With his ascent of Unicorn (2557m) on February 21st, Don French has ticked off the last peak of the 100 Peaks Challenge, becoming the first person to complete the list and succeed in a challenge 30 years in the making.
The original list of 100 peaks was conceived by Ross Cullen, then president of the club, as part of the NZAC centennial celebrations in 1991. After consulting with prominent climbers of the day, the list was put forward as a challenge and way of encouraging climbers to get out and attempt some summits off the beaten track. The list was designed to address the aspirations of climbers at all levels and genres. Hence there were relatively easy peaks, very hard and steep peaks, and a number of very remote peaks included.
The original scheme was to see who could do the most in that year, with spot prizes made available. Don climbed seven, winning an annual hut pass and earning a moral victory over a participant who claimed nine summits, though some of these were repeats of the same peak (by guiding clients on Aoraki / Mt Cook).
Last month, Don French became the first person to complete New Zealand’s 100 Peak Challenge, 30 years after he began. French summited his final peak, 2,557m Mt Unicorn in the Southern Alps, after five previous failed attempts.
The unusual alpine tick list features a mixture of the easy, the extremely difficult, and the wildly remote. The former president of the New Zealand Alpine Club conceived the idea back in 1991 to encourage climbers of all levels to get off the beaten track. The club offered a prize to the climber who did the most peaks that initial year. French won that too, summiting seven.
Today, about 70 people are chasing the list.