Friday, 31 May 2013

Foreword to my book written by Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary was a kind man and always prepared to help fellow mountaineers and people from all walks of life. In 2005 he agreed to write the foreword on my book about Dr. Ebenezer Teichelmann a great New Zealand mountaineer, surgeon, conservationist and photographer, and like Sir Ed, a former President of the New Zealand Alpine Club.

Ed Hillary's motivational letter to a young adventurer.

Friday, 24 May 2013

A million page views today. Thank you.

Today I reached that magic total of 1 million page views on my blog. Thanks to Howard Arfin for helping, inspiring, demanding I set up a blog in 2007. He was so right saying that leaders in the Federation  (IFRC) should be giving their opinion to help engender more support for the poorest of the poor. Here are the stats from the counter a few minutes ago:

Pageviews today
Pageviews yesterday
Pageviews last month
Pageviews all time history

And what are the most popular ones in a day?

Entry Pageviews
Rob Hall's daughter Sarah climbs Kilimanjaro at 15...
14 Oct 2011, 80 comments
888 hits
A Master of the Mountains - Nicholas Roerich
11 Feb 2011, 212 comments
429 hits
Off to Minnesota next week for our North Pole Expe...
3 May 2011, 61 comments
389 hits
Khalil Dale, a few thoughts on a Red Cross colleag...
30 Apr 2012, 168 comments
363 hits

Horn of Africa Drought, Why does it keep happening...
15 Jul 2011, 2 comments
197 hihitsts

A detailed description of the Hindu Kush and other...
14 Aug 2010, 70 comments
196 hits
Keith Murdoch mystery. Remember that day NZ vs Wa...
24 Nov 2012, 20 comments
186 hits

107 grueling games in 18 months: 1888-89
17 Jun 2011, 176 comments
Hotel bombings in Jakarta
17 Jul 2009, 55 comments
157 hits
Christchurch two years on after the earthquake
21 Feb 2013, 44 comments

Thanks to all of you who have visited by blog; commented, debated, disagreed and unabashed, advertised. I love you all. I have been enriched by your participation.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Dead man climbs Mt. Everest - Paddy Freaney

Paddy Freaney right with Rochelle to his right, Bob McKerrow and Robin Judkins. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Paddy Freaney was one of the best guys I have ever known for playing practical jokes. His Moa photograph that puzzled ornithologists for months must be one of the best. ever. But imagine the headlines in today's  Christchurch Press
'Death has not stopped adventurer Paddy Freaney reaching the summit of Mt Everest,'  14 months after he died
At 10.58am (NZ time) 23 May (NZ time), Freaney and wife Rochelle Rafferty stood atop the world's highest peak.
Rochelle Rafferty is now the fifth New Zealand woman to stand on the summit of Mt Everest.
Freaney died last year, but that has done nothing to quell his exploits.
Rafferty has carried her partner of 20 years all the way from the Upper Waimakariri Basin to the Himalayas in a small canister.
Reaching the summit has fulfilled a lifelong desire for the couple.
They had planned to travel to the Everest base camp in 2011, but just before they were due to leave, Freaney was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Rafferty was considering trying for the summit on that trip.
Freaney, who rose to national fame in 1993 when he snapped a blurry photograph of a moa-like creature near Arthur's Pass, had attempted Everest three times.
The first two attempts were thwarted by bad weather. On the third, he injured his ankle while training in Nepal.
Freaney's ashes were not scattered at the summit, which is held sacred by Buddhists and many Nepalese.

Paddy Freaney made headlines reporting a moa sighting in the Craigieburn Range in 1993.
He was a notable climber and a former sergeant-instructor in the British Army's elite Special Air Service.
Born into an impoverished Irish family in 1939, he fought in Borneo and Muscat-Oman with the SAS.
He specialised in mountain survival and, on visiting New Zealand in 1969, fell in love with the Southern Alps.
He set up an outdoor education centre at Arthur's Pass and mentored many climbers. He made many expeditions in New Zealand and overseas, including the Himalayas.
Freaney built and ran the Bealey Hotel.
I never climbed with Paddy but once got close to it when I organised an expedition to get two publicans to the top of Red Lion Peak. It had never been climbed in winter before. But why Red Lion Peak ? Over 100 years ago, a young West Coast surveyor, who knew the hotel well, named the two prominent peaks at the head of the County Glacier Red Lion Peak and Mt. Evans, after the hotel and its publican. The idea was to try and get the overweight publican of the Red Lion hotel up Red Lion Peak. Paddy loved the idea.  So we finalised the group for Red Lion: Kevin Williams, 44, a carpet layer from Greymouth; Rod Buchanan, 52, bee keeper from Paroa; and David Norton, 34, a university lecturer from Christchurch. Peter and I made up the complement of five. The sixth member was to have been Paddy Freaney, but he was snowbound and unable to get over Arthur's Pass to join us. When I phoned Paddy shortly before we left, he said: “The only way I can come over is to flog a jigger and come through the tunnel to the West Coast.” Unable to commandeer a jigger, Freaney missed the trip. See full article here.
                                      Rochelle Rafferty with Ama Dablam in the background. 
In early 2009 I called into see Paddy and Rochelle at the Bealey Pub with Robin Judkins who had known Paddy longer than I. Paddy was in great form and he and Rochelle told us of their dreams to climb Everest and other peaks.

