Sunday, 1 August 2010

Chris Jillet, Mountaineer.

Chris Jillett on top of Mt. McFettrick, Westland National Park, winter 1991. Photo: Bob McKerrow

1 comment:

  1. Finally made it.

    First try at a comment from the lounge at Jeddah airport was scuppered by a bunch of Arabic-language instructions.

    Second try was defeated by a time out trying to sign in.

    This time we got in from Bob's main page.

    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.