbs. Her femininity disconcerted male critics and upset stereotypes about female athletes. She was a practical woman, however, and felt sunburn, dirt and discomfort were minimal discomforts when it came to the excitement of climbing.

Freda Du Faur proved to be a trendsetter in her chosen vocation, not only for similarly motivated women, but for other guided climbers of the Edwardian era. She was celebrated for her rock-climbing expertise, perseverance, and athleticism. Muriel Cadogan trained her for three months at the Dupain Institute of Physical Education in Sydney, before she travelled to New Zealand in November 1910.

The south face of Aoraki Mount Cook. Photo: Ebenezer Teichelmann. Taken 1905.

Mount Cook: December 1910

For 40 years from the mid-1890s alpine climbing was dominated by professional guides. Alec (left) was based at Franz Josef Glacier and Peter (right) became chief guide at the Hermitage in 1906. Guides like the Grahams would take clients on expeditions through the central Southern Alps. The Australian Freda Du Faur (centre) was often guided by the Grahams. Alec and Peter were with her when she became the first woman to climb Aoraki/Mt Cook in 1910. Peter also guided her on the first traverse of Aoraki/Mt Cook’s three peaks in 1913.

Freda's rigorous preparation for the coming onslaught enabled her to climb Mount Cook soon after her arrival in New Zealand. On 3 December 1910, Peter and Alexander (Alec) Graham accompanied her to the summit. Her expedition was the first female ascent of the mountain, as well as the fastest to that date. She shared her tent with the guides. After this expedition, chaperonage, dress, and convention proved to be irrelevant to her enjoyment of mountaineering.

Over four climbing seasons she made many first ascents and notable climbs. Her feats included the second ascent of Mount Tasman, the first ascent of Mount Dampier and the first traverse of Mount Sefton as well as other 3000 m peaks. She made the first Grand Traverse of all three peaks of Mount Cook on 3 January 1913 with Peter Graham and David (Darby) Thomson.

She had great plans to climb other regions around the world including Canada, the Himalayas and the Alps. With Muriel she travelled to England in preparation, but World War 1 intervened. All her plans were set aside and Freda never climbed again.

Freda wrote her book The Conquest of Mount Cook while in London and it was published in 1915. In 1929 Muriel had a breakdown and her family came to take her home leaving Freda alone in England. Unfortunately, Muriel never reached Australia, dying at sea.
Freda returned to Sydney where she spent her time traipsing the nearby bushland. On 11 September 1935 Freda took her own life and was buried in an unmarked grave at Manly. It was not until 2006 that a proper headstone was erected commemorating her achievements.

Lendenfeld (l) Tasman (c) Mt. Cook Aoraki and dampier (l), all peaks climbed by Freda du Faur. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Earlier on in this article I spoke of my knowledge of the Freda du Faur era through my research on Ebenezer who climbed from 1897 to.1924. In her book The conquest of Mount Cook and other climbs : an account of four seasons’ mountaineering on the Southern Alps of New Zealand she refers to Dr. Teichelmann six times on pages., 21, 22, 80, 82, 137, 167 .

On page 81 she describes her first meeting with Teichelmann in 1910 at today's Franz Josef township, then Waiho. "We strolled over to Batson's about 6.30, and there found Dr. Teichelmann, a well-known West Coast climber, and Mr. Linden, of Geelong. They had both been waiting page 81some days for a chance of crossing over Graham's Saddle to the Hermitage. They were starting the following morning under the guidance of Alex Graham for a bivouac up the Franz Josef. We decided to spend at least two days at Waiho Gorge and explore the glacier, and then, weather permitting, follow the others across Graham's Saddle."

On page 82 "The next day, Sunday, was wet, page 82and we amused ourselves as best we could; I sent most of the morning in the swimming hole. Just as we were finishing dinner there came a sound of heavy boots and weary voices in the passage. It was Dr. Teichelmann and Mr. Linden, who had been driven back from their bivouac for the third time that week by bad weather. The doctor was unfortunate enough to have a toe slightly frostbitten, so retired to his room and was not visible that night. Their account of the days spent in the bivouac so diminished our desire to do the Graham's Saddle trip that we decided to return as we had come, endeavouring to piece in the missing bits of the view, and, weather permitting, spend a few hours on the Fox Glacier."

