Friday, 30 July 2010

Places of pilgrimages -birds and mountains in New Zealand

I arrived in Colombo in the early hours of Wednesday morning from Christchurch via Singapore. From zero degree celcius to 35 degrees in a day is a bit of a shock to the system. But I arrived with such fond memories of NZ. It was the Tui, the Kea and the Kereru (wood pigeon) who welcomed me back, and an avalanche or two acknowledged my presence. Here are a few photos of the birds and my places of pilgrimage.

Tui on a Kowhai at Ross. All bird photos               : Kira McKerrow

I am always astounded by so many shades of brown, white,  gray, green,  black and blue around the Porter's Pass area. Photo: Bob Mckerrow

A pilgrimage to Arthur's Pass is something I do every trip and look up at Rolleston and say a silent prayer to John Harrison, Bruce Ferguson, Colin Robertson, Michael Harper and Jeffrey Wilby who died in the winter of 1966 in that terrible tragedy. and think of the bravery of rescuers Peter Squires, Ian Gardiner and Hans Bohney who received the Royal Humane Society medal for their efforts. New Zealand mountaineering came of age in that fateful winter of 1966.

            I always visit the three peaks I have climbed, guided and rescued on more than any peaks in NZ: Haast, Lendenfeld and Tasman. Photo: Bob McKerrow      

      Is there any better mountain view from Franz Josef township, than Elie de Beaumont from Canavan's Knob ? Photo: Bob McKerrow

And, further south of Franz Josef, the seldom explored valleys of misty South Westland. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The Waiho River which drains the Burton, Spenser, Callery and Franz Josef glaciers which I could see from my bedroom window when I lived at Franz Josef in the early 90's. Photo: Bob McKerrow

ADDENDUM: Chris Jillet on the summit of Mt. McFettrick, at the head of the Tatare valley, Westland National Park in 1991. I wrote an article in either the 1991 or 1992 NZAJ on this ascent. Chris and I were accompanied by Ed Cotter and Mike Browne, and I remember the four of us sitting in a high camp under McFettrick gazing across at the Maxmillian ridge of Elie de Beaumont, and Ed Cotter describing the route he did with Ed Hillary 50 years earlier.Photo: Bob McKerrow.

This post has been about places of pilgrimages, that I make  on my return to NZ each year. At the forefront of my mind is thoughts and nmemories of those climbing partners who I spent so many happy weeks with in the hills. Quite a few have died. Gollum and Donald have both made reference to Chris Jillet, and surprisingly, we have all climbed with him in at different times. I post this photo to honour a wonderful mountaineer and a superb human being.

Gollum, Donald and others, what do you think about dedicating a blog to Chris Jillet where we can post photos and articles about this ? Bob


Donald said...

Hi Bob

Lovely photos - thanks for sharing. Really made my afternoon here as another front rolls in and the rain begins



Bob McKerrow said...

Dear Donald, Its midday in Colombo and I am about to dive into a swimming pool. Lovely, bright sunny day. Cheers mate. Bob

Gollum said...


Great shots of the hills and the one of Elie is a cracker.

I once descended that face of Lendenfeld in a white out after climbing the gully around the back. To this day, I have no idea where I went on that face. I was just mighty glad to get down.

I took my wife to Oman for the weekend. A beautiful spot and the hills are big and rocky. Many a fine line was ascended from the car. We went out kayaking in the sea and it was like glass - smooth and with about 4 metres visibility down to the coral. The water temperature was probably 25 degrees celsius...a far cry from St Kilda's beach.


Donald said...

Hi Bob

>Its midday in Colombo and I am about to dive into a swimming pool. Lovely, bright sunny day

Back here it's nearly midnight, and we've already had some nw rain, but now one of those gaps between fronts is on us, so we see stars so-to-speak, but they diminish to the west.

The door to the deck is open - the warmth and smells are beguiling after weeks of colder climes and inversions.

Your photo of those 3 major peaks is a cracker, and like Gollum, they bring back memories here too.

One best forgotten [lessons learnt the hard way], the other... the privilege of sunbathing for a number of hours in T shirt on the Lendenfeld Col. one Sept., then linking turns in great snow, through the icefally area, and traversing back to the old hut in the stunning light of the sun setting.

These memories never leave us eh! And as far as I can tell see us through all sorts of metaphorical and otherwise, bad snow and light, nasty crevasses and storms best lived through in a cosy hut with mates, or back home by the fire!

It's so easy in the mountains: black and white, the issues are simple. Mess up and they don't care, but be there on their terms and not on those of ego, then they can bring us positiveness, joy, and be the stage we take home with us for love and compassion.

So... I gaze at your insightful photograph, and relive it all! Thanks again.

On this score I wonder if you got my comment about our mutual friend Chris Jillett?

