The last thing Danilo Hegg expected to find while climbing in Mt Cook National Park was an old log book containing some of the most famous names in New Zealand mountaineering.

The Otago Boys' High School teacher was climbing with friends on Saturday night when he stumbled across the little nugget about 100m from the summit of Mt Wakefield.

"We left our gear at the camp site by town and went to climb the highest point,'' Mr Hegg said.

"We were going up some steep slopes and it just popped out of the scree.

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"I didn't expect to find something like that on Mt Wakefield, which is fairly well-trodden because it's quite accessible.

"Generally, things like this would have been recovered a long time ago.''

Mr Hegg, co-chairman of the Otago section of the New Zealand Alpine Club, knew the item was of significance as soon as he looked it over, but had to wait until he got home to properly examine it, as conditions were too windy at the camp site.

"I could see names written on the paper, so I knew it was obviously an old team that was at the summit.

'I closed it and took it home and went over the notes with tweezers.''

Many of the well-weathered paper notes were illegible, but some names, including some notable ones, could be easily made out, he said.

"One of the names is Rosamond Harper and [the note is] dated December 30, 1933.

"She was the daughter of Arthur Paul Harper, who was one of the most prominent mountaineers at the turn of the 20th century. He was a real legend.''

Another renowned mountaineering name, that of Dunedin-born Edgar R. Williams, was printed on a visitor's card, Mr Hegg said.

Born in 1891, Mr Williams was made a life member of the New Zealand Alpine Club in 1974, he said.

"He was a very prolific mountaineer.''

Despite his keen interest in mountaineering, Mr Hegg would not be holding on to the historic item.

"It's exciting to have it found, but the fact it's in my house doesn't matter.

"It's probably something that belongs to the public, so it should be preserved by someone who knows what they are doing with things like this.''

For that reason, the log book would be given to somewhere like the Hocken Library, he said.