A Kiwi climber attributed with one of the world's greatest mountaineering feats - and one of the most forgotten - has today been remembered in a moving event sixty years on.

Norman Hardie was a 30-year old civil engineer from Timaru when he became the first to scale Kangchenjunga, a Himalayan giant mountain only a few hundred metres lower than Everest, on May 26, 1955.

The technically challenging climb - said to be much tougher than the world's highest peak - would be the pinnacle of Mr Hardie's remarkable mountaineering career.

But most Kiwis have never heard of him.

Advertisement

"Nearly all New Zealanders are familiar with Hillary and Everest, but have never heard of Norman Hardie and Mt Kangchenjunga," said New Zealand Alpine Club general manager, Sam Newton.

More than 100 of his friends and contemporaries gathered at the club's Christchurch headquarters today to mark the 60th anniversary of the 8,586-metre (28,169-feet) Kangchenjunga.

On May 26, 1955, Mr Hardy, and the UK's Tony Streather were part of a British expedition that succeeded in getting them - and George Band and Joe Brown - to Kangchenjunga's peak.

The remarkable feat was not repeated for another 22 years.

"We made it Tony," Mr Hardie told his climbing companion at the summit.

Today, speaking after the event from his Christchurch home, 90-year-old Mr Hardie - who served as a secretary to the famous 1953 British Expedition to Everest - said it had brought back a lot of memories.

"It was a very pleasant gathering. A lot of old friends were there to remember what is a very proud achievement of mine," he said.

"It was the first ascent, of what was then the highest unclimbed peak in the world, so it was a great thrill to climb to the top of a mountain of such difficulty and prestige."

The New Zealand Alpine Club has commissioned a film to be made about Mr Hardie's climb to "ensure that this remarkable achievement by a New Zealander and important era in mountaineering history is preserved forever and available to all".

Mr Hardie played an important part in three expeditions with Sir Edmund and was a director of his Himalayan Trust.

He also went to Antarctica three times, as an instructor, surveyor and as the leader of Scott Base.