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

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Grassroots rugby and new rules gives base for New Zealand to win Rugby World Cup in 2011

It's on the lips of most New Zealanders`. "Will NZ win the 2011 Rugby World Cup ?"  To find the answer, I spent last Saturday at Pareora, a small farming community in South Canterbury seeing if I could come up with an accurate prediction.

Pareora under 6 rugby team on the attack against Celtic in South Canterbury, New Zealand. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The biggest single factor in New Zealand's favour is that significant changes have been made to the rules at the breakdown which gives huge opportunities and rights to the team taking the ball into the tackle, which suits hard runners such as Ma'a Nonu, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg, Dan Carter, Mils Muliaina and a new line-up of young players in the wings such as Victor Vito, Benson Stanley and Rene Ranger.

Mils Muliaini is typical of NZs hard-running backs who revel in the new rules which give rights to the player going into the tackle.

Future All Blacks from Pareora or from the visitors. Photo; Bob McKerrow

At Pareora I observed how strong 'grassroots' NZ rugby is and through a constant stream of talented players coming from small communituies like Pareora which has contributed hugely to our current strength at many levels of national rugby. The rules have allowed the All Blacks to play exciting, well constructed and fast running rugby which is our natural game. We've beaten South Africa twice in 3 weeks and Australia beat the Boks on Saturday night which that proves the dour Springbok and English kicking game does not win rugby in 2010.

Celtic playing Geraldine at Pareora, so typical of grass root NZ rugby.
Photo; Bob McKerrow

The NZ Maoris have beaten Wales, Ireland and England this year and the NZ under 20s recently won the world cup. Never before a year out from the Rugby World Cup have we had this depth.But the depth is from north to south. Southland took the coveted Ranfurly Shield from Canterbury last year and has pumped new life into provincial rugby.

I leave for Sri Lanka tomorrow after 3 weeks in NZ and I feel very positive New Zealand are on track to winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup thanks to the new rules and the strength at grass root level. Thank you Pareora.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

A journey to the West Coast of New Zealand

On Thursday last week I travelled by the Tranzalpine from Christchurch to Greymouth. Photo: Bob McKerrow

On Friday morning Kira, Leith and I walked down to Mananui beach, 5 km south of Hokitika and took this photo. It captures the wild mood of the West Coast. There I could pick out peaks I had climbed: Cook Aoraki, Tasman, Elie de Beaumont, Douglas, Haidinger, Haast, Lendenfeld, Dampier, Vancouver, Malispina, McFettrick, St. Mildred, Red Lion and Drummond. For five days I had clear views of the Southern Alps as I moved down the coast. Here are some photos of the journey.

Approaching Arthur's Pass. Photo: Bob McKerrow
The bridge across the Taramakau River. Photo: Bob McKerrow

A map of Westland.
Sunrise at Mananui Beach, 5 km south of Hokitika.Photo: Bob McKerrow

With my daughter Kira, and her son Leith at Mananui Beach.
Lake Maninapua. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Mount Cook Aoraki, Mt. Tasman. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Forest walk to Mananui beach. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Early morning on the Waitaha River. I know this valley well having climbed at the head of County Stream. In 1993 I was in a party that did the first winter ascent and traverse of Red Lion Peaks. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Lake Ianthe, north of Hari Hari. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The Wanganui River with Hendes Ferry on the right. This was where Carl Hende had his residence and was available with horse to assist people to cross. Photo : Bob McKerrow

Teichelmann country. Blue Lookout and the Lord and Lambert Ranges. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The view from the Wanganui river flats looking to the Lord and Lambert ranges. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The Kakapotahi River. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Kira and Paul have built a house on a hill top, south of Hokitika with a splendid view over the Southern Alps. See Mount Cook Aoraki and Tasman on the right. I spent a few days helping them with painting.

Tasman (l) and Mount Cook Aoraki (r). Photo: Bob McKerrow

The braided Waiho River which drains the Franz Josef, Callery, Spenser and Burton Glaciers. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Franz Josef Glacier. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Franz Josef Glacier from Castle Rocks Hut. Photo: Bob McKerrow

From Almer Hut looking to the Franz neve and the Southern Alps.Photo: Bob McKerrow

Thursday, 15 July 2010

A home for a very rare book - Herman Buhl, Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage

For over 17 years this precious book has been proudly displayed on my book shelves in Kabul, Peshawar, Almaty, Dhaka, New Delhi and up until a week ago, Jakarta; all places I have lived since I bought a first edition of Herman Buhl's book Nanga Parbat Pilgramage in the bazaar in Peshawar in 1994.
This book contains the last known signature of the greatest 20th century mountaineer, Herman Buhl.

