Thursday, 23 March 2017

Memorial for fallen climbers brings closure to families after over 50 years

When Michael Wilby was nearly 10, his brother travelled around 

the world from England to Arthur's Pass.  He never came back. 

Over 50 years later, a memorial has been placed behind the chapel in the village, in memory of Jeffrey and the four others who lost their lives on Mt Rolleston in June 1966. The incident was one of New Zealand's worst alpine disasters.
The others in Jeffrey's climbing group were Christchurch's Bruce Ferguson, 19, Invercargill's Colin Robertson, 20, and British climber Michael Harper, in his 20s. All four were experienced mountaineers. A fifth man, John Harrison,  died trying to find them.
Michael Wilby travelled from England to pay tribute to his brother, Jeffrey Wilby, who died in the mountaineering ...
Michael Wilby travelled from England to pay tribute to his brother, Jeffrey Wilby, who died in the mountaineering incident in 1966.
Wilby and his climbing party set out in good weather on June 19, 1966, but failed to return as expected after a norwest wind caused a dramatic weather change.
Several days later, a group of eight searchers were camped on the Otira Slide when an avalanche buried the camp.
About 45 people were at the dedication for the memorial, located at the start of the Avalanche Peak track behind the ...
About 45 people were at the dedication for the memorial, located at the start of the Avalanche Peak track behind the chapel in Arthur's Pass.
Seven managed to escape their tents from under three metres of snow, but Harrison – one of New Zealand's top mountaineers – was killed.
Three bodies were found in the years following, but Jeffrey's remains were still on the mountain.
Michael Wilby travelled from Blackburn, England, for the memorial dedication on Thursday, his first time in New Zealand.
A robin takes a flower from the memorial for the five men who died in a mountaineering accident on Mt Rolleston in 1966.
A robin takes a flower from the memorial for the five men who died in a mountaineering accident on Mt Rolleston in 1966.
"To see his name on there, it's as if he's alive again, even though he's still up there. It is quite special for me."
"He didn't want to sit at a desk."     The memorial – created by Canterbury artist Sam Mahon – comprises a bronze boot on top of a large rock with a plaque naming those who died in the tragedy. 
Thursday's short service finished with a bottle of whisky passed around, while a native robin plucked at the flowers placed inside the boot. Harrison's widow, Annie Harrison-McGregor, was a driving force behind the memorial. 
A rescue party of about 20 men, in blinding snow, make their way up the Otira Valley. Photo published on June 24, 1966.
A rescue party of about 20 men, in blinding snow, make their way up the Otira Valley. Photo published on June 24, 1966.
She said she wanted to "have something here which allowed people to remember it with a smile instead of a terrible pain in their hearts".
"I wanted closure for everybody."
Lorayne Ferguson who lost her brother, Bruce, in the tragedy, said the memorial was not just about the five people who lost their lives.
Emergency services gather in Otira Valley, which leads to the eastern face of Mt Rolleston. Photo published on June 23, 1966.
Emergency services gather in Otira Valley, which leads to the eastern face of Mt Rolleston. Photo published on June 23, 1966.
"There were so many people involved at the time, and they still have their vivid memories – in some cases very harrowing ones."
Her brother was full of life and was off climbing at every opportunity, she said.
"It was just what he lived for."
A helicopter leaves Arthur's Pass to assist in the rescue attempt. Photo published June 25, 1966.
A helicopter leaves Arthur's Pass to assist in the rescue attempt. Photo published June 25, 1966.
John Wilson, who was part of the rescue party, was in the tent with Harrison when the avalanche buried the group. He and the other survivors were pulled out "in the nick of time". 
"It was one of the key episodes in New Zealand mountain memories and searches, and we're keen that memory survives beyond us."

Below. Member of the rescue team stand in a hole dug in the snow to free the men trapped by the avalanche on Mount Rolleston. Photo published June 24, 1966.  (Thanks to stuff NZ for permission to run this article)

We need you support to help drought affected people in Somalia.

Why has Sahra left her secure home in Christchurch and now working as a volunteer in Somalia? These are her words.

"I am involved because I am a Somali New Zealander and a NZ registered nurse currently on leave from my job, doing volunteer nursing in my home country of Somalia. I want to direct what assistance I can get to help familes who are suffering from a very severe drought. The area where I am working is secure."

Have a look at givealittle website where you can donate. Also there is a very good video showing the severity of the drought.

Sahra goes on to say: 

I intend to use funds raised to directly assist affected families in the drought affected areas surrounding Adaad In Somalia. I am currently doing volunteer nursing in Adaad Somalia with Iftiin Education and development. I have been shocked at the suffering I have witnessed. I have visited many familes in the countryside where the drought has devastated food for animals and humans alike. Livestock are dying and their survival is critical to a family's survival.
I want to raise funds to purchase immediate relief to family livestock. Prices are currently USD47 for 50 kg of sorghum. I will work with Al Hayat to ensure all food purchased is properly distributed to those most in need.

