PHO2012_0645.jpg Ginger the cat and Harry Williams on Mount Taranaki (1917). Collection of Puke Ariki (PHO2012-0645).

Have you been thinking about climbing the mountain this summer?  If a cat can do it surely you can too! Ginger the “Mountain Cat” lived at the North Egmont Mountain House where his owner, Harry Williams, was the manager. On 16 January 1917, as a six-month old kitten, Ginger became the first feline to climb unaided to the summit of Mount Taranaki. He followed Harry and a group of climbers all the way to the top. As proof of Ginger’s extraordinary feat this photograph of Harry and the adventurous young moggy was taken in the crater. The climbing party also signed a testimonial to verify that Ginger’s climb was unassisted. The photograph and testimonial were donated to the then Taranaki Museum in the 1960s.

Ginger’s first ascent of Mount Taranaki marked the beginning of what would prove to be an illustrious climbing career. Over the next few years he regularly accompanied tramping and walking parties on trips and proved very popular with visitors. Besides climbing to the summit of Mount Taranaki a further three times, Ginger also made trips to Bell’s Falls and Humphries Castle. In a letter to the Taranaki Herald, Harry Williams wrote Ginger “was never happy unless he was wandering around the mountain.”  Ginger was so keen on climbing that not even a heavy dumping of snow could deter him. Harry noted it was “nothing unusual to see poor old Ginger lying on his back with his paws in the air, they were so frost bitten.” When Harry later moved to Ōamaru, Ginger settled into retirement at the New Plymouth Fire Station.  

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