Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Death of Anton Wopereis

I arrived at work this morning at 7a.m and checked the NZ news and was stunned to see the news about the death of Anton Wopereis on Aoraki/Mount Cook.

Climbing accidents, like aircraft crashes, occur from time to time. It is always sad to read the accounts. The death of Anton Wopereis was a genuine mountain accident and sadly, killed a highly experienced and respected New Zealand mountaineer. I met Anton a few times in the Southern Alps and have a huge ammount of respect and admiration for he and his achievements.

I leave it up to long-time friend Dave Macleod who said Anton was a quiet, gentle person, but immensely strong physically "in terms of his fitness".

His partner Barbara said keeping fit was his passion. "He was always careful about what he ate."

Dave Macleod said Mr Wopereis offered unconditional friendship "which I think is a rarity these days".

When not mountain climbing or working part-time as a survey technician, Mr Wopereis would often be out mountain biking or cross-country skiing.

"He had a competitive spirit that would surface in his mountain-biking. You would often go out with him on what you thought was a gentle ride which would quickly turn into a race.

"Even though he was 54, he still had a lot of toys in the sandpit so to speak."

Mr Wopereis was good at analysing the risk in a climb and saying "yes" or "no", Mr Macleod said.

"He wasn't a cavalier type of mountaineer and guide."

Mr Wopereis lived with Barbara in Wanaka, and helped care for her four children.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Barbara, children, family and close friends. This morning I saw this quote from the Ramayana that I thought appropriate.

"Oh, best fly-jumpers, just by my astounding and astonishing impetuosity shall I venture to start with the Sun who starts his journey of the day from Mt. Sunrise, and shall I go to Mt. Dusk before Sun, and again shall I venture to comeback even before the sundown towards the same day's flaming Sun when he is garlanded with flaming sunrays around him in midday, that too without my touching the land...

"Shall I overtake all the wayfarers in skyway, or shall I parch down the ocean, or pare off the earth...
Extract from: Valmiki Ramayana - Kishkindha Kanda in Prose Sarga 67


Gollum said...

The consolation is always that those dying in the mountains at least get to die in a place that they love - doing what they love. That gives meaning to their lives.

I spent a lot of my younger days in the Southern Alps and have also lost a few friends, including Chris Jillet who you mentioned a few blogs back. Now that I live in South-East Asia chained to the corporate treadmill I often think back to those days when we were penniless, hanging out in the shelter at White Horse Hill and getting pissed at the old Tavern Bar(now long gone).

I visited Mt Cook a few weeks ago for the first time in 20 years. We had beautiful cloudless days. Took a chopper flight to give the kids a look at the hills and the feel of the snow. The village is pretty sterile now but the hills are still awesome. Makes me dream of retirement - just gotta knock over the mortgage, pay for the kids' education, save some retirement funds and get off the treadmill.

Dying in the mountains doesn't seem so bad from a distance.

cragrat said...

I have just got back from Antons service in Wanaka - yet another Wanaka memorial gathering of old friends to celebrate old friends passing.

I was sorting out slides before the service and suddenly realised that I had probably climbed more peaks with Anton than with any of my other friends - from peaks at the head of the Murchison glacier (NZ) on a ski touring trip in the early 1980's - Phyllis, Acland, Broderick, Mannering and Cooper - back then Anton couldn't ski !!

.... to a summer Chamonix in 1986 - Aig du Moine, Aig d'Argentiere, Aig du Peigne, Nth spur Aig du Chardonnet, two of the best days in the hills ever where we climbed the Frontier ridge on Mt Maudit and next day the Brenva spur on Mt Blanc (with Jen) back to a huge feed of icecream (but the weather stopped us getting onto the Matterhorns Nth Face)

.... then there was some cragging at Smith Rocks in the US - with Julie Brugger, Todd Bibler and Beth Wald.... some summits in Peru - Artesonraju (with Roger Gocking and Thor) and Chopikalki and backing off the West Ridge of Santa Cruz before we really started because it didn't feel right to me at the time.

Unfortunately we hadn't seen one another lately so the goodbyes were even harder...

that such a small slip and small blow to the temple should have taken such a solid mountaineer will always make me wonder on the vagaries of life. Thanks for those wonderful days Anton. said...

In my opinion every person ought to browse on it.