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Mountain Book Awards

The NZ Mountain Book and Film Festival invited authors to submit literature on the world’s remote places, expedition tales and stories about people and their adventures for the Mountain Book competition. Categories in keeping with the festival theme, a celebration of adventure sports and lifestyles, include Mountain and Adventure Heritage award, Mountain and Adventure Narrative and the 2019 Grand Prize award. Judges Allan Uren, Annabel Wilson and Chief judge Dave Vass were pleased with the caliber of the entries.

The winner of the Mountain and Adventure Heritage award went to co-authors Peter Alsop, Dave Bamford and Lee Davidson for their book Scenic Playground: The Story Behind New Zealand’s Mountain Tourism. The book tells the story of New Zealand’s’ first explorers, initial infrastructure, innovation, dreams and ideas and the foundations of tourism in New Zealand. Kaitiakitanga, the concept of guardianship, is woven throughout, and the story is supported with high quality illustrations, photographs and paintings, promotions of the times.

The book captures the Kiwi tourism journey, but it also brings into focus the repercussions for the physical environment, Maori relationship to the land, commercial land management and climate change. Book Programme Coordinator Dan Clearwaters says, “This weighty tome mirrors the gravitas that tourism has within New Zealand. The way that it has encouraged and shaped recreation for generations, and the challenges it is posing due its own successes”.

Peter Alsop is the author and co-author of five previous books, with particular interests in tourism publicity, hand-coloured photography and mid-century New Zealand landscape paintings. Dave Bamford is an independent tourism advisor who has worked extensively in New Zealand on regional tourism strategies, business plans and national park recreational opportunities. Lee Davison teaches in the Museum and Heritage Studies programme at Victoria University of Wellington.

There were two Runner Ups in the category, Rob Frost for his book Aoraki Tai Poutini: A Guide for Mountaineers and Paul Hersey Searching for Groundswell. Both Rob and Paul will be speaking at this year’s festival.

Seventeen-year-old Jade Hameister’s book My Polar Dream won the Mountain and Adventure Narrative award. In January 2018 Jade became the youngest person to complete the ‘Polar Hat-trick’: North Pole, Greenland & South Pole.

Jade began her quest at the age of 14 when she became the youngest person to ski to the North Pole from anywhere outside the last degree. She went on to become the youngest woman to complete the 550-kilometre crossing of Greenland, unsupported and unassisted. In January 2018, Jade skied 600 kilometres from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole once again unsupported and unassisted. She completed the epic 37-day journey via a new route through the Transantarctic Mountains and up the Kansas Glacier, from the Amundsen Coast.

In this book she tells the story of these epic journeys. She says, “One of the underlying reasons I am undertaking this quest is to empower young women around the world to chase their dreams.” Jade is passionate about shifting the focus for young women from how they look to what they can do.

Jade has set a number of world records including the youngest person to ski from the coast of Antarctica to South Pole unsupported and unassisted, the first Australian woman in history to ski coast to Pole unsupported and unassisted, the first woman to set a new route to the South Pole, the youngest to ski to both Poles and youngest to complete the Polar Hat Trick, to name a few! Jade awarded Australian Geographic Society's Young Adventurer of the Year; she lives in Melbourne and is currently a year 11 student.

There were two Runner Ups in the category, Rescue Pilot by author John Funnell and North to South by Stefan Fairweather. Stefan will be speaking at the festival.

Other Speakers

Rob Frost is the author of the NZ Alpine Club’s mountaineering guidebook to the Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland Tai Poutini region. He worked for several years as a geotechnical engineer, but has recently embarked on a guiding career and is currently based in Fox Glacier.

He and his partner Claire share an appreciation of the paths less travelled, both in the New Zealand mountains and while travelling overseas. He says writing the Aoraki Tai Poutini guidebook was “a privilege; it was a way to encourage people to previously unknown spots, and an excuse to indulge my fascination with history, literature, and people.”

During his five years preparing the guidebook, Rob collected historical anecdotes, undertook trips to forgotten corners of the Southern Alps, and gained insights into several of New Zealand’s past and present climbing personalities.

Rob is looking forward to sharing many of these stories, but most importantly, he will also share his own perspectives on the current state of mountaineering in New Zealand. He will suggest how collective critical thinking can influence how we engage with our natural landscapes, allowing for more positive experiences in our rapidly changing mountains.

Surfing has long been considered the centre of hedonism. From its anti-establishment roots, reinforced in the 60s with ongoing ‘beach battles’ against what was then a more militaristic lifeguard movement, to now on the cusp of entering the Olympics, riding waves has been on quite a journey. Author, Paul Hersey was introduced to surfing by his parents at a young age. Years later, and after chasing waves all around the world, Paul decided to try to capture the culture of surfing in New Zealand. This resulted in his unique book ‘Searching for Groundswell’. Come and listen to Paul talk about travelling the country while gathering information and experiences for his book, as well as the issues and challenges facing surfing in the modern era.

Dr Catherine Knight is a researcher, a writer and an environmental historian. Dr Knight’s most recent book Beyond Manapouri: 50 years of environmental politics in New Zealand (Canterbury University Press), was a finalist in the New Zealand Heritage Book Awards and she will draw on themes from this book during her talk at the festival. Catherine’s deep connection to the land and environment provides the motivation for her work, research and writing and we look forward to hearing her speak.

Both Rob Frost and Dr Catherine Knight will be reading excerpts from their books at the Words and Wine session. Stefan Fairweather will read his book North to South: A philosophical Account of the Journey on Te Araroa. Annabel Wilson and Andy Cole will perform adventure poetry and Wanaka local Laura Williamson will also read from her bike focused books. The festival runs in Wanaka from June 28 to July 3, Queenstown from July 4 to 6 and Cromwell on July 7. The full programme will be released when general tickets go on sale on June 1 at

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