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Fantham’s Peak – Fanny’s Tale

by Sorrel Hoskin  

Fantham's Peak: named after a young girl. Image: Private Collection
Fantham's Peak: named after a young girl. Image: Private Collection

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Climbing, England

Fanny Fantham was a high spirited teenager with a zest for life.

In March 1887 Fanny was in a large climbing group ascending Mount Taranaki.

Climbing was hot and difficult for the women in the group as they had to wear full street dress, which included long dresses and corsets. But Fanny had shortened her dress and was wearing lace-up boots that made climbing easier.

The nineteen-year-old girl and five men were climbing the route between the Kaupokonui and Kapuni gorges, ahead of the main group, when they reached a subsidiary peak known to Māori as Panitahi.

The group were in high spirits. According to Fanny one of the climbers said "I don't think this peak has been named." Turning to Fanny he said "You are the first woman to climb it – let’s call it Fanny Fantham's Peak."

"No" she replied, "That's too long."

"Then Fanny's Peak."

"No, that's a name any peak might be called. Who knows how many Fanny's might be climbing."

Eventually, after much bantering, the group decided on using Fanny's family name of Fantham for the peak.

Speeches were made and the peak was christened with a sprinkle of water.

Fanny didn't continue on to the summit of the mountain, despite the fact she was wearing less restricting wear than the other ladies in the group.

In fact, she revealed years later, she was never to climb the mountain again.

Fanny married in 1888, becoming Fanny Bayley. She and her husband farmed in the Manaia district. The couple moved to England and during World War I Fanny worked in a munitions factory before nursing in an army hospital.

Returning to New Plymouth Fanny was made an honorary member of the Mount Egmont Alpine Club in 1928. She died in New Plymouth aged 82.
 
First published 12 April 2005
 

LIBRARY RESOURCES

 
 
 
 

ARCHIVES

Edith Halcombe's journal - the papers consist of Edith's account of the ascent of Mt Taranaki with Sir William Fox.
 
Richmond Atkinson family letters - the collection is a limited edition publication which includes letters and journals written by James Crowe Richmond and Henry Robert Richmond describing their voyage to Auckland on the Victory Oct 1850 - 1851, and letters written by Jane Maria Richmond on her voyage to Auckland on the Sir Edward Paget 1852 - 1853
 

EXHIBITIONS

Mt Taranaki display
Check out the display of all things related to Mount Taranaki - from cake tins through to mountaineering tales and fizzy drink bottles - in the Taranaki Life Gallery, North Wing, Puke Ariki.
 

EDUCATION

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Mount Taranaki Interactive
 

 
PLACES TO VISIT

North Egmont Visitors Centre
Discover Mount Taranaki - the geology, flora and fauna, walking tracks and more. Take a short walk then enjoy a coffee and cake at the Mountain Café then stay the night at the historic Camphouse situated almost 1000 metres up Mt Taranaki at North Egmont is an ideal location for people seeking quiet surroundings and stunning views of the North Taranaki coast and Central North Island. It also offers historic atmosphere and access to the beautiful forests and high altitude scenery of Egmont National Park.  Egmont Road, RD 6, Inglewood, Taranaki Phone: 0800 MT TARANAKI (0800 688 2727)
 

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