When Paddy Freaney died of cancer, and several hundred mourners made their way to his mountain home for a service with, not surprisingly, some unusual twists.
Mt. Everest, the final resting place for Paddy Freaney. Photo: Bob McKerrow

There was nothing ordinary about Paddy Freaney's life and his funeral was no different, a horse-drawn cart carrying the casket from his home across the road to his old pub, with the mountains he loved as a backdrop.
The Irish-born Mr Freaney, a former SAS soldier, had climbed most of the peaks in the area, and one summer he and a companion climbed all 31 New Zealand  peaks over 3000 metres high.
“Who dares wins – three words that epitomise Paddy,” says friend, Jeremy Watson.
Many mourners were outdoors enthusiasts he had encouraged or climbed with.To the public, he was known for a spectacular claim of a moa sighting near Arthurs Pass in 1993 - at the time he ran the Bealey Hotel, located nearby.
The news that the extinct bird might still exist went round the world and Mr Freaney stood his ground  in spite of scepticism from scientists.
“I think it’s as likely to be an image of a four-footed animal like a deer, as is it is to be a bird,” said scientist Dr Richard Holdaway at the time.
But the determined Mr Freaney was far more than just a moa man, after marrying fellow adventurer Rochelle Rafferty the pair embarked on some of the most challenging climbing expeditions here and around the world.
“He lived his life to the full,” said his wife Rochelle Rafferty.
“He didn’t count the years in his life but his life in his years, [he was] a truly inspirational character,” she says.
“What can you say, he was a legend - moas and all,” says Mr Watson.
In true Irish style Mr Freaney was taken back to the pub he had resurrected where mourners celebrated his life in exactly the way he wanted.

R.I.P on Everest - Sargamatha - Chomolungma Paddy.

Thanks to for permission to use excerpts from their articles.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

90 years of the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club - A nursery for mountaineers

In August 2013 The Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club celebrates 90 years of exploration, tramping (trekking) rock climbing and mountaineering. Here is my view on how it became a climber's nursery and how many of us learned skills that took us to remote mountain ranges of the world, the Amazon forests and to the Antarctic and Arctic  If you have any photos please send to me and I will add.
The jewel in Otago's crown, Mount Aspiring. Most climbers in the OT&MC aspired to climb to these heights. Many did, and went on to greater heights: Photo by Colin Monteath

So many competent New Zealand climbers came out of Otago, and it is interesting to look back at the origins of mountaineering in Otago, and wider afield so see why ? Here is a bit of a history of the club up until 1974, with special emphasis on why the club produced many outstanding mountaineers.

The N.Z. Alpine Club, formed in 1891, was the first organised mountain club in New Zealand. Several more were formed early last century, particularly after the First World War--the Tararua Tramping Club in 1919, The Otago Tramping & Mountaineering Club in 1923 and the Auckland Tramping Club in 1925. In Canterbury, a Christchurch Tramping & Mountaineering Club was formed in 1925. Later its male members formed the Canterbury Mountaineering Club.

With the Southern Alps well traversed regularly by Maori in search of Greenstone, food and for the general draw of what lays over the ridge, early New Zealand mountaineers and trampers generally ignored a lot of information available in Maori records and folklore. Here is an extract from my article on Maori mountaineers of South Westland.

The mana and beauty of the Pounamu was an added attraction to cross the Divide again and again, all the while gathering further alpine experience. Their pre-European glossary of snow and ice, whilst not as comprehensive as the Inuit (Eskimo), certainly proved that they had rubbed their paraerae (sandals) on the high mountain passes. Whenuahuka described the permanent snow on the high peaks and hukapapa was the name for the huge snowfields. The snow slides from the high peaks were hukamania, and as they grew and took on avalanche proportions, they became hukahoro. The glaciers that drained the snowfields were called hukapo, the glacial sediment waiparahoaka and the snow-fed water, waihuka. Kipakanui, or ice, was seen in the shady valleys in winter, and the thick ice which never saw the sun was named waiuka, meaning solid water.

