Thursday, 27 November 2008

Conrad Kain - New Zealand mountaineer or world mountaineer ?.

Mt. McKerrow, The Hopkins valley, New Zealand. Conrad Kain did the first ascent guiding Samuel Turner to the summit on 19 March 1915. Many plums were ripe for the picking and Conrad lead cliets up 30 first ascent in the New Zealand Alps.

I was in touch with Mike Browne, of Fox Glacier, yesterday and he shared a lot of Govt files that he had recently come by him in his role as a founding member of the NZ Mountain Guides Association. Good old Conrad Kain's name came up again on his sojourns in NZ as a mountain guide. The story is told in his book "Where the Clouds Can Go" He travelled to New Zealand three times between 1913 and 1916, where he guided 30 first ascents and climbed the country’s highest summit, Mount Cook, twice. His impact world wide was significant and I am just rereading his story in my copy of his book pasted below For so long we have taken Conrad as our own but he really was a Canadian based mountaineer who climbed extensively in north America, Europe and New Zealand.New Zealand mountaineer or world mountaineer ?.

                                                                Conrad Kain in New Zealand.

                                                               Conrad Kain in Canada.

By Conrad Kain and edited by J. Monroe Thorington
1935 First edition

This is the first printing of WHERE THE CLOUDS CAN GO -- THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CONRAD KAIN. It was published in New York by The American Alpine Club in 1935. This is the first and only printing of the first editon. The book measures 234mm tall x 16cm and has 456 pages, 29 b/w photos on 19 plates, index, with additional chapters by J.M. Thorington. Published posthumously (Kain died in 1934). A classic of mountaineering in Canada (250 pages on climbing in Canada). Kain, born and raised in Lower Austria, was a guide & great climber. He made around 100 first ascents and  new routes in the Alps (mostly Dolomites and  Gesäuse), New Zealand, and Canada including Mt Robson, Bugaboo Spire and Louis.

                                        Conrad Kain at Cook Bivouac (8400') and                               Davids Dome,New Zealand, 1916

His three trips to New Zealand as a guide are quite remarkable between 1913 and 1916, where he guided 30 first ascents and climbed the country’s highest summit, Mount Cook, twice.
Let's enjoy reading Conrad's amazing list of ascents in New Zealand.New Zealand first ascents and new routesYear Date Peak Route Party Range Loca1on
1914 Dec. 27 Mt. Jean D. Maughan, W. Fisher, H.N.P. Sloman
1914 Jan. 7 Mt. Wakefield new route H.O. Frind
1914 Jan. 17 Mt. Hutton H.O. Frind
1915 Jan. 28 Eagle Peak H.F. Wright
1914 Feb. 15 The Watchtower H.O. Frind
1914 Feb. 16 Mt. Bannie H.O. Frind
1914 Feb. 11 Mt. Maunga Ma H.O. Frind, P. Graham
1914 Feb. 15 The Scissors H.O. Frind
1914 Feb. 7 Mt. Thomson— H.O. Frind
1914 07-Mar Mt. Mannering H.O. Frind
1914 07-Mar Wataroa Pass H.O. Frind
1914 08-Mar The Ant Hill H.O. Frind
1914 08-Mar Mt. Richmond— H.O. Frind
1914 09-Mar Godley Pass H.O. Frind
1914 10-Mar Mt. Acland H.O. Frind
1914 10-Mar Mt. Sydney King H.O. Frind
1914 23-Mar Sharkʼs Teeth n.w. peak H.O. Frind
1914 26-Mar Edith Peak Miss E. Hamlyn, E. Day
1914 27-Mar Dilemma Peak West Peak T.C. Fyfe
1914 27-Mar Raureka Peak T.C. Fyfe
1914 28-Mar Mt. Eric 1st or 2nd ascent? T. Fish
1915 07-Apr Mt. Edgar Thomson (1st ascent ?)* Mrs. J. Thomson
1915 Feb. 2 Mt. Jellicoe H.C. Chambers, H.F. Wright
1915 Feb. 2 Mt. Low H.C. Chambers, H.F. Wright
1915 Feb. 3 Mt. Sturdee H.C. Chambers, H.F. Wright
1915 Feb. 5 Mt. Jeanette Mrs. J. Thomson
1915 Feb. 12 Mt. Meeson H.C. Chambers, J. Robertson, Prof. Robinson, H.F. Wright
1915 Feb. 15 Mt. Montgomery new traverse H.O. Frind
1915 01-Mar Spence Peak S. Turner
1915 19-Mar Mt. McKerrow S. Turner
1916 Jan. 22 Mt. Marie Mrs. H.N.P. Sloman
1916 14-Mar Mt. Lloyd Mrs. H.N.P. Sloman
Also, Mt Cook - 16th and 17th ascent
* Mt. Beatrice (East Peak), Mt Edgar Thomson, Mt. Eric listed as 1st ascents in Thoringtonʼs Appendix list for NZ but not as 1st ascents
in chapter summaries (Beatrice not listed at all, others as 2nd ascents).

I find it interesting he guided Samuel Turner on the first ascent of Mt. McKerrow, named after my great-grandfather.
Of his Canadian expliots, here is an extract from the Canadian Alpine Club.
Conrad Kain, mountain guide (b at Nasswald, Austria 1883; d at Cranbrook, BC 2 Feb 1934). Kain received his first guiding job on a local cliff in 1903 and after 5 seasons of extensive climbs in the Alps was invited to become the first official guide of the ALPINE CLUB OF CANADA (1909), based in Banff, Alberta. Kain was an independent spirit, admired for his prolific climbing achievements and loved for his warmth and humour. In addition to guiding wealthy climbers in Canada and abroad, he was an assistant to early surveying teams at the Rogers and Yellowhead passes. He built the first ski jump in Banff (1911), ushering in the sport of recreational skiing, and led the first ascents of Mount Robson (1913) and Mount Farnham (1914), highest mountains in the Canadian Rockies and Purcells, respectively.

Kain's 1916 ascents of Mount Louis, Mount Howser and the Bugaboo Spires involved climbing techniques that were ahead of their time and not repeated for many years. He settled in Wilmer, BC, on the edge of the Purcells in 1920, trapping in winter and guiding in summer. His solo snowshoe ascent of Mount Jumbo (1919) was the first winter ascent above 3350 m in Canada, and his last climb, in the Purcells, was of a 3352 m peak (1933) which later came to be called Mount Conrad. Kain died of encephalitis lethargica in hospital at Cranbrook.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,
What an amazing looking book, would love to read it. I recall coming across his name a few times. Was he a prolific builder of cairns?
Glad to read your writings again, hope it is a sign you are feeling better. Have an awesome day Bob! Kia kaha.

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Kia Ora Robb

Conrad Kain moved over the rock, ice and snow with the grace of Chamois or Thar. Yes he did build cairns, but nothing extreaordinary.

I am writing again which indicates I am not sleeping much at nights, but gaining in strength and confidence.

You have a fine weekend too.


Anonymous said...

Hi All,

"Where the Clouds Can go" will be back in print in May, published by Rocky Mountain Books,Calgary ,Alberta, Canada. Cheers from Up Over (opposite of Down Under), Kerry Guenter

bobTheCoder said...

Yeah, I just purchased my copy of "Where the clouds can go" 2009 edition from Chapters in Calgary. Not sure where it is available in NZ, but you can buy it online at

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