Here is an updated report from the UN.
Baidoa, Somalia - Four-year-old Safia Adan lies in Baidoa Regional Hospital in southern Somalia with a tube through her nose. She is suffering from severe malnutrition and dehydration. At her side her worried grandmother looks up to explain that Safia first became sick after drinking water from the local well.
"The water had changed colour but we still drank it," says her grandmother. "We stopped after Safia became sick. We brought her to the city because we knew you get could get good treatment here."
They were lucky – seven people from their village are now confirmed dead and the hospital has seen a surge in children suffering from water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea. 
They are the latest victims of the on-going drought ravaging Somalia that has left more than six million people, half the country’s population, facing food shortages and has seen water supplies become infected with bacteria rendering them undrinkable.
Last week the United Nations warned that a severe famine in Somalia was a distinct possibility and noted that if the rains failed again and urgent international action was not taken the country could see a repeat of the famine of 2011, which killed more than a quarter of a million people. 
"In the worst affected areas inadequate rainfall and lack of water has wiped out crops and killed livestock," the UN said in a statement released last week. "Communities are being forced to sell their assets and borrow food and money to survive."
Aid agencies are particularly concerned that the drought is exacerbating the country's on-going humanitarian crisis - 365,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished and 71,000 of those children are in need of urgent life-saving assistance.
"This time last year we had far fewer cases but due to the drought people will use any kind of water," says Dr Abdullah Yusuf, medical coordinator for the Baidoa Regional Hospital.
I hope you will give generouly via givealittle New Zealand.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

"Join us on the land" - Boris Lisanevich

"Join us on the land"

Remembering the legendary Boris Lisanevich, founder of the Royal Hotel

I had the pleasure of meeting Boris when I first went to Nepal in 1975 and today found this nostalgic article written by Lisa Choegyal which I am sure she would agree that I run on my blog.

S DNEM ROZHDENIYA: Boris cutting this 75th birthday cake in 1980

We recline on trekking mattresses on the sweet-smelling grass, bees and insects busy in the overgrown garden. Nursing a tin cup of Boris’ signature bullshot, a mix of local vodka, tomato juice and home-made beef bouillon, I take a break from the lunchtime picnic chat and gaze over the brick wall. Across the Valley stand the white peaks, crisp and clear in the luminance of 1970’s Nepal light.

I turn back and see Boris slumped precariously in a plastic chair, his bulk overflowing under the arm rests and a flowered shirt stretched tight across his stomach. He gesticulates with delight, laughing at one of Jim Edward’s more outrageous stories. Boris leans forward with difficulty and I hear him declare in his Slavic lilt: “I swear by vodka – it is part of life. I even have my head massaged with vodka!”

Other guests lounge on the ground, enjoying the wit, the lunch (always delicious pork schnitzel and rich potato salad) and strolling through “the land”, as Boris and Inger’s un-built plot in the south of Kathmandu Valley was known. As in: “Please join us midday Sunday on the land.” Regulars include painter and writer Desmond Doig, journalist Dubby Bhagat and Bernadette Vasseux of the French Embassy.

At the party Alexander Lisanevitch (Boris' son) Lisa Choegyal, Jim Edwards and Toni Hagen.

Boris Nikolayevich Lisanevich is a legend. One of the first non-official foreigners to live in Nepal, he was invited by King Tribhuvan in 1951 to open the Royal Hotel in Bahadur Bhawan. An ebullient White Russian ballet dancer and hunter born in Odessa Ukraine, Boris’ exotic background included fleeing Bolshevik persecution, performing with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes and Massine throughout Europe, and founding the 300 Club in Calcutta, the first to accept Indian members. With him in Nepal were his long-suffering Danish wife Inger, three small sons and a mother-in-law with a taste for collecting antiques.

By the time I knew Boris, the famous Royal Hotel had already closed, stories of its chaotic hospitality lost in the building’s lofty arches but immortalised in Michel Peissel’s book Tiger for Breakfast. One of my favourites is how Boris had to be extracted from a spell in prison to manage Queen Elizabeth’s 1961 visit. Today, the hotel building in Kantipath houses the Election Commission, but its corridors echo with the former footsteps of Boris’ guests – Jean Paul Guerlain seeking ingredients for his perfumes, Jean Paul Belmondo making a film that was never made, and Queen Sophia of Spain on her honeymoon.

Jim greatly admires Boris and has helped him through many lean times as he struggled with a series of restaurants in Kathmandu, always strong on entertaining but light on business acumen. Boris had restaurants in Dilli Bazar and Durbar Marg, but the first and most memorable for me was his Yak &Yeti in Lal Durbar. Lute Jerstad, the blond, intense climber who summited Everest with the Americans in 1963, took me there for my 23rd birthday in 1974, and Tenzin and I had our first date perched in the uncomfortable window alcoves around the circular hammered-brass fireplace. I was mesmerised by Prince Basundhara, slightly the worse for wear, and the sophisticated choice of flavoured vodkas, borscht, quail and becti fish.

Boris and Inger.

Boris was always kind, enveloping me in a generous bear hug and whispering tonight’s speciality. A highpoint for me was being asked to arrange his surprise 75th birthday party, where dinner-jacketed and bejewelled Nepalis mingled with guests from many continents, wine flowed and Desmond designed the layered chocolate cake.