Early runholders and goldminers in Otago often crossed passes in the late 1850s and early 1860 and set a path for later European climbers who followed. My great grandfather James McKerrow surveyor /explorer a true-blue Otago mountain man, surveyed many parts of remote Otago, Southland and Fiordland frequently climbing peaks, not only once but sometimes four times before he got the right weather to take a bearing. So many of us young mountaineers in Otago had a lineage from explorers, shepherds, runholders, goldminers, sheep stealers and surveyors and with our tough outdoor upbringing, we took to the hills of Otago, like ducks to water.

James McKerrow (pictured left) was the first person to climb Mount Pisgah in Fiordland in 1863. McKerrow noted that 'from its summit, the mouth of Caswell Sound and the ocean beyond, were seen on 3 January 1863. At that time there was a strong desire to find an overland route to the West Coast. 'The sighting of the West Coast from the interior for the first time, so far as I know, brought to my mind the sighting of "The promised land" by Moses from Pisgah, hence the adoption of the name."

One hundred and thirty years later, Southland mountaineer Stan Mulvaney wrote of how this was a very difficult task.  More on James McKerrow
So with this background of rugged Maori travelers  surveyors, runholders, goldminers and explorers, the spirit of the hills started a new era with Malcolm Ross of Dunedin heading for Mt Earnslaw in 1885 on an expedition which was characteristic of the 'pluck and daring', colonial ingenuity and self-reliance which typified the early exploits of New Zealand's homebred mountaineers (Ross 1892). Ice axes were improvised from manuka saplings and the blades of sheep shears, while horseshoe nails provided extra friction for his boots (Gilkison 1957: 32). Ross's expedition triggered a number of attempts on Mount Earnslaw, which was finally climbed in 1890 by one of the original expedition members, a young local shepherd and tourist guide called Harry Birley.

By erecting a cairn on the summit, he left not only proof of his ascent, but also marked the advance of man further into this remote wilderness.

Between the first and second World Wars, in the context of social dislocation and economic hardship, young men and women in Otago were drawn to mountain environments for an experience which diverted them from, and in a sense gave meaning to, the world and time that they were living through. It was also a time increasingly characterized by the 'more rigid structures, impersonal forces, and sprawling cities' of the historical momentum of rationalization and bureaucracy (Olssen 1981: 278). explore 'their' mountains and that therein they discovered a sense of self.

From its inception, the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club ran trips to remote parts of Otago and Southland and members quickly gained bush, river, snow and ice techniques. Photo: OTMC archives.

So the formation of the Otago Tramping Club club was not an isolated event. Dunedin had been the home of a good many noted trampers and mountaineers such as Malcolm Ross, Kenneth Ross, H.F. Wright, J.K. Inglis, E. Miller and E. A. Duncan. In the earliest post-war years groups of Otago University students - G. M. Moir, R. S. M. Sinclair, D.R. Jennings and many others - had been exploring and track-cutting in the Hollyford and Cleddau Valleys. And both the hills around Dunedin and the Routeburn, Greenstone and Hollyford areas saw an ever increasing number of visitors. Amongst these the idea of forming a Club had been discussed informally, and the idea was quick to gain acceptance.

In 1923 the new Club immediately started with a flourish, and forthwith set out to walk. There was an immediate rush of new members, and at the end of the first year the roll was 157. The first tramp was planned for Saturday afternoon, September 1. About 50 members assembled at Ross Creek reservoir and set off up the Pineapple Track to Flagstaff - a clear sunny day, with a cold south-westerly wind, the kind we know so well. The following Saturday some 60 persons gathered at the Gardens corner for a climb of Signal Hill and down the other side to Burkes; and this was followed the next day by a trip to Whare Flat, where various parties converged on a pleasant river-bank below McQuilkan's (long since washed out by floods and ruined by the invading gorse).

Ben Rudd at his hut with Otago Tramping Club visitors 1923.

A fortnight later while one group climbed Mt. Cargill, two others set off for Whare Flat - one of which made the journey successfully, but the other was stopped and warned off by Ben Rudd, the old hermit whose property was long afterwards purchased by the Club. Scott Gilkinson was one of those cut-off and still remembers the feelings of alarm as they encountered the stocky, bearded little man with the shot-gun. As a result of this, the Club arranged with Ben Rudd that he would cut a track through the manuka scrub, thus providing a route to Whare Flat while keeping members well away from Ben's property. For this he was paid the princely sum of £5, and the track was under very

By 1930 then, the Club was well established as a force in the community. Whereas previously trampers had been looked on almost as cranks, or at best as rare curiosities, their activities were now accepted as rational and respectable. The 'thirties, and the onset of the Depression, saw the Club ready to play its part.

At 4350 feet (1325 m) above sea level Big Hut. In 1946 the Otago Ski Club opened this spacious 70-bunk ski lodge near the summit of the Rock and Pillar Range. The Otago University Tramping Club, then the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club, took over the hut in the 1980s and did repairs that kept the elements out.

