Andrew Finnigan's Tribute

Hello. My name is Andrew, I am an employee of Alpine Recreation and more importantly a friend of the Braun-Elwerts. Here are a few of the memories that Gottlieb has left with me.

Gottlieb was super generous to me. He gave me a house to live in. He gave me a shed full of climbing gear to use at my leisure. He gave me some ski bindings. He gave me more money to guide Ball Pass than many get for guiding big peaks. He lent me a $1500 radio for 10 days just 3 weeks ago. He gave me an oportunity to get into the guiding industry and he never made me feel like I didn't deserve to be there. Of course all of these things were a gift from both Gottlieb and Anne.

Gottlieb was a man that had very strong principles. If you did something that violated his principles you certainly heard all about it. I think his principles were admirable. He framed his own ambitions and agenda within his principles. A great example of him sticking to his principles at cost to himself, is helicoptering clients into Caroline Hut. He never did it and ignored a massive potential money maker. A heli-hike or overnight at the hut below the Caroline Face would have been a real winner but he wouldnt have a bar of it because he didnt want more aircraft noise in the mountains. In a world wanting more and more of the short easy superficial mountain experience, Gottlieb believed in a deeper experience. We don't communicate our beliefs by what we say, we betray our beliefs with what we do. Gottlieb showed us his beliefs by the way he acted. He believed in hard work, he believed in family, he believed enjoying the side notes of climbing were as important as the climbing itself, the birds the plants the clouds and the rocks the people the food and the history. Gottlieb believed that we did change the mountain environment by being there, he accepted this but was a stickler for minimising our impact to maintain a pure experience for people today and tomorrow.

I loved how he questioned the guiding technique of short roping. He didnt mind rocking the boat.

So often I have seen it written; Anne and Gottlieb Braun-Elwert. I know it's silly but the first time I saw it I noticed that it said Anne first. It may have just been alphabetical.... it's rare to see the woman's name first and I always liked it. I guess much like Gottlieb's hero, Sir Ed, told the press, Tenzing and I pretty much arrived on top together. Anne and Gottlieb did it together. I never suspected that Gottlieb would die in the same year as Sir Ed. He had been talking about a plan to climb 60 peaks in 60 days as a 60 year old. He never got to try for that one.

I was always so amused by his talks when groups first arrived at Caroline Hut. He would sit them all down for a good 20min talk..... please dont piss around the hut..... no naked skin on the sleeping bags..... no food or drinks while reading the books........ squeeze out your tea bags so we dont have a leaky rubbish bag......... IT WOULD GO ON FOR 20 MINS. I remember the first time I did the hut talk.... I think it lasted about 2 min. He loved his hut and because he loved the hut it is in amazing condition. Other huts in the park are looking bad after 10 years but Caroline Hut is still imaculate 18 years after Gottlieb built it himself.

I always loved how he embraced NZ. When he sat about in the hut in the evening he would never talk about Reinhold Messner (The italian mountaineer that is perhaps the worlds most well known climber) or Alex Lowe (the American and one of the most technically able climbers of all time) or of Chris Bonnington (the Brit that is the most successful expedition climber of all time). He would never talk about the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland or of the South Face of Annapurna in the Himalayas. Instead he talked about, Mick Bowie former chief guide at the Hermitage and Peter Graham the Franz Josef born guide of the early 1900’s, he spoke of Hillary’s climb of the south ridge of Mt. Cook or of Tom Fyfe's solo of the NW ridge of Malte Brun. He loved the NZ mountains and the characters of these hills. I never once heard him hark back to how things are done better back in Germany. He never made us feel like he was lowering himself to spend his life in little Tekapo or little NZ in our litte 3000m mountains with our one lane bridges. I think it's because he never felt that way.

I was super impressed when last summer he walked a group into Caroline Hut on day one of a Ball Pass trip.... left the hut at 6am on day 2 back down to Tigger, his old 4wd in the Tasman Valley. He drove 4 hours to Wanaka and to a friend's funeral, he then drove back to Mt. Cook out the Tasman Valley and back up to Caroline Hut by 10:30pm. And, then of course over Ball Pass the next day. I wasn't impressed by the physical effort, but by the fact that he just did both! Most people would not go to the funeral or not guide the Ball Pass trip but he JUST DID THEM BOTH. Very few people would do that.

Gottlieb and I are very different. I sometimes found him hard to take. But I respected him hugely and he respected me, he was good to me and my life is much less for his loss. I will miss him. There were many great things about Gottlieb I hope to become.

Thank you.


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