Kate Gardiner was born on 21st September 1885 the daughter of wealthy retired shipowner, Frederick Gardiner, and his wife Alice (née Evans). She was brought up living in a substantial mansion, The Gables, on what was then Vale Road L25 (the stretch involved became part of Menlove Avenue when it was built).
Her father was a passionate mountaineer and the young Kate accompanied him on his forays into the Alps, climbing Mt. Breithorn (4016m) when she was just 10 years old. Gripped by the same fervour as her father, she made mountaineering her lifelong pursuit, her ability to devote herself to it full time reflecting the family’s wealth.
In 1926, her interest sparked by a photograph of Mt. Cook she found when clearing up her late mother’s belongings, she travelled to New Zealand determined to ascend the peak. Her guides were equally struck by her lack of the fitness to succeed in such a venture and her grim determination to succeed. She returned in 1928, better prepared, and reached the summit, becoming only the eighth woman to do so.
Her next expedition was to the Canadian Rockies, successfully climbing Mt. Assiniboine, the ‘Matterhorn’ of the range. This set a pattern which she followed for some years, climbing in the Southern Alps during the New Zealand summer, the rest of the year split between Canada and the Alps. After several failed attempts she became the second woman to climb New Zealand’s second highest peak, Mt. Tasman. She continued to climb well into her sixties, eventually settling in Hastings, New Zealand where she lived until her death on 29th January 1974. Her ashes were subsequently interred at Allerton Cemetery.
Mountaineering was one of many areas of endeavour in which women had to battle against ill-founded prejudice. As had her father before her, Kate Gardiner climbed an enormous number of challenging peaks, giving the lie to the notion that women were physically incapable of pursuing this most testing of pursuits.
The childhood home of Kate Gardiner.
Cutting from Liverpool Echo [1.3.1929] reporting her successful ascent of Mount Cook.
© Liverpool Footprints