Friday, 23 January 2015

Family hope death will prevent more accidents - Mark Ellis

My family has known the Ellis family since way back in the depression days of the 1930, and have followed the very positive contribution the Ellis family has made to the outdoors in New Zealand and around the world. The tragic death of Mark Ellis rocked the New Zealand climbing world and I was pleased to read today the comments from Mark's mother, Jane Ellis.
Jane Ellis said the road upgrade meant something positive had come from her son's death."You should have been able to go down the road at the speed he was going and not come off," she said.
"The road is no longer the windy road [it was]. It is a flat road, tar sealed and with speed signs on it.
"There should be no reason for other accidents there. I'm sure it will have [saved lives]."
McElrea recommended DOC develop a national policy for its rural sealed and gravel roads, including identifying danger spots.

YOUNG ADVENTURER: Mark Ellis pictured at the summit of Mt Franklin in the Southern Alps.
YOUNG ADVENTURER: Mark Ellis pictured at the summit of Mt Franklin in the Southern Alps.

The family of a mountaineer who crashed on a gravel road in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park take comfort his death may save other lives.
The Tasman Valley Rd, a busy tourist route, is now sealed, flat and has speed and warning signs.
Mark Roland Ellis, 22, from Christchurch, had unwittingly picked up two left boots before setting off on a trip to the park with his brother in February 2012.
They stayed a night in the car at Blue Lakes car park and planned to raft across the Tasman Lake and camp before climbing the next day.
When Ellis realised on the morning of February 7 that he had brought two left boots, he decided to drive to Aoraki/Mt Cook village to hire boots. He did not wear a seatbelt.

His younger brother, Ben, waited at the car park.

Ellis was driving at about 66kmh when he lost control of the vehicle on a bend between 7am and 7.30am.
He braked, slowing to about 52kmh, and tried to correct the car, but it left the road and rolled down a 3.2-metre bank.
He was partly thrown from the vehicle, and died at the scene from chest and head injuries.
Coroner Richard McElrea released his findings into the death today.

Ellis' chances of survival would have been "considerably enhanced" had he worn a seatbelt, but it was unclear if it would have saved him given the extensive vehicle damage, the coroner said.
The road was "corrugated and rutted". There were no curve or speed-advisory signs, the coroner said.
It was a default 100kmh zone, because there was only one 60kmh speed sign on the road, near State Highway 80.
The Department of Conservation and the New Zealand Transport Agency spent $3 million upgrading and re-aligning the road. It re-opened in September.

Jane Ellis said the road upgrade meant something positive had come from her son's death.
"You should have been able to go down the road at the speed he was going and not come off," she said.
"The road is no longer the windy road [it was]. It is a flat road, tarsealed and with speed signs on it.
"There should be no reason for other accidents there. I'm sure it will have [saved lives]."
McElrea recommended DOC develop a national policy for its rural sealed and gravel roads, including identifying danger spots.
There were 11 other crashes, seven involving foreign drivers, on the same stretch of road between May 2009 and August 2013, one of them fatal.
The coroner's recommendations included:
- The speed limit for Tasman Valley Rd be formally designated and the required number of speed-limit signs put in place.
- The Department of Conservation formulates a standardised speed-limit process for its rural gravel and sealed roads.
- That DOC inspects its roads and identifies areas where safety is a concern.
- That DOC develops a "delineation policy" for its roads that makes specific reference to curves and high-use roads.

Some years ago I wrote this article for my blog: 

 Bought some good Fairydown clothing yesterday; warm tops and trousers. While trying on the Fairydown clothes my mind flashed back to 1877 when this company had its humble beginnings in Dunedin. This company kept food on my Mother's table during the depression of the early 1930s when she worked for them for eight years just prior to World War II. So I have always had a soft spot for Fairydown the brand which came from the old established Dunedin company, Arthur Ellis and Company.. I wore their Down Jackets in Peru in 1968, Antarctica 69-70 and they sponsored me in 1985 and 1986 on two North Pole expeditions. The company made its name making high quality Eiderdowns from the Eider duck feathers. An old mentor of mine was Murray Ellis who went with Ed Hillary to the South Pole on tractors in 1957. His son David who carried on Fairydown for some years before starting up his own company Earth Sea Sky. Murray is best known for his role in keeping the modified Ferguson farm tractors going when, in the summer of 1957-58, the New Zealand expedition beat their British counterparts to the South Pole. It was his Dunedin company, Arthur Ellis and Co, which kept the men warm in purpose designed polar clothing and sleeping bags. Murray was part of an inner circle of five New Zealanders known as The Old Firm, led by Sir Edmund Hillary, who achieved this ground breaking feat. Following the Trans Antarctic expedition Murray joined Sir Edmund Hillary in the Himalayas on several climbing trips and to help with aid projects in Nepal. It is amazing how a trip to a shop and seeing a label can trigger such memories.