On the local scene there was extensive development of active interest in the mountains. For seven years the Otago Tramping Club had been building up its activities. The Otago University Tramping Club was functioning—very actively in some years, more modestly in others. Under the influence of Ellis, Miller, Boddy, Aitken and others, Otago men had been taking an active interest in the higher mountains in North-west Otago. At the end of 1930 the Otago Section of the N.Z. Alpine Club was formed in Dunedin, this being the start of a long period of friendly co-operation between trampers and mountaineers. In 1932, as a result of five weeks of continuous ski-able snow on Flagstaff, the Otago Ski Club was formed; the Tramping Club " learned with interest of its formation and extended to it its good wishes for a successful future ". The three clubs operating in their respective fields worked in well together, with some members common to all, and with members of one of the clubs not infrequently becoming interested in the others.

My hero, my guru, Vern Leader, a great Otago cricketer, mountaineer and tramper, was alienating himself from New Zealand's traditional Alpine fraternity in the late 1930 by carrying on the Mount Earnslaw tradition  set by a young local shepherd and tourist guide called Harry Birley who soloed Mt. Earnslaw in 1890. Birley, Leader and denz, all revolutionaries had something in common which I wrote on my website.

Bill Denz on  one ocassion  took a large coffee jar from the house I lived in at Mount cook in 1972 which he used as a water bottle on his new route on Mt. Cook. Some weeks later when I did a Grand Traverse with Aat Vervoorn, when we guided 64 year old Vern Leader, we discovered the infamous coffee jar on the ridge. You had to admire Bill for the sheer audacity and guts of this young emerging mountaineer.

Vern Leader, 44 years older than Bill at the time, probably identified with Bill Denz better than most, despite the age gap. Vern who did a number of large first ascent solo climbs in the Earnslaw group, had written up his climbs in the NZAJ, and was publicly criticised in NZAC publications for dangerous practices. So when we found Bill Denz's abandoned coffee jar, Vern understood better than most, what solo climbing was about, and the flak you get for being bold.

Right: The trusty 'Mountain Mule' pack carried the loads for over four decades, perhaps longer. From lugging 90lb bags of cement and
 4 x2s on the frame, huts were built. On Christmas trips 90 lb packs were not uncommon. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Interest in organised Christmas trips reached a peak in 1947 when no less than three expeditions were planned Rockburn - Olivine, Hopkins and Ahuriri, with 50 to 60 members involved. Gordon McLaren and Murray Douglas climbed Mt Ward (third ascent) - the first major ascent to be made by the climbing enthusiasts. A high standard of safety was maintained on all these trips and no incident of any sort occurred, despite the numbers in the field.

Christmas 1948 saw another Club camp in the Wilkin Valley. Pack horses took half a ton of stores to Jumboland Base Camp and their owner charged £97 for the privilege. Every part of the Wilkin and its tributaries were visited, and several good climbs made, including the first ascent of the inaccessible Pickelhaube in the South Wilkin. Jack Hoskins and Scott Gilkison made a first crossing from the West Coast via the Waiatoto, Pearson Saddle and South Wilkin. The Rees, Dart, Matukituki, Rockburn, Hollyford and Ahuriri were also visited by other parties. Aspiring was climbed by Gordon McLaren and party, and Murray Douglas climbed Mt Cook - the Club's first major post-war ascents.

John Armstrong. One of the strong and visionary Presidents the club had in its long history. John was behind the Freedom March that broke the Government's THC stranglehold on the Milford Track in 1965.

It is interesting to note just how advanced the Club had become by the end of '63, with parties as far afield as Cook, Homer, Harrison, Tutoko, Matukituki, Dart and Rees. A considerable number of peaks were climbed in these areas, and while this may be commonplace today, it was then regarded as another milestone in the Club's history. In November 1963, the Club moved into its (then) present premises in Lower Dowling Street. By 1964 the Club was under the capable control of President Gerry Kampjes who initiated skiing within the Club, and expressed a desire for the Club to build a hut at Coronet Peak. Models, plans and specifications were prepared, but even up until 1968 " red tape foiled all plans to go ahead with this.

John Armstrong carried on the tradition of capable and innovative Presidents with entrepurnurial skills, a sense of adventure, and an even bigger sense of humour.

Women always played a leading role in the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club. Robyn Norton (now Armstrong)  went on a number of  big, remote journeys such as this one in Forgotten River, the Ollivine Ice Plateau and climbing peaks at the head of the Rockburn before coming down the Rockburn in 1967 with future husband John Armstrong and a young Bob McKerrow.

On January 8th and 9th, 1966, six Club members climbed Mt Cook - M. Jones, G. Kampjes, J. Armstrong, G. Hasler, I. Meyer and H. Laing. Although Club members had climbed Cook before, and have since climbed far more formidable peaks, this does serve to give some idea of the standards reached during this period.