Yes, there too I was reliving last week, wondered if there was a photo on the web, and wandered into your site again.

Then that put me in recall mode: dig up a mental image of anything silly we did, and then with that mountain back-drop again, back comes so much recall of fun together, but we never gave a thought to maybe it not going on forever!

Anyway I think the moisture laden air from the Coast has wafted through my door enough, stirred me up, and made me think of another staple: a cuppa. Then bed to enjoy the rain on the roof when it comes! That part is inevitable tonight.



Gollum said...


My adventure on Lendenfeld was with Jillett.

He was a flatmate of mine at university and a very old (and deeply missed) friend.


Bob McKerrow said...

Kia Ora Gollum and Donald

I have a glass of Red in my hand, gloating modestly over an All Black win, and reading of both your postings and connections. What a coincidence, we all climbed with Chris Jillet. When I was at Franz in 1990-92, he was guiding at Fox. I met him many times and climbed with him on Mc Fettrick and two other neighbouring peaks.

A remarkable man, who was cut short too soon. Bob

Bob McKerrow said...

Dear Gollum and Donald

I have just posted an addendum to the article, and it is a photo of Chris Jillet on the summit of Mt. McFettrick in 1991. Have a look at it and comment of my suggestion about makinga Chris Jillet blog, so friends can post photos and comments about him. Bob

Donald said...

I have just posted an addendum to the article, and it is a photo of Chris Jillet on the summit of Mt. McFettrick

Dear Bob and Gollum

What an interesting coincidence. I can just picture Chris grinning at us!

I'd forgotten about it Bob, but Chris waxed lyrical about Mt. McFettrick many times. For me one of the thrills on hearing the story, was Mike being able to do it.

I guess about 1988 Chris and I first met while working at Treble Cone on snow safety. Grant Gillespie was the mutual factor. While it was probably a career move on Chris's part, for me I was just helping out on early mornings managing snow loadings. Like many interesting things in my life stories, it was not a job I sought out. I think we did a couple of winters and I really enjoyed working with him.

I'm not sure what happened the next 2-3 years - probably because I was off doing Geo Physics field work.

My son Dougal was born Dec. '92, and one special memory was his mum, Chris and myself heading to Cardrona in my old flat deck Cruiser on Daffodil Day to track out some new snow in the Sept. prior. This we did, but it seems we were a bit distracted ensuring a very pregnant mum to-be, could handle it OK. You can probably imagine how we fussed!

When he was born it was not long before Chris was calling in to witness the marvel of it all. His folk's house was about 5 mins. walk away too. And then sooner rather than later I became the at-home house dad - this persisted for several years, and it was during this time I came to value his visits so highly. It was a way of keeping in touch with the guiding world too. We had some wonderful chats about all sorts of things.

cont. in new comment below

Donald said...

I have a trade which involved canvas work and I repaired his day-pack a few times. When he thought it was no longer strong enough he gave it to me. To this day I still use it on day outings. It's a lovely concept to carry in more ways than one! On the back in faded marker pen it says "Chris Jillett Rig Pig.

When Dougal was 5 yrs. Chris had to shift a bunch of firewood from Hawea to Wanaka. I had the truck so off the three of us went to do a few loads. This was the time I so treasure to recall... I'll never forget it: Chris and Dougal chatted and worked together non-stop like a couple of little old men. For myself on the edge of such an amazing exchange I believe I was gifted a view into their beautiful souls!

I then became aware he was a mentor to many young guys in many ways.

A few years later I had a bit more time each work day to actually achieve something importing educational software, and during one such intense work period Chris rang and asked me to come for a walk up Mt Maude with him to try out some new boots. Normally I'd have declined, but for some reason I said yes, and organised myself accordingly.

On the walk it soon became evident Chris needed to talk, and so it went. In retrospect I tend to think it was fortuitous that I could repay all the great company he'd been to me, when I was bogged down with house and parenting. Now he was bogged down with confusion over a few things.

Sure I was older, but I did not have all the answers to changes that were occurring in his life. Little did we know that only a few weeks later we'd both be facing bigger changes!

His of course you know. Mine: I went off the US to meet suppliers in Silicone Valley, then straight back and into some big instructing jobs in the Ohau mountains. In one of the more remote spots I developed a near fatal lung infection.

I was only well enough to make it to Chris's funeral - antibiotics x 2 got me there [and are the reason I'm here now]. Like many others there I realised the effort he'd made with so many people to be their friend through thick and thin [we'd already discussed his and my own childhoods, which saw us in constant contact with widely diverse age groups]

Even today I ponder at the way it all played out, often thinking why him, and not me!

I now know more of the answer, but that is not of concern here.

I'm so grateful I said "yes" to our walk. We don't always get these chances in life, and the lesson is to always listen to our intuition!