The book that I purchased, along with many others in Peshawar, was a presentation copy to the Political Agent in Skardu, signed by the four members of the 1957 Austrian Karakoram Expedition including Buhl himself.

Last Sunday I presented the book to Colin Monteath  (left) to display in his Himalayan collection at Hedgehog House in Christchurch. Such a rarity, should be available to researchers and mountaineers as it is part of mountaineering history rather than being stuck on my shelves where few people can see the book. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Colin has put some superb photos of the mountains that Hermann Buhl climbed on plus further information.  Please visit Colin Monteath's site at the link below

In 1953, just a few months after Everest was first climbed, a German expedition pulled off the audacious first ascent of Nanga Parbat in Central Pakistan (8125 metres - the most westerly 8000 metre peak), that had claimed the lives of many German climbers during frequent attempts in the 1930s. Despite orders to return to base camp Hermann Buhl (left) pushed on to the summit (without supplementary oxygen) in what turned out to be a 40 hour climb that included a bivouac.

The 1957 Austrian Karakoram expedition left Skardu and trekked up the Baltoro glacier to a base camp under Broad Peak near K2. All four Austrians finally made the first ascent of the 8047 metre giant. Only two weeks later however, Hermann Buhl (right) died when he broke through a cornice after turning back shy of the summit of Chogolisa (7654 metres), a beautiful virgin peak within sight of Concordia. His partner Kurt Diemberger didnt see the fall and no trace was ever found of Buhl.

Wrinkled and exhausted, Hermann Buhl after his remarkable solo push to claim first ascent of Nanga Parbat in 1953.

I have copied the very historic words which appear in the first two blank pages of the book:

The inscription in the book with the signatures of the 1957 Austrian Karakoram Expedition. The full words are:

With friendly greetings and compliments
of the members of the


When resuming their expedition to




We are grateful for the great help extended to us and we start in high spirits

Signatures of

Marcus Schmuck (1)

Herman Buhl (2) Kurt Diemberger (3)

Qadeer Saeed (Capt) Fritz Wintersteller (4)

Skardu 13th April 1957

The words written on the page opposite under the signature of Habib ur Rahman, Political Agent Skardu on 5 July 1957.
In full they read :

The expedition – all four members – climbed together on BROAD PEAK ( above 26,000 ft) on 9th June 1957 No oxygen no high altitude porters were used. They also conquered another unnamed peak above 24,000. This was largely due to the organisation and determination of Herman Bhull (sic).

Unfortunately Herman Bhull met with a tragic death on 27th june 1957 while attempting another Peak. There he had a fall of 1000 ft in a treacherously soft snow. KURT was with him. His body could not be found inspite of three days intensive search.

Thus the conqueror of Nanga Parbat lies buried in the Baltoro Glacier region - a place of Pilgrimage of the mountaineers !

Habib ur Rahman

5th of July, 1957

So yesterday when I departed Christchurch by train for a holiday on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island, I felt that finally this rare book has a safe home with Colin Monteath and his Himalayan collection in Christchurch. Buhl's incredible story and the remarkable inscription now lies alongside  those written by other great Himalayan mountaineers.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

A weekend of walks, Antarctic experts and fine red wine.

Monday morning in Christchurch and it's about - 5 oC, and as I post this, I have just seen Spain win the  World Cup Football final. Viva la Espanol ! Commisserations Netherlands!

I have enjoyed the weekend with two long walks round the hills and coastline on the outskirts of Christchurch, visited a few good friends, and sampled some wonderful NZ red wine. Here are a few photos of the weekend:

On Saturday I went for a long walk from Taylor's Mistake beach to Boulder Bay. Above is Aroha with Diva,

From the track looking back at Taylor's Mistake Beach.

Sheep eat, oblivious of the stunning backdrop.
Looking down at Boulder Bay and some small baches (holiday homes)

The coastline back to Taylor's Mistake

Taylor's Mistake village at the end of Saturday.

On Saturday night I watched the All Blacks vs Springbok rugby test with Colin and Betty Monteath. Colin and Betty run one of the world's leading Mountaineering and Polar photo libraries

Colin (l) and I (r) looking at his latest book on Antarctica.

Colin has the largest Himalayan book collection in New Zealand and a huge Polar, New Zealand and Asian collection.

A view from Sugarloaf to Governors Bay. Last year I visited the Margaret Mahy, one of NZs famous writers who lives there.

From near Sugarloaf,  a view down to Lyttelton and the entrance at Godley Head. It was from this port, the gateway to Antarctica, that Scott, Shackelton and Byrd left for Antarctica.

At New Brighton, I watched young surfers riding the waves in below freezing temperatures.

I popped in to see another Antarctic expert, researcher and writer, David Harrowfield.  'The Call of the Ice' is a classic, a history of  fifty years of New Zealand in Antarctic, written by David.