Boris is long gone (he died at age 80 in 1985) inconveniently during Dasain so Jim and I had to mobilise a team of Mountain Travel Sherpas to dig his grave. Buried in the British cemetery, the funeral service was dramatic with Russian wailing, sobbing and embracing the coffin – followed by the final Boris party.

Outside today’s Chimney Restaurant, where the decor and even the menu are little changed, a plaque in the Yak & Yeti Hotel garden remembers Boris as the father of Nepal tourism. At its unveiling a couple of years ago amidst in-laws, grandchildren and Kathmandu’s travel industry, I was astonished to find myself the only person who had actually met him. 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Photographing the Russian Empire in colour

Pioneering photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii developed innovative techniques
 to capture parts of the Russian Empire in colour for the first time. This is almost
unbelievable. Such composition, texture, light and colour. Thanks to the BBC for
permission to run this. Have a look at this link.


Sunday, 12 March 2017

Dog sledding in the Arctic and Antarctic

Every spare day I can find, I spend at least an hour sorting out photographs and slides taken over 50 years. Today I am working on the various trips I have done in Antarctica and the Arctic with dogs and sledges. When I reflect, my trips with dogs, they are the most memorable of all my expeditions, and this is due to the relationships that builds up between you and the dogs. Here are a few of my shots.
For more on Scott Base, Antarctica huskies, see this link.

Travelling by plane with 50 huskies from Igaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay) to Eureka (79.9889° N, 85.9408° W) on Ellesmere Island. Then we flew in Twin Otters to Ward Hunt Island, our starting point for the North Pole.

                                   My two strong lead dogs at Scott Base, Rangi (l) and Oscar.

In 1985 we did a 1500 miles dog sled trip from Arctic Red River on the Mackenzie river Canda, to Point Barrow Alaska. A lot of the time was spent travelling on the Arctic Ocean. Paul Schurke (left) puts our gear in the tent while I check the condition of the dogs. (right)

         "Let me sleep another hours.' Odin, a Scott Base husky in 1969. (Antarctica)

The last of the Scott Base huskies, I shipped them from Antarctica to Lyttelton, NZ in 1987, and then to the US via Hawaii, to join Will Steger's kennel in Ely Minnesota. Here they are at Christchurch ready to be flown to the US.

 Following behind Chris Knott with his dog team near Scott base, Antarctica. 1970.

 Training for the North Pole on Baffin Island where we tested dogs, equipment and team members down to minus 45 oC.

                        A master of Antarctic dog sledging, Chris Knott. 1969 at Scott Base. 

                               Setting out on a trip from Scott Base with a team of huskies.

 Lead dogs, Mike and Kulak. Stronger than oxen and set good work ethics for the other dogs. Scott Base 1969-70

                                 Settling in for the night as the sun dips. Arctic Ocean 1986.

Brent Boddy was one of our North Pole team members who lived in Iqaluit, Baffin Island. Here is Brent with his dogs, his house behind and wife and son Nigel. Brent always carried a harpoon with him to test the thickness of the ice. A highly experienced Arctic traveller.

On our trip to point Barrow Alaska, we often skiied out front to coax the dogs along when they got bored. 1985

Friday, 10 March 2017

Three low-wattage luminaries

 Three low-wattage luminaries: left to right, Pete Barry, Aat Vervoorn and Bruce Jenkinsin on Tasman Saddle. Photo: Aat Vervoorn collection

One of the best books on NZ mountaineering covering the 60s and 70s, is Aat Vervoorn's 'Beyond the Snowline.'
I love this quote from his book: 
"Mountaineering is merely one among many mediums for self-realisation. What makes it exceptional is that, in mountaineering, it is difficult to credit yourself with spurious motives or convince yourself that your efforts actually matter to mankind. Halfway up a mountain face, with the glacier falling away below and around you sweeping buttesses of ice and rock which bring you face to face with weakness and fallibility. it is hard to pretend you have willingly exposed yourself to the danger that shoots you through with fear in the belief it will benefit society, or meet the pathetic animal needs that drive your body."

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Video of a solo ascent of Aoraki Mount Cook - 2017

What is it like to be on the summit of New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki Mount Cook?

Click on the word video to see this amazing solo climb by Greg Duley  of Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain just a few weeks back. 
When I was much younger, I climbed Aoraki three times. The first in 1968 by the Linda route, then on Christmas Day 1971 I did the east ridge with Chris Timms, descending into the Hooker valley. Then in 1973 I did a guided ascent with 64 year old client Vern Leader, and fellow guide Aat Vervoorn. Some photographs of various climbs of Aoraki. 
All photographs by Bob McKerrow

                           An aerial shot of Aoraki Mount Cook taken in 2016

                                          Just approaching the summit of Aoraki. 1973
                                                              On the summit ice-cap
Aat Vervoorn (l) with 64 year old Vern Leader on a Grand Traverse of Aoraki Mount Cook.

                                                 East Face of Aoraki Mount Cook

                           Aoraki Mount Cook from the west. Taken from Hokitika.

On the East Ridge of Aoraki Mount Cook with Chris Timms on Christmas day, 1971.