On page 167 "We got some splendid photographs; Alex taking a special one of the great rock slabs of La Perouse for Dr. Teichelmann. I also got a beauty of the ridge between the three peaks of Mount Cook, our situation being the best possible view-point from which to study it. Then deciding that we would have to leave Mount Ruareka for another day, until it had put off its mantle of snow and ice, we made all speed for home. We managed some splendid standing glissades, the tracks of which were seen by Peter and his party, who crossed over the Ball Pass a few hours later. They concluded we had succeeded in gaining our peak."

Like the meeting of the founder of Red Cross, Henri Dunant, and Florence Nigthengale in Paris, we have very little information. As a biographer of Teichelmann,  I would love to know what they talked about when they met at least twice, , what they thought of each other, and did they have anything in common.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sir Edmund Hillary wrote the foreword to my Teichelmann book

When I finished the book on Ebenezer Teichelmann, I wrote to Ed Hillary asking if he would write a foreword to the book, as I said he and Teichelmann had something special in common, they were both former Presidents of the New Zealand Alpine Clubs. They had both climbed Aoraki/Mount Cook, photo (left) Photo: Bob McKerrow
This is what he wrote:


As a young climber I came to respect the climbs and exploration done by Dr. Ebenezer Teichelmann, mainly from the West Coast of New Zealand, up those long and difficult valleys such as the Cook River Valley, and his many first ascent were remarkable in that day and age of hobnail boots and long handled ice axes. His third ascent of Mt. Cook in 1905 was a wonderful achievement.I have seen his photographs gracing many NZ Alpine Journals and other books and I am delighted that hardy band of West Coast mountaineers which included not only Dr. Teichelmann, but Peter and Alec Graham and later, my old climbing partner, Harry Ayres, is getting the recognition they deserve.Both Dr. Teichelmann and I are former Presidents of the NZ Alpine Club and I am pleased the club is supporting this important publication on New Zealand Mountaineering, and capturing a bygone era of courage and tenacity in exploration.
Edmund Hillary1 December, 2003.

Monday, July 19, 2010

In Teichelmann country

I have been on the West Coast six days now and doing day trips from Ross. It is strange staying in Ross, as everywhere I go I feel the presence of the Rev. Newton and Dr.Teichelmann. Newton lived here for 6 years and Teichelmann was a frequent visitor. I have done a lot of trips to places which were well known to Teicelmann and I will post a few photos of those places.

On Thursday last week I travelled by the Tranzalpine from Christchurch to Greymouth. Tiechelmann used this rail route a lot. Photo: Bob McKerrow

On Friday morning Kira, Leith and I walked down to Mananui beach, 5 km south of Hokitika and took this photo. It captures the wild mood of the West Coast. There I could pick out peaks I had climbed: Cook Aoraki, Tasman, Elie de Beaumont, Douglas, Haidinger, Haast, Lendenfeld, Dampier, Vancouver, Malispina, McFettrick, St. Mildred, Red Lion and Drummond. For five days I had clear views of the Southern Alps as I moved down the coast. Here are some photos of the journey.

Approaching Arthur's Pass. Photo: Bob McKerrow
The bridge across the Taramakau River.This was the northern limit of Dr. Teichelmann's medical responsibility which stretched from here to Jackson's Bay. Photo: Bob McKerrow

A map of Westland.
Sunrise at Mananui Beach, 5 km south of Hokitika.Photo: Bob McKerrow

With my daughter Kira, and her son Leith at Mananui Beach.
Lake Mahinapua. Dr. T fought against the pro-logging industry to get some protection status for this lake.Photo: Bob McKerrow

Mount Cook Aoraki, Mt. Tasman. Teicehelmann did the 3rd ascent of Mt. Cook Aoraki.Photo: Bob McKerrow

Forest walk to Mananui beach. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Early morning on the Waitaha River. I know this valley well having climbed at the head of County Stream. In 1993 I was in a party that did the first winter ascent and traverse of Red Lion Peaks. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Lake Ianthe, north of Hari Hari. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The Wanganui River with Hendes Ferry on the right. This was where Carl Hende had his residence and was available with horse to assist people to cross. Frequently Teichelman usesd his services and operated on his injured horses. Photo : Bob McKerrow

Teichelmann country. Blue Lookout and the Lord and Lambert Ranges. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The view from the Wanganui river flats looking to the Lord and Lambert ranges. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The Kakapotahi River. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Tasman (l) and Mount Cook Aoraki (r). Photo: Bob McKerrow

The braided Waiho River which drains the Franz Josef, Callery, Spenser and Burton Glaciers. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Franz Josef Glacier. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Franz Josef Glacier from Castle Rocks Hut. Photo: Bob McKerrow

From Almer Hut looking to the Franz neve and the Southern Alps.Photo: Bob McKerrow

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lake Kaniere, New Zealand.

