I knew Chris for nearly 20 years. We were in the same Laws 101 tutorial back in 83 I think it was. I was already a few years out of school and had recently come off a bad experience in the mountains when a friend was nearly killed falling from the Spence - Scissors ridge. As nasty a spot as I have ever seen. Smooth, shiny slabs on the Landsborough side and a 2,000 foot drop on the east down into the Dobson. I turned my back on the hills for a while and stayed in the valleys.
Our tutorial group met on Friday afternoons and Chris would come to class with his crampons and ice axe ready to get away with the OUTC crowd. I thought he was a total prat at the time - I mean who brings crampons to a law tutorial. I don't think I ever spoke him the entire year.
I met him again a couple of years later when he was looking for a flat. By one of those strange twists both our respective girlfriends had been at the same school and so Chris turned up at our place and stayed with us for the year. I think that was his last year before he went to Fox but I could be wrong. It was Chris who got me back into climbing. We had some good times in the hills, always with an epic element thrown in for good measure. A few tales worth telling another day.
I eventually moved away from the South island on the career trail. I saw Chris once in Wellington around 91/92 when we were living up the top of a hill with a view down over Cook Strait towards the south. He had just cycled down from the Waikato complaining about having been subjected to a couple of weeks of rugby, racing and beer. We caught up on a lot of things that had gone on in his life and mine and the next day we sent him down to the ferry and waved him off. I never saw him again.
I left New Zealand in 96. In March 98, out of the blue, I got the sudden urge to contact him. I didn't have any contact details and so I sent a fax to the Fax Guides trying to get a number. They came back that Chris had died 2 weeks earlier. That was a truly depressing moment.
Chris was an old head on young shoulders. But for me, the one thing that stood out was Chris's ability to avoid confrontation. With one exception, I never saw him angry at anyone or involved in any kind of situation. He just had this ability to steer clear of personality clashes etc. I never really knew anyone who had a poor opinion of Chris and the fact that people still hold him in such high regard is a measure of the man.
Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Monday, 2 August 2010
I have a trade which involved canvas work and I repaired Chris's day-pack a few times. When he thought it was no longer strong enough for guiding he gave it to me. To this day I still use it on day outings, and it's a lovely concept to carry in more ways than one! On the back in faded marker pen it says "Chris Jillett Rig Pig.
When my son Dougal was 5 yrs. Chris had to shift a bunch of firewood from Hawea to Wanaka. I had a truck so off the three of us went to do a few loads. This was the time I so treasure to recall... I'll never forget it: Chris and Dougal chatted and worked together non-stop like a couple of little old men. For myself on the edge of such a special exchange was a privilege, and I became aware Chris was a mentor to many young guys in many ways.
A few years later after the above when I had a bit more time each work day to actually achieve something, during an intense work period Chris rang and asked me to come for a walk up Mt Maude with him to try out some new boots. Normally I'd have declined, but for some reason I said yes, and I organized myself accordingly.
On the walk it soon became apparent Chris needed to talk, and so it went. In retrospect I tend to think it was fortuitous that I could repay all of the great company he'd been to myself, when I was bogged down with being at home parenting. Now he was bogged down with confusion over a few things. Sure I was older, but I did not have all the answers to changes that were occurring in his life, so I just listened.
Little did we know that only a few weeks later we'd both be facing bigger changes!
His of course you know. Mine: In one of our more remote mountain spots I developed a near fatal lung infection.
I recovered slowly and I was only well enough to make it to Chris's funeral. Like many others there I realised the effort he'd made with so many people to be their friend through thick and thin [we'd often discussed his and my own childhoods, which saw us in constant contact with widely diverse age groups. This type of interaction I believe gave him the skills to be such a good communicator]
Even today I ponder at the way it all played out, often thinking "why did he meet an untimely, and not myself?"
I'm so grateful I said "yes" to our walk. We don't always get these chances in life, and the lesson is to always listen to our intuition, and value our friends!
His legacy gift, is I believe, for us to always be inspired by his caring way of living.
He often pops into my thoughts and I feel he's just dropped by again, and just as in the past, broadened my outlook!
Donald Dec 2010