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Scaling new heights . . . Clare Kearney has been appointed as the New Zealand Alpine Club’s new president. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Clare Kearney may not be a “natural-born climber” but she has made her way to the top.

Kearney is the new president of the New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC), officially taking over the role last Friday.

She said it was a real “privilege” to be at the helm of a club boasting a long and proud history.

“I feel that I’m just a little part of that, standing on the achievements of the past people who have been involved in helping develop the club.”

Previously serving as an interim board member and as president-elect prepared her for the top job, and she felt well supported by other NZAC members.

“I feel that I’ve got a really great team around me. The value in our club is we’ve got such generous volunteers so it doesn’t feel like this is something I’m doing by myself. I’ve got a job to do, and there’s a lot of support within the club to help achieve where the club wants to go.”

Climbing experienced a couple of “really disruptive years” due to Covid-19 – similar to most sports – and Kearney said the club’s main focus was on long-term strategies while getting through the challenges thrown its way.

Outdoor and wall climbing was gaining more recognition internationally. Wall climbing was included in the Tokyo Olympics and was a “great thing” for the sport.

“What the Olympics do, of course, is provide a profile.”

Kearney became an active member of the NZAC North Otago section about six years ago through encouragement from her friends, Nick and Dara Shearer.

Together they had been climbing through Nepal’s Kanchenjunga mountains, and through the Khumbu Valley to Everest Base Camp.

Climbing internationally was a great opportunity, and Kearney said she learned a lot and had fond memories of their adventures.

In New Zealand, she enjoyed climbing outdoors and at the North Otago indoor climbing walls at the Waitaki Recreation Centre.

“For a small section in North Otago, we’re very lucky with the quality of climbing that happens in this area.”

The NZAC’s culture of protecting the mountains, volunteering and the social community kept her addicted to the sport.

“We have an environmental focus wanting to protect those places. Being in the mountains is actually a pretty special place to be.

“We’re so lucky in New Zealand that the access is pretty good – we’ve got national parks, and it’s an opportunity for people to enjoy being in those spaces.”