September 22, 2023

A Home Educator conquered Mt Cook almost 100 years since the first woman scaled the peak

Well done, Cat, a home educator from the early days of home schooling in New Zealand.

Cook proves peak experience

Cat Shand

Memorial climb: Cat Shand, pictured, nears the top of Aoraki-Mt Cook on an expedition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first woman to climb the peak. Miss Shand and fellow climber Heather Rhodes reached the top on December 2.

Cat Shand is more used to scaling buildings in Wellington working for a telecommunications company than she is climbing mountains, but the 28-year-old conquered Aoraki-Mt Cook last month almost 100 years to the day the first woman scaled the peak.

Miss Shand, originally from Port Ligar in the Marlborough Sounds, reached the peak on December 2 with a fellow climber she had only met a few times beforehand.

The pair climbed New Zealand’s highest mountain to mark the 100th anniversary of the first woman to climb the peak, Australian born Freda Du Faur on December 3, 1910.

Miss Shand, who works for telco Kordia and lives on a yacht on Mana Island near Porirua, had done some mountaineering before, but “nothing to Mt Cook standard”, she said.

She met fellow climber Heather Rhodes, 33, and both decided they should go climbing together.

The pair did the climb “old school” spending a night on the Hooker Glacier and the second night in an ice cave known as Middle Peak Hotel – where climber Mark Inglis lost both his legs in 1982 – before doing the Grand Traverse to reach the summit. The pair were lucky the weather for the climb was good, she said.

“If it craps out [the weather] and you’re sleeping at 3700 metres [above sea level], you’re sort of in trouble,” she said.

Most people fly in by helicopter and can reach the summit in a day, she said.

Miss Shand cycled a round trip of about 30 kilometres to and from work for about six weeks in preparation, but wished she had done more training. She still had blisters from the trek and could not feel her toes, she said.