“It’s Beyond You, But You’re A Part of It”: Mountaineering in the Southern Alps of Aotearoa New Zealand
This thesis provides a phenomenological exploration of the lived experience of mountaineering in New Zealand. Based on fieldwork completed in the Southern Alps and Mount Ruapehu, it offers an analysis into how mountaineers construct the mountain environment through their climbing, while also being shaped in turn by the vital mountain. At the heart of this thesis is the movement of mountaineering. I argue that the experience of mountaineering cannot be divorced from our embodied sensory perception. Through climbing, mountaineers build a depth of embodied, living knowledge, making sense of technical information and strengthening their judgement to help them climb and manage the risks. That knowledge transforms the mountains for experienced mountaineers. Furthermore, I argue that the vibrant and potentially deadly fluxes of the mountains form their agency and thus the vitality that my participants sense. To climb in the mountains is therefore to enter into a reciprocal relationship with the vital mountain environment. The mountaineers ultimately become a reflection of the mountains in which they climb. This thesis comprises of a written thesis and immersive podcast recording, which has been attached.