Both the first and second woman to ascend Mount Cook in New Zealand’s Southern Alps were, at separate times, passengers aboard the ss Wimmera. The first was Sydney-born Emmeline Freda Du Faur whose conquest of the peak took place in December 1910.

The feat was briefly mentioned throughout numerous newspapers in the Dominion.

A Wellington telegram states that a letter from the Hermitage, at Mount Cook, gives further particulars of the ascent of Mount Cook on December 3 by Miss Du Faur, of Sydney, with two guides, Peter and Alexander Graham. This is the first occasion on which a lady has climbed the mountain. After spending the night on  the bivouac above the Hooker Glacier, the party started at 2.50 a.m., and reached the summit by Earl’s route, on the western face of the main summit at 8.40. The weather was perfectly calm and clear, giving them an extensive view, which included Mount Aspiring. After spending a couple of hours on the summit the party descended, and reached the Hermitage on the afternoon of Sunday, the 4th. The ascent was made in 5 hours 50 minutes from the bivouac, an hour under the other previous record.

Otago Daily Times, Issue 15013, 10 December 1910, Page 7

Although her success occurred in 1910 Freda Du Faur had been an annual visitor to New Zealand for a number of years, and it was on 4 February 1905 when the then 22-year-old departed Sydney aboard the Wimmera to arrive at Wellington on 8 February. This was also before her first visit to the South Island which was to take place the following year and her captivation with the Southern Alps.

She not only climbed the Alps prior to her Mount Cook ascent but continued annually for a several years following until early 1913 prior to her leaving Sydney for England to be with her friend and partner, Muriel Cadogan.

It was in England in 1915 that she had published a book of her mountaineering, The Conquest of Mount Cook and Other Climbs.

Freda Du Faur ended her own life in September 1935 in Sydney, where she had returned to live after the death of Muriel.

© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021