Queenstown girl with no fear

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THE Wakatipu climbing community is hailing a local seven-year-old girl’s fearless summit of the towering Remarkables mountain range.

Queenstown Primary’s Sarah Schreiber knocked off the jagged rocky peak’s highest point Single Cone, which stands at 2320 metres, with her father Frank last weekend.

Making her achievement even more, er, remarkable, the pair took the challenging north-east ridge route which overlooks some substantial drops and requires some careful climbing, with the option of using ropes for precaution in places.

It also requires some daunting abseiling down an exposed descent gully.

Queenstown climbing veteran and local Alpine Cliff Rescue boss Chris Prudden is impressed: “It’s got 300 metres of actual climbing people have to do. You don’t carry anyone up, you have to climb it all the way. It’s a good ask for a seven-year-old to stay focused for that long and keep the effort up.

“For a seven-year-old to get up there is a great achievement.”

Sarah’s father Frank – who led the climb up and spotted for her – says his daughter’s very outdoorsy and loves mountains but her lack of fear even surprised him.

“I’ve never seen something like that. It was very exciting, she wasn’t scared at all.

“I said ‘Are you scared?’, she said ‘No, it’s all right’.

“There’s one section where people like you and me say ‘Well this is probably a good time to take a rope now’.

I’m asking her if she’s happy. She was like ‘Yeah, let’s continue’.

“Then I got a bit nervous and said ‘How about we use the rope here?’ She never complained and followed my instructions.

“We got up to the top and there’s another three metres to the actual tippy top, and she was not on the rope and was like ‘Oh well that’s where the pole is’ and ran up. She was like ‘Wow, that’s cool, where’s Queenstown?’

“It’s amazing – you have a little child looking at a helicopter flying below her, and saying ‘Oh Queenstown, where’s our house?’”

On the way down, through the gully, Frank says she was equally poised.

“It’s very exposed up there. When you go into the gully it’s a drop, seriously.”

Sarah says the only thing she was nervous about during the climb and descent was not getting to the top – and matching the feat of nine-year-old brother Ben who did it last year with Frank.

“I was a bit nervous when going up because I really wanted to get up to the top ‘cos it was my first time going up there and because it was the highest peak of the Remarkables,” she says. “I’m really happy. It was a big achievement.” 

Father Frank says Sarah is determined to keep pace with her older brother.

“He was up there last year so anything he does she has to do.

“Last year Ben and I did Routeburn in one day, so then she did Routeburn in a day.”

Prudden adds: “The best thing about it is it’s a young person not totally distracted away from the natural world and into computers and computer games.

“In the long term they’ll take that with them, both as a realisation and awareness of the real world around us which is pretty cool,” he says.

“It’s a nice thing to put out there, it may encourage other people. Someone might say I’ve got a fairly capable five or six-year-old.”

Queenstown Climbing Club president Guillaume Charton says she’s possibly one of the first at that age to make the summit.

Charton welcomes her to attend a club Youth Climbing Camp at Mount Cook at the end of the month, supported by the Bruce Grant Youth Trust.