Elke's Tribute

I’d like to start with a quote from Dad on reaching the summit of Cook with Phil Doole.

"Congratulations!" It’s hard to hold the tears back. “Well done, Phil!” I remember the last two times that I stood here, it was with my daughters Elke and Carla, both aged 14 at the time. Emotions know no age, there is no limit to the dreams and the aspirations of man and there are no limits to the quantum leaps that are born from such dreams.

Dad was more than just a great father – he was a good mentor, an inspiration and a friend. He was not afraid to go out and live his dreams – if there was something that he wanted to do, he would meticulously plan it to the finest detail and then go out and do it. When I said "Dad, when are we going to climb a real mountain?" he never said "No, you can’t do that" or "No, that’s too difficult", he said "Well, let’s start training up for it then". Nothing was impossible, but also, nothing was unplanned.

When people asked him about climbing in the mountains and the dangers involved, he would say "It is better to live your life doing the things you enjoy, rather than to wrap yourself up in cotton-wool and kill yourself with knife and fork".

One of my most memorable trips with him was climbing Elie de Beaumont on skis. We left Tasman Saddle Hut just as the moon was setting into a notch in one of Aoraki’s shoulders. For a couple of minutes before the sun rose we were skiing just by the light of our torches. I remember Dad hassling me when I lost my balance and toppled over into the snow, floundering around with my pack. We climbed up through the clouds to sit on the summit for an hour; enjoying the peaceful tranquillity (the fog in the valley was preventing the planes from flying). It put things into perspective, suddenly everything in my life just seemed to make sense – all the everyday worries and stresses had disappeared – they all seemed so insignificant. We lazed around in the sun, enjoying the spectacular view of the Southern Alps stretching out to the North and South. After radioing the Mt Cook ski desk, we realized that we had to reach Darwin Corner by 3pm in order to catch a ski plane home... That left us just 2 hours in which to ski over 1000 vertical metres! After an exhilarating descent, we made it with time to spare – we only had to take our skis off once to get around a big crevasse. We were all absolutely buzzing when we got there – an awesome trip!

In 1985, together with two others, Dad did the first one-day ski traverse from the Godley Valley to Fox Glacier - this later became known as the "Symphony on Skis". This is an excert from the article he wrote after the trip:
A ski traverse is like a well composed piece of music. It flows with harmony, surprises with the unexpected. It engages all your emotions and the melody lingers in your mind afterwards. Good music needs players who are masters of their instruments.
- Dad, you were such a master.

Dad knew what he wanted and liked to do things his way – this was evident not just in how he planned his trips or how he maintained his gear and huts, but also with his photography and filming. So often, on family tramping trips we would be told to wait until he was ready with his camera, we had to walk "normally" with just the right spacing between us and if we didn’t do it properly we’d have to go back and do it again! On one occasion on the Humpridge Track he got quite grumpy with a friend of mine for chattering too loudly while he was trying to film us walking past – another friend later drew a picture diary of the trip – Dad was depicted as Gandalf, saying "You shall not pass (I haven’t finished filming yet)!".

Dad was always challenging us – when we were younger, from time to time, Dad would give us "Eine Denksportaufgabe" (a thinking sport exercise). This usually involved some sort of riddle or logic puzzle that we had to solve. Family time was very important to Dad – he put a lot of emphasis on being together at meal times. I have many fond memories of evenings playing board games, watching slide shows and building model planes and boats. I recall the yacht I built with him – I think he was more into it than I was even – I was told to go to bed by Mum, but I only agreed to go on the condition that Dad wasn’t allowed to keep tinkering on the boat without me – he couldn’t resist of course and the next morning I discovered, to my dismay, that he’d almost finished it!

Dad often liked to play pranks and to wind people up a bit, especially women. An example of this was his life-size model of a giant weta. He would wind up our secretary by placing the weta on top of the office computer, which she would promptly remove as it looked like it was going to jump on her! On another occasion, Dad had shot a possum and draped it over the bonnet of her car!

Dad was also full of advice and support. When I was unsure what I wanted to study at university and where it would lead me, he said "It doesn’t matter what you study – the important thing is that you enjoy yourself – you go to university to learn how to learn and how to teach yourself." He was right. After Granddad died he said "There is a beginning and an end. Everyone has to die some day, sometimes that day comes sooner than you expect. Just like the sun reappears after a storm over Aoraki, you will remember how to smile and laugh again and remember the good times you had together." I’ve been telling myself that a lot over the past few days.

There were so many trips Dad still wanted to do. Each time he got to the top of one mountain he would spot another one that he wanted to climb, another ski tour he wanted to do, another trip to do with his family. I’m sure he’d be annoyed that he’s missing out on the best ski season we’ve had in a long time.

I’d like to finish with a Maori proverb:

Whakataka te hau kit e uru
Whakataka te hau ki te tonga
Kia makinakina i uta
Kia mataratara i tai
Kia hi ake ana te atakura
He tio, he huka, he hauhunga
Tihei mauri ora!

Let the cold winds from the west
and from the south, that assail
the lands and seas, desist.
Let the red-tipped dawn come
with a touch of frost, a sharpened
air, the promise of a glorious day.
Behold, we live!

Mein lieber Papa! Du bist jetzt da oben; du fährst die schönsten Hänge und kletterst die Berge deiner Träme.

We’ll be thinking of you Dad, when we’re out there climbing, skiing, tramping – doing the things we loved to do with you, continuing the things you taught us. We hold you in our hearts. We’re going to miss you Dad.


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