Murray Jones right with Sherpa friends on a trip over the Lumding La where we had an attempt on Kwandge. in 1975. Photo: Bob McKerrow

A change in attitudes was noticed in 1966, and is evidenced in the following report which is worth a place in history:

At a lively extraordinary general meeting held on October 26, 1966, the grandiose plans of the committee, led by radical President John Armstrong, were amended. Chief Guide James consented to remain in the cabinet, as tramping is still an 'approved' sport.

The following motion was passed after hours of discussion and much amendment. "This Club should continue to encourage tramping, climbing, ski mountaineering and ski-ing without detriment to the Club's prime aim of tramping."

Bob Cunninghame: " There has been a considerable change in the last five years. There was next to no climbing up until that time."

Gerry Kampjes: " Five or six years ago there was little ambition in the Club and less than half the number of people."

Graeme Hasler: "Safety is of paramount importance. We must have a balanced club"

Laurie Kennedy: "Something must suffer if we run a climbing course"

Jim Freeman: " People now have more money and are able to spread out into areas and sports not previously possible. Now less scope for tramping. Climbing is the natural outcome of tramping"

Alan Thomson: "Need to support tramping"

Arthur James: " Far better to have a small specialist club where you know most of the people rather than a large social ski-ing and climbing organisation."

Jim Cowie: " If the O.T.C. does not run an instruction course in climbing there is little incentive for the likes of me to remain in the Club."

Roger Conroy: " Let's change the name to the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club"

Ross Adamson: "Too much advertising on ski-ing by word of mouth and publications"

Photo below: Bob McKerrow (l) Graeme Lockett and Keith McIvor on the summit of Mt. Huxley, Easter 1967. photo: Jim Cowie

Easter '67 still saw climbing being carried out with Bruce and Ken Mason, Heather and Stu. Thorne, Logan McGhie and Dick Brasier climbing Mt McKenzie. Mt Strauchon was climbed by Stu. Thorne, Logan McGhie and Dick Brasier, and Mt Huxley by Bob McKerrow, Graeme Lockett, Jim Cowie and Keith McIvor.

Christmas 1967-68 saw Club trips led by John Armstrong and Bruce Mason to the North Routeburn, North Col and Rockburn, other's going on to Fohn Saddle and the Beansburn. Parties led by John Fitzgerald went to Martins Bay, Big Bay, Pyke, Alabaster Pass, Olivines, Cox Saddle, Hidden Falls, Park Pass and Rockkburn. Trevor Pullar looked after a party from the Arawata River to Mlilford Heads, Laurie Kennedy's party went into the Olivines whilst Jim Cowie, Keith McIvor and Bob McKerrow spent 10 days in the Cook region and 10 days at Aspiring. Graeme Hasler also ,was back in the Cook area. All in all, a fantastic amount of tramping and climbing was achieved during this season - on a scale which was to continue until the end of the '60's.

Keith McIvor right and Bob McKerrow left, on the summit of Malte brun in 1967.

Club member Boh McKerrow was a member of the 1968 Andean Expedition, and in return for some assistance from the Club, provided interesting accounts of his exploits.

The number of Club members who went south to the Antarctic during the '60s included Ken Gousmett, Keith McIvor, Bob McKerrow and Frank Graveson. A large number of members have tramped and toured overseas, with some distinguishing themselves on the climbing scene. Two names that spring to mind readily are Bob McKerrow and Murray Jones.

Bill Denz  (right) went on to be one of, or if not the greatest, New Zealand mountaineer,  started in the Otago Tramping Club. While I was climbing in Peru in 1968, Bill Denz at the AGM August 1968, was elected onto the club committee. As his biographer Paul Maxim writes, “through the OTC, Denz and his friends met some of the seasoned local climbers Bob Cunningham and John Armstrong, overseeing his first climbs at Long Beach. Perhaps that is a good place to stop as Bill went on to be not only New Zealand’s greatest mountaineer, but one of the best in the world. We owe so much to the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club, and the mighty mountains of Otago.

Calum Hudson carries on the OT&MC tradition of rock climbing at Long Beach with the first ascent of "Sticky Fingers" in 1973.

A recent bulletin of the OT&MC shows a very active club with membership rising and the nursery alive and well.

I was not entirely happy with the above history up until the early 70s, so I wrote to Calum Hudson asking if he could fill the gaps.

Dear Calum
I know you are a busy man, but believe you can fill a huge gap in my Otago mountaineering history. You are from Dunedin, and I believe Murray Judge and Phil Herron are too ? Correct? After a few years working at Mount Cook, I left in mid 1973 for Vietnam and spent the next 8 years overseas so I missed out on a lot of top climbing. From reading the Bill Denz book, Murray and Phil come on the scene in 1973 and do the 1st ascent Marian Nth Face and then NW face of Sabre. Any information you can provide will be much appreciated. Thanks, Bob

Calum wrote a very comprehensive reply.

