Stephen Beuzenberg's Tribute

On Friday night I went to a concert by our wonderful NZ Symphony. I hoped to find some respite from the grief of the terrible news. Instead, I found my mind wandering, led by the music, wondering where Gottlieb is now.

I am not a religious person, and I have no belief in the afterlife. And yet, in our hearts we feel the need to be sure that our loved ones are safely at rest.

Where is the heaven that mountaineers go to when their time has come?

I pictured a high kingdom of ice and rock, in wind and swirling cloud. But somehow I was sure that Gottlieb wasn't up there now.

Instead, I found mountaineer heaven in a snug alpine hut, spartan but safe, windows steamed up with dinner cooking, a little too cramped with people, the smells of hard work and socks and cooking, the talk of success and the future. And the security of knowing that home is now just an easy walk out.

And I could hear Gottlieb holding forth, passionately reminding everyone that we must not take all this for granted. That it is all being destroyed and that soon it will be too late. And he would be giving specifics, researched facts, figures, names, not just the generalisations that we would normally trade. And that we must reach out to the kids and show them a different way; fresh air, sunshine, and delicate alpine flowers instead of drugs and violence.

And this heaven of our hearts is filled with his family and friends, and with his colleagues and clients, and with all the people he has guided so ably.

And although I know that this is your own heaven Gottlieb, and not mine, I know that I can visit there whenever I wish and you will always be there with your warm welcome and your broad smile.

I have really only come to know Gottlieb well since my sister, Erica, died. She had always talked about Gottlieb as a mentor, a friend, a climbing companion an employer, and as a friend.

Erica always talked of Gottlieb with the deepest respect, as being this amazing guy who actually did incredible things rather than just dreaming about them, a guy who inspired others, a guy who genuinely cared about protecting the environment and about looking after people, a guy you could trust.

Since then I have been able to witness first hand why she held him in such high regard.

When Erica died, Gottlieb set about researching and finding the real reason for the tragedy, going right back to first principles and analysing the physics. Then to prove his new findings he conducted a set of trials in conjunction with Lincoln University.

With characteristic decisiveness, he retrained his staff to avoid using the short-roping technique, and found safer alternatives for them to use.

Not content to leave it there, he has undertaken a personal crusade, trying to alert mountain guides to the hazards of the technique, both here and overseas. He has given lectures and written papers and articles.

His most recent success is a feature article in the prestigious German Bergunsteigen alpine safety magazine published just last month. Actually he has a second article in it describing the snow stake he developed over 20 years ago, and widely in use here.

Always at the forefront, this one personal experience is typical of the qualities that have made Gottlieb a leader in his industry and a crusader for the protection of the environment.

Gottlieb, we will enjoy the memory of your words, your stunning photographs, and your passion for protecting our environment. But most of all we will remember you for your deeds, your achievements in making the World a better place.

Thank you Gottlieb, from the Beuzenberg family.


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