Reverend Ron Hay's Tribute

I want to pay tribute today to Gottlieb, the mountaineer, and Gottlieb, the man.

Gottlieb arrived in NZ 30 years ago after his marriage to Anne. Very quickly, he established himself on the national scene as an outstanding climber and as a key driving force in the NZ Mountain Guides Association.

In his 20s he had made the first complete ascent of the extraordinarily long and difficult Peuterey Ridge on Mt Blanc. Anyone who has seen a photo of that ridge in profile will know what a stand-out achievement that was.

Here in NZ, with Erica Beuzenberg, he made the first winter ascents in a single season of all the 3,000m peaks.

He made two crossings of the Patagonian Ice Cap and (again with Erica) the first winter ascent of Mt Fitzroy in Patagonia – one of the most difficult mountains in the world, a feat for which he was named NZ Mountaineer of the Year in 1993. He went on to climb Mt Aconcagua in the Andes and Mt Denali in Alaska.

As a guide, he engendered a great sense of confidence and well-being. The Prime Minister has commented on how very safe she always felt with Gottlieb, and I’m sure all his clients felt the same way.

However, knowing that others will speak more fully about his contribution to the world of mountaineering and guiding, I want to major on Gottlieb the man.

Gottlieb was a man of many parts and with an unusual breadth of abilities.

He was a person who combined a strong academic education with hands-on practical acumen. He had a masters degree in nuclear physics and was equally at home designing and building mountain huts.

He was a person of great vision and drive. I was impressed with how quickly he adapted to another country and to operating in a second language, and began setting up Alpine Recreation Canterbury. He had the vision to develop new things – ski-touring in the Two Thumb Range, guided walks over Ball Pass, German Alpine Club tours around NZ.

He had a very lively mind. He focused much of his mental energy on conservation issues and his business, but he was always an interesting person to converse with on world affairs and political and social issues.

He had a deep and sensitive appreciation of the wonder and beauty of the natural world – as anyone who has attended one of his slide talks will know. He was a gifted photographer, and had a commitment to excellence that showed in everything he did.

Gottlieb was also a person of principle and integrity. No doubt he ruffled a few feathers at times, but people of strong conviction and principle always do. I respected and admired the sheer quality of his character.

At times his single-minded focus on an issue might seem a little intense, but when he was relaxed he was wonderful company – warm, humane, lively – and with an endearingly boyish sense of humour that showed up in teasing his mother-in-law or in obviously and outrageously cheating in a family board game.

John Henzell in Saturday’s Press described Gottlieb as "a Renaissance man". He was a man of many parts and many gifts. A man who greatly enriched:

  • The NZ mountain community and the conservation community
  • His local community here in South Canterbury
  • His extended family, and his immediate family

John Donne wrote, "any man’s death diminishes me." As an extended family we are hugely diminished by Gottlieb’s passing. And we salute him today.


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