Lake Kaniere, is one of those moody, spiritual lakes, that beckons you into the high mountains beyond. Photo: Ebenezer Teichelmann

Today I would like to post an extract from my book on Ebenezer Teichelmann, showing the role he played in getting scenic reserve status.

Teichelmann’s participation in the team which pioneered Arthur’s Pass National Park in 1929 must have encouraged him in his desire to protect the special places of Westland. He was concerned that the scenic values of Lake Kaniere were being eroded through the lack of a local management committee to monitor and protect the area.
Sometime in December 1933, Dr Teichelmann approached the Commissioner for Crown Lands in Hokitika to discuss a number of issues concerning the Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve. On 21 December, 1933, the Commissioner wrote to the Under Secretary for Lands in Wellington.
‘Dr Teichelmann, at the instance of the local branch of the Automible [sic] Association and the Acclimatisation Society, which also acts as a local branch of the Tourist Department, recently interviewed me regarding the prospects of this department undertaking improvements on the Lake Kanieri [sic] Reserve…
‘Incidentally the question of having the control of the reserve formally vested in a local board of control was discussed in which connection it was agreed that this would probably meet with the approval of local people and give an impetus to local interest in the reserve. The Doctor inquired if, in the event of a local Board taking control it would control the revenue from the leasing of boatshed sites granted on the edge of the Lake. I advised him that I would also refer this question to Head Office.’
In his reply 15 days later, the Under-Secretary for Lands advised that there was no prospect of a Government grant or subsidy this year, but that his office would be pleased to see a special Scenic Reserve Board formed to control the reserve, and that revenue from leasing the boat-shed sites could be made available in the future for the Board’s purposes.
Correspondence in the months that follow on the Lands and Survey file show that Dr Teichelmann was the driving force behind empowering local people to take control of the Lake Kaniere Reserve. On many of the letters in the file there are handwritten notes from officials of the Lands and Survey Office, Hokitika, saying ‘discussed with Dr Teichelmann.’ The New Zealand Gazette, number 71, 20 September 1934, announced officially the ‘Vesting of Control of a Scenic Reserve in the Lake Kaniere Scenic Board by Bledisloe, Governor General.’
The following people were nominated for a period of five years: The Mayor of Hokitika, The Chairman of Westland District Council, The Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Westland Land District, The Conservator of Forests for the Westland Forest-Conservation region, Dr Ebenezer Teichelmann, David John Evans and John Noble Robinson.
At the first meeting on 8 October, 1934, a ground committee of Dr Teichelmann, S. C. Darby, Conservator of Forests and J. N. Robinson, was appointed to report in regard to matters for attention at Lake Kaniere.
Dr. Teichelmann had a small batch at Lake Kaniere and spent a lot of time exploring the lake and environs.

The first annual report of the Board shows a far-sighted and hardworking group. They cleared large areas of blackberry, erected notice boards regarding fire control, the destruction of flora, swimming and water pollution; and appointed honorary rangers. They were among the first in New Zealand to express concern about the effects possums, stoats, weasels and rats were having upon native birds. They voiced their concern:
‘The decision of the controlling department to discontinue issuing permits to trap opossums on scenic reserves had caused the Board some concern as it is considered that trappers are responsible for the destruction of much vermin of these reserves such as stoats, weasels and rats. Moreover from enquiries made it is ascertained that the damage done to bush on scenic reserves by trappers is almost negligible, and it is more than favourably offsetted [sic] by the destruction of vermin mentioned which are the natural enemies of our native birds.’
Teichelmann’s involvement in the Lake Kaniere Scenic Reserve Board grew in its first three years, and it became a very effective nature preservation body, but at the same time encouraging recreation. The Doctor's experience from serving on the Arthur’s Pass National Park Board was proving invaluable to steering the Kaniere Board in similar directions. Both reserves today are substantially attributable to the vision of this man. Here was a fine example of one man making a difference.
Doctor Teichelmann was a man with a belief in the preservation of nature for the benefit of all people. But his convictions did not exist solely in the purchase of a few glossy photography books to show visitors, or even the membership of a conservation organization. He lobbied and fought unselfishly for those long term goals. He suffered hardships to explore and record those wonders for those who did not have the means to access the wilderness. He was a man who lived what he preached.