Hi Bob,
Please forgive me my tardiness in responding to your request.

First of all Murray Judge is from Wellington and had climbed at Titahi Bay, and came to Dunedin in the early 70's to study medicine. He was a brilliant technical climber right from when we first met in about 1972 and was climbing much harder than anyone else around! Phil Herron was from Dunedin, his father Jack was the rector at Bayfield High School and was a pretty tough character! I believe he had been awarded a DFC in WW2 but I have tried verifying this on the Internet to no avail. As far as I know there was no connection with the David Herron you mention.

Murray Jones from the OT&MC together with Graeme Dingle showed that New Zealand climbers could match it with the best in the world when they were the first mountaineers in the world to climb all the six great North Faces in the European alps in one season in 1969. In New Zealand, Calum Hudson together with Phil Heron from the OT&MC took our reputation into the 1970s with some gutsy climbs. In the 80s Calum was at the cutting edge of new routes such as this photo on "Maori Alphabet", Double Cone, Remarkables; during the first ascent with Kim Logan and Rob Turner in Jan.1986.

Despite what Paul Maxim says in his Bill Denz Bio, Phil did not "learn the ropes" from me! He and I climbed Mt Ollivier together at labour Weekend 1970 (both aged 14) on an OTC trip to MT Cook. We were accompanied by Judy Knewstubb, Pauline Robilliard and Rod McKenzie and the following day were taken aside by Gordon Hasell and taught the invaluable art of step cutting which I am eternally grateful for!

Phillip went to Mt Cook with John Broad and Trevor Glossop at the end of 1971, a trip that I was to go on as well until Judy Knewstubb phoned my mother and suggested that I should not be allowed! I was heart broken of course and to make matters worse Henry Stoddart refused my participation in the OTC Xmas trip to the Olivines as he deemed me too small to carry the necessary food and equipment! So I went to Fiordland with my father and made a double crossing of the Routeburn via the Pass beneath Emily Peak in atrocious conditions and then went to Homer where l climbed Barrier with a chap from Tasmania.

I had priorly made my first trip to the Darrans at Labour Weekend of 71 on an OTC trip where I ventured to Moraine Creek and climbed a small unnamed peak between Apirana and Revelation with Colin Strang, Eugenie Ombler and Heather Craw.

Later in the Summer of 71/72 I returned to the Darrans twice more. In January 72 whilst at Long Beach I overheard the Big Boys discussing their plans to climb a new route and asked if I could go! So the following weekend with Alan Smith, Bruce Clark, Ken Calder and Pete Glasson I made my first new route on the Sth Ridge of Apirana. A couple of weeks later I was invited to join a Venturer Scout climbing course at Homer Hut. Along with Peter McKellar and Murray Kokich from the OTC, we filled in a vacancy on what was to be a very beneficial week of learning in my climbing career. Under the experienced and colourful tutelage of Harold Jacobs, Austin Brookes and Don Morrison we got stuck in to a fantastic week of climbing which culminated in an East/West traverse of Sabre. I was well and truly hooked on the Darrans by this stage!!

Anyway, back to Phil. Sometime in 1972 I realized I had not seen him for some months and rang him up to ask why he'd not been climbing. About that time, we had decided to investigate why the crag at Mihiwaka had not been climbed on and if there was any basis to the rumours that "the rock was loose" and "the crag was so steep one would need a ladder to get started"! So the rush was on, and one day I led Phillip and Eugenie Ombler up what was the second route at Mihiwaka, "Living in the Past" , the climbing went on and on, none of us had climbed anything as high before. But from that day on, Phillip never looked back and was into climbing like a man possessed!!

At the end of 1972 Phillip and I carried our brand new Galibier RD's to Malte Brun Hut (to preserve the new rubber soles) and proceeded to Tasman Saddle the following day where we mucked around and climbed Aylmer. Then after a spell at the Mt Cook Village where we had the privilege of a meeting with Max Dörfliger who visited us whilst we were camping in the picnic shelter, we headed in and up Haast Ridge for a couple of days and climbed Silberhorn. Then we were off to the Darrans in early Jan 73 with Rob Turner and Colin Strang for an ascent of the Notch route on Talbot and the West Ridge of Sabre.

After this it seemed Phil was determined to head onto the front line so to speak and by the following Summer he was in the thick of it with Bill and Murray. I meanwhile took a gentler approach making do with first ascents on the Nth and Sth faces of Belle, the 4th ascent of the Nth Buttress of Sabre and a solo ascent of the Jones/Campbell Route on the Summit Pyramid of Talbot before heading in July 74 off to Europe and Yosemite Valley for 2 years sadly never to see Phil again!

