The Other Side of the Mountain: Rewriting NZ climbing history

By Otago University Press | Posted: Thursday September 29, 2016

The story of Edmund Hillary’s ascent of Everest is familiar to all New Zealanders. Now a new book focuses on the previously untold story of the trailblazing first New Zealand Himalayan Expedition in 1951.

In Only Two For Everest: How a first ascent by Riddiford and Cotter shaped climbing history, Lyn McKinnon tells the stories of Earle Riddiford and Ed Cotter, two extraordinary New Zealanders whose climbing achievements were forever eclipsed by the exploits of others. The story of their first ascent of Mukut Parbat is integral to New Zealand’s hugely respected climbing record in the Himalaya, and McKinnon’s book gives it the full recognition that is long overdue.

However, through a combination of extraordinary circumstances it was the two other members of the party – Ed Hillary and George Lowe – who became New Zealand’s mountaineering ‘glory boys’.

After the Mukut Parbat ascent, a telegram to Riddiford, sent by the New Zealand Alpine Club, was waiting in the hill village of Ranikhet. It contained the exhilarating news that two members of the New Zealand expedition were invited to join Eric Shipton and the British climbing team on their 1951 Reconnaissance of Everest.

But which two would go? The evening descended into a prolonged bitter argument. That night, and that decision, marked a turning point in the lives of the four men.

Myths and misinformation about the 1951 expedition have perpetuated for six decades. Now, finally, Lyn McKinnon sets the record straight in this fascinating and revealing book. She says she is fortunate to have had access to the personal papers of both Riddiford and Cotter, which present another perspective on events that occurred 65 years ago.

‘In 1951 it was Riddiford and Cotter who cemented New Zealand’s claim to be included in British expeditions, a fact that was well recognised by many contemporary climbers whose voices are heard in this book.’

As author Philip Temple writes in the book’s foreword:

It is a fascinating account, accompanied by many hitherto unpublished photographs. It will be seen as controversial by many – but that is often the case when the record is finally put straight.

Only Two for Everest
How a first ascent by Riddiford and Cotter shaped climbing history By Lyn McKinnon
Release Date: October 2016
ISBN 978-1-927322-40-6, $49.95
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