Thanks to the Christchurch Press for permission to run this article.


Our Heritage

(taken from the Earth Sea Sky website)

The Ellis families’ involvement in manufacturing outdoor products began in the 1920’s when Roland Ellis combined his love of mountaineering with the manufacture of his company’s bedding products. Roland developed and made the first down-filled sleeping bags in the Southern Hemisphere. From the 1930’s the company’s sleeping bags became essential equipment for all New Zealand outdoor enthusiasts. The wide recognition of their excellence was endorsed on the international stage when Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay used them during their first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953.
Roland Ellis, Mount Aspiring Station before the first guideless ascent of Mt Aspiring. December 1927.
Photo: Ellis Family Archives
Roland Ellis’s homemade mountain tent design.
Copyright: New Zealand Alpine Club, 1935 Journal.

Roland’s son, Murray, joined the family business in 1948. A keen tramper, mountaineer, and qualified engineer, he was a member of Sir Edmund Hillary’s New Zealand team of the 1957-58 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Murray helped to establish the original Scott Base and was one of the two engineers who kept the three Massey Ferguson farm tractors going during the depot laying expedition to the South Pole. Their five-man team (the “Old Firm”) was the first to reach the pole overland since Amundsen and Scott in 1911-12.
Murray continued his father’s work, developing down-filled clothing and manufacturing New Zealand’s first synthetic fibre filled sleeping bags.
Massey Fergusson tractor in a crevasse on the Polar Plateau, December 1958
Left to Right: Ed Hillary, Jim Bates, Peter Mulgrew, Derek Wright, Doug McKenzie (press correspondent).
Photo: Murray Ellis
The "Old Firm" arriving at the South Pole, January 4th 1958
Left to Right: Jim Bates (mechanic), Peter Mulgrew (radio operator) Ed Hillary (leader and navigator), Murray Ellis (engineer), Derek Wright (cameraman)
Photo: Murray Ellis Collection

Keeping the family tradition alive, Murray’s son David joined Arthur Ellis & Co in 1980. As an active climber, tramper and ski mountaineer he spent nine years developing and selling a range of packs, tents and outdoor clothing to complement the company's sleeping bags. He was the first to develop and introduce an adjustable pack harness for internal frame packs in New Zealand.
Head of the Donne Valley, Fiordland, January 1974
Left to Right: David Ellis, Mark Easton, Al Soon, Colin Strang.
Photo: David Ellis
Earth Sea Sky, Christchurch, December 1990, Sydney Mulligan and David Ellis working on the first clothing range.
Photo: David Ellis

Earth Sea Sky was formed in December 1990 when David teamed up with clothing designer, Sydney Mulligan. Between them they had more than 25 years experience in New Zealand’s outdoor clothing industry. This experience in design, production and sales was used to fill a growing need in the market for outdoor clothing that combined comfort, style and performance. David and Sydney introduced designs and colours that linked function and performance with great fit, attention to detail and fashion. Their first range of 20 garments included tramping jackets, oilskins, waterproof ski wear, 60/40 anorak windshells and Polartec thermal fleeces.
Since then, most of New Zealand's outdoor clothing brands have taken their production offshore. Earth Sea Sky is committed to remaining New Zealand made. The Ellis family believes this is vital in maintaining the brand’s consistent quality and uniqueness.
The Ellis family on the high peak of Mt Rolleston, Arthur’s Pass, January 2006.  Left to Right: Mark, Jane, Michael, Ben. Photo: David Ellis The Ellis family on the high peak of Mt Rolleston, Arthur’s Pass, January 2006.
Left to Right: Mark, Jane, Michael, Ben. Photo: David Ellis


Gollum said...

Hi Bob

A little bit hard to follow the press report, but it seems to be saying that the road from Mt Cook up the Tasman is now sealed and flat. Not worth a life, but good to know there is progress.

My memories of that road are that it was hot, dusty and damn rough once you left the Blue Lakes area. I even remember walking up there from the Mt Cook Village. Took an entire day in the summer sun to get to the Ball Shelter.

Also got a flat tire there once which I took to be repaired at the old garage (now long gone). I remember going to pick it up the next day which was incredibly hot. The old Dutch guy working there started shouting something unintelligible at me so I figured the heat had got to him. I threw some money at him, grabbed the tire and ran for my life.

Good days. Now long gone.



Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Hi Gollum. Yes they were good old days and I remember the Dutch guy who we called Lorry van driver. It seems the road is in good shape now. I will be back in NZ this time for good in April.

send me a note on: A few things I would like to discuss. Bob

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