Anyway I'm simply confirming him, as you well know, as being an exceptional person and an "old soul" of great wisdom.

His legacy gift too, is I believe, for us to still be inspired by his way of living.

Last week you see I had to take a course of antibiotics again. Once again they've pulled me through [gum infection - can go to the heart very rapidly and that was starting to happen], and the experience was a reminder of the '98 one! By 2000 I was on my way into a transformation, and I suspect it's happening again.

So the last few days I've given Chris a lot of thought. The way he's popped up in our comments too, signals many things to me. I feel he's just dropped by again, and just as in the past, broadened my outlook!

So Bob, I think a blog would be great, and I suspect it'd get a lot of traffic. If you need any help let me know.

Gollum, have we met? I regret I don't recall your name. I'm if email is better. Over the years I did meet a few of Chris's friends, but my memory is not always good if it was a brief meeting.


Donald Lousley

Bob McKerrow said...

Whew ! Donald, what an influence Chris had on you. Chris Jillet clearly had an impact on the lives of so many people. I found it very moving to read of your struggles/challenges in life, and the struggles that Chris had too.

I was very close to Mike Browne, a relationship that goes back to Christmas Day 1971, when I was on the upper section of the East ridge of Mt. Cook Aoraki with Chris Timms, and Mike and Keith Woodford were on the Caroline face. We could hear each other, but as the weather was crapping in, we couldn't see. So when I came to Franz Josef in 1990, Chris Jillet and Ed Nepia were the 'young guns' at Fox, and together with their partners (one blond one dark) I gradually got to know them. Chris spoke fondly of his father who was a climber I recall. Over two years we saw a lot of each other, and as orgabiser of the 1991 Mountain Guides (NZAC Centennial event) reunion, they all pitched in to make it a huge success as famous guides going back to Jack Cox, the master himself,was the star, eclipsing the rising stars of Ball and Hall. Lots of memories woven in there. I will start a Chris Jillet Blog now, and will open it up to you, Gollum, and others as you wish, to have access to it.

Thanks for sharing your precious memories. Bob

Bob McKerrow said...

Dear Donald and Gollum

I have made a Chris Jillet blog:

You can access it also on my blofsite under My favourite blogs. Send me your email addresses and you will have equal access. Please feel free to redesign the blog, post a photo of Chris on the title and invite others to contribute. I would like to cut and paste your comments and put them on the blog, but I believe that should be your choice. A blog, on a good mate, should be something that individuals decide what they want to post, rather than have an editor to sanitise. Anyway, chris is probably watching and having a good laugh, so over to you guys.


David Crow said...

Hi Bob

Sounds great thanks. As soon as I get some time [work very full this week], I'll do my little bit. I have a photo somewhere, but more to the point I can contact his mum and dad.

On Keith [Woody]: met him in the Copeland 1970. We corresponded and at some point he bought along Mike B. and Chris Jackson to the Huxley one Easter, and we climbed Strauchan on the most delightful day. He and Mike mentored Chris and I in the sort of style, whereby they were there to soften anything sharp we may have encountered.

Chris Jackson and I then became inseparable mt.eering mates and magic unfolded over numerous golden trips over many years as we quietly taught ourselves ski mt.eering NZ style. But he passed on too early as well [melanoma]. Anyway in his quiet traditional manner Keith changed the course of my mt. experiences, or maybe refined them, giving direction; would be a better term.

It's not hard to come up with stories eh, and I feel storied out after all the recall of the last few days. However I have a building feeling I should chronicle some of the follies.



Donald said...

Opps, Bob, I just posted under another account I maintain.

Btw my email for blog editing purposes:



Donald said...

Opps number 2: Was just finding John's contact details, and noted Jillett has two "T"s on the end. Seems impossible to change it in the blogspot address, without making a new one, but I think it can be changed everywhere else, and I'm happy to do this when I get access.



Bob McKerrow said...

Dear Donald

I have corrected the name except on the blogspot address. I am struggling to find the way to let you be a co-editor. Can you find this out as I am not the most computer literate guy around.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,
Great photos and thoughts on home. I am moved by the comments that so many have so many great things to write about your mate Chris. He klives on through others.
Just returned from another three days in the wintry Ruahine with the wood smoke still upon me.

Anonymous said...


Bob McKerrow said...

Dear Robb

Chris Jillett wsa a wonderful person, outstanding climber, and cared about people. I am pleased others are commenting about him.

Cheers mate.


Marja said...

oh gorgeous photos sight We are going towards the mountains one of the coming weeks Just waiting for some sunshine I never saw a picture of a tui before. Tui was my scouting name when working with the smaller kids.
Nice bird. I saw lots of wood pegeons and kea's
Good that you had a nice trip and enjoyed your stay in our beatiful NZ
ka kite ano

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