Phil was nicknamed the "Kamikaze Kid" because he was apparently Fearless and it did not seem to phase him at all to find his runners disappearing below his feet as he climbed. He was in my memory not particularly talented technically as a rock climber, just incredibly cool and brave! He also had amazing stamina due to his penchant for cross country running. Phil was in fact 19 when he died being 2 months short of his birthday.

I have a couple of incredibly funny stories about Phil, and of course there are a few regarding my time with Bill as well, who was very good to me as I grew as a climber. However I will save them for some time when we can meet in person!

We must have crossed paths or come near enough during those early years Bob. But my only real recollection of you was at an OSONZAC dinner at the new Northern Oaks Union Rugby Club in Great King Street when you were making a speech and a fellow named Johnny ?? had some disagreement with you and there was a bit of a Fracas ensued!!

Calum Hudson on the first ascent of "Aqualung" at Mihiwaka in 1973.

Kim Logan and I met at Homer Hut in the early 80's and in December 1981 we walked up the Hooker to Empress, not together mind and the following day I made a solo ascent of the Sheila Face of Cook and Kim made an ascent of Earles Route. I sat on the summit smoking for an hour before Kim arrived with bare hands and bleeding knuckles, and on asking where were his mittens he replied, "I stuck them down my Bush-shirt and they fell out!" We worked together for the Park at Mt Cook the following year when the infamous rescue of Mark Inglis and Phil Doole occurred and we were both in the Iroquois helicopter when it crashed on the Empress Shelf!! I ended up staying in Queenstown with Kim and his then wife Sharon in the mid 80's and that is when Kim and I with my old friend Rob Turner from Bradford in Yorkshire made the first big rock climb on Double Cone on the Remarkables in Jan 1986 with our ascent of "Maori Alphabet" a route which for some reason has been erroneously misreported in everything that has been published to date!! Hopefully the next edition Guidebook to the area which is currently underway will have the True Story which is also a rather funny tale I will relate to you at some time! Kim and I did one other shorter and harder rock route above Lake Alta that Summer which thus far has failed to make print at all! I have not seen a hell of a lot of Kim for quite some time, we seem to move in different circles these days and it appears on the few times I have dropped in to see him in Cromwell he has m not been at home. However, I have very fond memories of the times we hung out and climbed together.

Kim Logan without shirt 2nd from left with Peter Hillary to his right and Matt Comesky to his left in Islamabad after their fatal K2 expedition in August 1995 when Bruce Grant of Queenstown and Jeff Lakes from Canada died. I met them in Islamabad before they went and helped with transport and met the the survivors on arrival. For further information, read this. 

Well Bob I really have got carried away here and written something of a small Essay! But I hope it fills a few gaps in your history of Otago Mountaineering. I am more than happy to dredge my mental archive for anything else it may hold that would interest you!

Until then I wish you all the best in your work and further adventures, and I look forward to catching up with you in person in the not too distant future!

Cheers, Calum.
Keith McIvor with Vicky Thompson at Sefton Bivvy in 1969. Photo: Bob McKerrow

PS: I did read your Blog on Keith McIvor too which I found very moving. I met Keith at the OTC in 1972 and went on an OTC trip to Ball Hut that Winter where we spent the weekend ice climbing on the Tasman white ice. Keith was very good to me as well and such a delightful person to be around. Bill Denz was on that trip too and the three of us ended up returning to Dunedin in Keith's old Austin A40. I saw him once again at the Alpine Club after that and will never forget the day at OBHS when I learned of his death on the Caroline. I was devastated as you can imagine. The day I learned that my friends could die in the mountains! And that sombre day following with a Memorial Service at the Church in James St in NE Valley. Wow!

Thanks to Lee Davidson for permission to use extracts from her publication:

The Spirit of the Hills: Mountaineering in Northwest Otago, New Zealand, 1882-1940.

Special thanks to Callum Hudson for providing an excellent history of his era.

