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Joy of the Mountains Book release

Friday 09 November 2012
Book release : November 2012

Joy of the Mountains
A Climber’s Life
By John Wilson
The life and tragic death of John Harrison, one of New Zealand’s leading climbers of the 1950’s and 60’s.
Te Waihora Press, Christchurch. In association with the Canterbury Mountaineering Club and the New Zealand Alpine Club, 2012
ISBN 978-0-908714-11-7

In the 1950s and early 1960s John Harrison climbed some of the last significant virgin peaks in the Southern Alps, visited the Himalayas twice and spent a summer in Antarctica. He was an accomplished mountaineer and widely respected as a person. Four decades after his death he is remembered with affection and respect.

This superbly illustrated book was borne out of a chance conversation with John Harrison’s widow, Anne McGregor.

She was prompted to try to have John’s story told in part by the realisation that papers, photographs and other memorabilia of John’s life which she had carefully guarded through the years since his death provided a solid foundation for telling his story.

On being shown the contents of the trunk, a family friend told Anne that publishing a
book about John’s life was not something she should do – it was something she had to do.

Because of his record as a mountaineer and his personal qualities, John’s tragic death in 1966, when he was helping to search for four young mountaineers who had gone missing on Mount Rolleston, hit the climbing community hard.

The circumstances of his death singled him out, but John, known for his modesty, would have been the first to insist his climbing companions were equally deserving of recognition. This is a book primarily about an admired individual; it is also a book about the generation of New Zealand mountaineers to which John belonged.

Of particular interest are the stunning illustrations, including painting and photographs of New Zealand, Antarctica and the Himalayas, some of which were in the National Geographic magazine at the time.

Book launch: 7.30pm, The Cashmere Club, Christchurch. Thursday 22 November.

Born in Timaru and raised there and in Christchurch, John Wilson returned from the United States in 1974 with a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. His career since has embraced both history and journalism. He worked for some years as a leader writer for the Christchurch Press and was the founding editor, in 1983, of the magazine of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Now a self-employed historian and writer, he has lived in Springston, on Banks Peninsula and in Christchurch.

Copies of the Book are available for purchase at

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