Saturday, August 31, 2013

Jamie Vinton-Boot 1983-2013

I've been wanting to write something memorable about Jamie, but my thoughts and emotions towards him are still far from stable enough to commit to words. It's only today that I'm baking my first loaf of bread since he died.
In the meantime, I'd like to record here the gist of what I said at Jamie's service:

I was lucky enough to share time with Jamie, and to be influenced by his energy, attitude and friendship. Jamie had a profound impact on my life, not just with climbing but in many different aspects. And I'd only known him for four years. It amazes me how strong a connection I developed with him, and how much love I felt for him, in that short time. I've never met another person who had the same focus towards getting as much out of every minute of life as Jamie had.
I first met Jamie at a talk I was giving at a New Zealand Alpine Club section meeting in Christchurch. I have a strong recollection of his Superman arms and intense questions. Afterwards he came up to me – shy, slightly awkward with that big smile – and introduced himself. I recognised his name, and knew he climbed about 500 grades higher than I did. So I was surprised when he asked to go climbing in the mountains with me.

The start of our climbing together involved a lot of surfing. Jamie was not quite as talented on a surfboard as he was climbing, and the irony that someone who did impossible feats on overhanging rock or ice could also flounder like a guppy in the shore break at Southshore was not lost on me.
Eventually we got our groove on in the mountains – this young punk who breezed up hill without sweating, who would reply to my enquiries about whether we were on a track with 'I am the track!', partnered with an old has been who was always pointing out scenic locations to stop and rest. We got some pretty cool climbs done, nothing hard like what Jamie climbed with Jono or Daniel or Steve, but more aesthetic lines in forgotten corners of our mountains, the kind of stuff that I get passionate about. And Jamie seemed to share that passion for exploration.

Tent time gives you plenty of time to reflect and talk on various ideas, things like the direction of New Zealand alpinism, and how risk is perceived in wider society. For Jamie and I, this talk eventually developed into the idea for the Backyard And Beyond project, which we later developed with Troy and Shelley – the idea being to seek and share adventures in our own backyard. We were surprised at how well received the concept was, along with the documentary that we produced, and I think then Jamie realised that he could make a positive and lasting influence on other climbers.
There were times that we cursed the film-making aspect during our month-long journey across the Southern Alps. But now, I am so thankful that we have a strong visual reminder of such a great trip together.

Jamie and my last alpine trip was last winter in the North Temple Valley. It was very cold, and I managed to spill my entire water bottle over Jamie's sleeping bag. In typical Jamie fashion, he laughed it off. I recall Jamie being so excited about his upcoming fatherhood. He had that glint in his eyes that I had seen so many times before, the same glint he would get climbing or surfing or making kick ass pizza and bread for his family and friends.
Recently I lost another friend Marty Schmidt to the mountains. Jamie and I caught up for lunch just the other week when I was in Christchurch, and we talked about how Marty's death made us feel. Shelley and I had been planning a trip to Nepal to climb, but wondered whether our hearts were still in it. I remember Jamie saying that we 'just had to go', that we 'would regret it if we didn't'. 'Just be careful, Paul,' he added, 'you're good at that.'

Finally, Jamie always liked to challenge me and my ideas or way of thinking. I can see him prodding me now to come up with something positive. 'Come on Paul, what's your intuition on this. Give us some insight.'
I don't really have any insight, but maybe an observation: When we lose someone close like this, we fully realise what it was about them that we treasured so much. Yet in society we don't tend to do it so much, or express it, when they're alive. I never told Jamie how much I appreciated his company and friendship, how much I cared for his views and attitude to life. I mean, we had some pretty snuggly bivvies together, but that's not quite the same. But maybe it is, as Jamie so often illustrated to me: Actions are always stronger than words.

Thanks Jamie. I'll miss you mate. It's been a hell of a climb.    

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