Historian dies hours from rescue

Leslie Wright
MISSED: Les Wright was loved by his family.
t historian Les Wright’s family has revealed he died only hours before searchers found him after surviving four days lost in dense North Island forest.
His partner, Deborah Carden, said today searchers found a small bivvy near his body that he had erected for shelter and lined with fern fronds to stay warm in Pureora Forest, near Taupo.
Tragically, it appeared he had got up last Thursday night and slipped down a bank, knocking himself unconscious, she said.
His body was found on Friday morning in the forest about 5km from his car.
The family had been told he might have died from a combination of head injuries and hypothermia.
Carden said he would have heard the police helicopter overhead during the frantic search last Thursday.
It was particularly heartbreaking knowing they had been so close to saving him, she said.
‘‘Les would have done everything that a person lost in the bush should have done except staying put until we got there.
‘‘It’s conjecture he got up that night because he heard someone.’’
Wright, 63, of Punakaiki, went missing on May 13 after heading out tramping.
He and Carden had been staying at the Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park with a friend and she had alerted police after he failed to return that night.
A huge search was launched in the area, ultimately spanning a 300km radius, and was initially hampered because Wright failed to let anyone know where he had planned to tramp that day.
Last Wednesday, a power meter reader noticed a car parked on a forestry road and she called police that evening after media coverage made her realise it was the missing man’s car, narrowing the search to Pureora Forest.
On the evening before he went missing, Carden talked to him about a conservation project in the forest to protect kokako, a rare native bird.
Wright, a well-known author, had told her it was one of about five areas he was keen to visit during their stay, but earlier searches failed to find his car because it was off the beaten track.
He had never seen a kokako and Carden believed he had set out on the 30 minute Waipapa loop track in the forest in his search.
‘‘I suspect that he saw one. It’s the obvious answer.’’
She suspected he had launched off track to follow the kokako and got lost in the old podocarp forest, despite being an experienced bushman.
His funeral will be held in Greymouth on Saturday.
What a tragedy! I worked with Les Wright in Hokitika for the Department of Conservation for some years and also with his partner Deborah Carden at Franz Josef Glacier for two years. My thoughts go out to Deborah and her family and may we keep Les's memory alive.

Monday, 20 May 2013

A wonderful tribute to Les Wright, West Coast historian and conservationist.

by Simon Nathan

Les Wright explaining some of the mining relics uncovered from excavations around the opencast mine near Reefton

Les Wright explaining some of the mining relics uncovered from excavations around the opencast mine near Reefton
It was a terrible shock to hear of the recent death of Les Wright in Pureora Forest. Les was an adopted West Coaster, and since his arrival there in 1973 he made an enormous contribution to heritage conservation through his broadcasting, writing and dedicated work behind the scenes.
When I was asked to write the regional entry on the West Coast for Te Ara about five years ago, a visit to Les was high on my priority list. I have happy memories of an afternoon spent in his home near Punakaiki as Les generously shared his experiences and answered questions while I scribbled notes.
When I asked him about distinctive West Coast artists he mentioned a number of contemporary names, then added that he had always had a soft spot for an almost unknown Czech photographer called Joseph Divis, who recorded life in mining towns in the early 20th century. I was enthralled by the images he showed me, and this was the start of a temporary obsession that was to dominate my life for about 18 months. I chased up Divis images and archives from Dunedin to Waihi. Throughout this period Les was constantly supportive through regular emails and long phone calls. When a bookwas eventually ready for publication Les declined to be included as a co-author, saying that he hadn’t written the text – but he had certainly provided much of the inspiration and background. We reached a compromise, with his name on the title page.
Les always had an interest in people and communities, especially mining towns. He was an excellent listener and oral historian, gathering memories from older residents who were overlooked by others. His books include accounts of the Rewanui settlement, the Powells of Charleston, the Big River quartz mine and most recently the short-lived mining settlement of Brighton. He also co-authored a history of cave exploration in New Zealand, which was an important resource for the Te Ara story on Caving.
Although Les had wide interests, the abandoned gold-mining town of Waiuta was particularly close to his heart, and he worked on different aspects of its history and conservation for over 30 years. He was a long-term supporter of the Friends of Waiuta, and had edited their newsletter since it started in 1985.
One of his recently published books, Our own fun: childhood memories of Waiuta is a delightful gem, and I know that it was a source of great satisfaction to him. It collects together memories of people who grew up in Waiuta and presents a composite view of childhood in an isolated mining town. Many of the contributors have now died, and their memories would have disappeared if Les had not painstakingly recorded their oral histories.
Les played an important role in the preservation of the West Coast’s mining heritage, but much of his work was behind the scenes. Among other things, he was a long-standing member of the West Coast Conservation Board and local file-keeper for site records for the Archaeological Association. For several years he produced West of the Alps, a local monthly tourist newspaper. In recent months he had been working on a mining heritage trail in the Nine Mile area north of Greymouth. His name was on many heritage or conservation plans for sites all over the West Coast as author, contributor or reviewer.
Les was often consulted about mining relicts uncovered during excavation of an opencast mine near Reefton. The mining company established a central site where relicts were deposited – nicknamed ‘Les’ Ironmongery’ – and he delighted in identifying and cataloguing pieces of rusty machinery. The photograph at the top of this post was taken while Les was showing a group some of the relicts that fascinated him.
Les Wright is mourned by his family and a wide circle of friends and colleagues. We remember someone with a passion for conservation and history who did so much to preserve and document the mining heritage of the West Coast.
Thanks to Te Ara for getting permission to run this excellent article written by Simon Nathan . Here is the link. to the Te Ara blog