Mt. Awful in the Mount Aspiring National Park.
''It has enabled the injured person to get medical attention as quickly as possible.''
John Nankervis, 2nd from right, taken with a party comprising L to R, Colin Monteath, Mike browne, Dave Bamford, Chris Bonnington, Nank and veteran Ed Cotter. Photo: Bob McKerrow
This morning Colin Monteath informed me that Nank is recovering in the ICU at Christchurch Hospital. Close friends John Wild and Dave Bamford visited him this morning. I am praying, I am sure along with many other friends, that Nank will make a good recovery for he is such a wonderful human being who has contributed so much to mountaineering in New Zealand.
I now switch back to Easter 1967 when I returned home to Dunedin elated after a successful climb of Mt. Huxley my Mother hugged me and said, “ Michael Cooper, your cousin is dead.” I was numbed.
While we were putting a camp in under Mount Huxley on March 26, 1967, and preparing for our big climb the following day, Michael had camped on a ledge somewhere under Mt. Awful, and as he walked along a ledge to get some water to cook the evening meal with, he slipped on some mountain tussock, and fell to his death over a rocky ledge and down a mountain face. Eighteen years old, academically bright, handsome, athletic and the world was at his feet. A life snuffed out like a flame from a candle.
In the conservative 50s and 60s, we were never encouraged to go to funerals and somehow I never really grieved for Michael.
Cooper, Murray Campbell, Born Feb 15 1940 in Dunedin,, Otago, New Zealand, Died 1945 in Portobello, Dunedin, , Otago, New Zealand
Uncle Campbell lived in Portobello and used to take a small ferry across the Otago Harbour to his work in Dunedin. One night he came home and he looked for Murray, who usually met him at the ferry, and he couldn't see him. A few minutes later his body was found floating in the sea. Campbell and Mavis are dead, but one son, Maxwell survives.
The same year two other close friends who were emerging mountaineers died: Richard Tilley killed by an avalanche on Avalanche Peak in Arthur’s Pass, and Howard Laing, in a car accident. Mt. Awfaul and Avalanche Peak are names that stick in my mind.
I remember writing a poem at the time about the deaths of friends on mountains. Perhaps that is how I worked through my grief:
All stones we learn as children
Are dead inanimate things
But stones falling on a mountain
Are alive with a death that sings
A stone's song is enchanting
Fit for mountain Kings
First it’s high, then low
Lachrymose from the strings