Gary Kuehn's Tribute

I first met Gottlieb in August 2001 at Pioneer Hut. We spent 2 nights in the hut, – Although there were only 4 of us in the hut we had very little interaction that first night. Gottlieb was getting up at 2 am to guide a client up Tasman.

The next night in the hut was also pretty quiet, Gottlieb’s clients fitness prevented them from getting past Marcel Col. That, in conjunction with their early start, made being quiet easy. Somehow that night Gottlieb and I realized we had both been skiing on the Patagonian Ice Cap. Gottlieb lit up, opened up – he was the classic kid in the candy shop. His passion and love for mountain areas and traveling on skis was effusive. He continued on with stories of NZ ski touring and of course his most famous story and tour – the east to west "Symphony on Skis" tour, a good 3-5 days outing for most that he’d done with friends in 1 day.

The next day we went separate ways.

About 6 month later I got an email from Gottlieb (to this day I’m not sure how he got my email) asking if I wanted to do a ski traverse of Denali with him and two other famous kiwi mountaineers – Colin M & Eric Sag who are both here. At the time I thought, Can I keep up? What an opportunity! Is 30 days on a cold high mountain a good way to get to know people? Then I thought... Why me? Gottlieb has known me for about 10 hours – oh it must me the Patagonia ice cap skiing connection, yep that’s it. About 3 years later after I started working for Gottlieb, I realized that in our 10 hours at Pioneer together I passed another test – I had done the dishes and cleaned the hut!

I went with Gottlieb, Colin & Eric to Denali. It was great. We were able to keep up with Gottlieb, just. Almost every day all day he was out in front – he thrived on it. The mountains gave him energy. He ate half what I did. He claimed it was the fruit tea and honey in his thermos – rocket fuel he called it. That and his home made muesli bars... it took 2 days to make them in Anchorage, Colin, Eric & I substituted – they had energy in them! There were definitely days when I thought it is more than tea, honey & muesli bars... I wonder if he is applying the nuclear physics he studied.

Denali was not all fun and games. There were very windy times that were scary – and Gottlieb was honest with himself and me as a partner. He also gave me good, sensitive advice when my less rational side wanted to ski what was more logical to crampon – I have thought of that many times since in similar situations and know he was right and was looking after me – and that is one of the many Gottlieb lessons I have that will stay with me.

His enthusiasm as well as his strong values carried over into the guiding community and the operation of Alpine Recreation. He promoted training and professionalism in guiding. Two weeks ago Gottlieb took, Dave my Wanaka housemate, a trainee ski guide, on a ski touring job at the Head of the Tasman. Dave came back so enthusiastic about the learning – the big picture but not just - - so many little tricks to make things safer and more efficient.

As a guide working for Alpine Recreation, There was mutual loyalty, respect and support, top down and bottom up. Attention to detail would be an understatement. I entered into a well organized team, but team does not adequately describe the feeling or the culture – it was really being part of the Braun-Elwert/Alpine Recreation family. Gottlieb had a heart of gold and was very caring.

Gottlieb made time and had energy for what he believed in – professionalism & improvement. He was a voice where many were quiet. He had the courage to speak out.

I am very glad that Gottlieb made the switch from nuclear physics, to make the mountains of NZ his office. Gottlieb’s values, his input into guiding, his advocacy for conservation and access in New Zealand will be missed. The lessons that I and others have learned from Gottlieb will stay with us. Sometimes 30 days on a high cold mountain is a great way to make lifelong friends.


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