This post is written by Jess. Best friend and partner of Jamie.
It is with great sadness and a very heavy heart that I write of the death of Jamie Vinton-Boot, on 12 August 2013.
“Everything that ever was, and ever will be, is here right now in this moment. Do not seek to control it, but instead feel it and trust in it. This is the rhythm of life. When you entrust yourself to this rhythm there is no right or wrong, only the spontaneity of pure being. This way of being is not an end in itself, but a way that does not hinder the harmony or purpose of life” Jamie Vinton-Boot
Jamie was approaching the West face of Double Cone in the Remarkables with a good friend when he was knocked by an avalanche. I will not supply you with more detail, as I am not yet ready to share what little I know of Jamie’s last moments.
Only one month ago, on hearing of the death of Marty and Denali Schmidt, I said to Jamie “I hope you always come home from the mountains”, a visibly teary eyed Jamie replied, “so do I”. I knew Jamie was never going to stop climbing, but it was after this comment I realised he was suddenly aware he might not come home one day.
For some reason, both Jamie and I thought he was invincible. It was like he was somehow exempt from the rules. For a lover of an Alpinist, this is a good mindset. Worrying about your partner as they head out for another adventure could consume you. I had 10 years of blissful ignorance. Even as I saw the helicopter fly overhead that morning it never crossed my mind that it was on its way to pick up my man.
Despite my complete ignorance and naivety of climbing, mountaineering and alpinism, I loved hearing about his adventures and ambitions. He told me things that he couldn’t admit to others. Like he was secretly disappointed Guy Mckinnon had beaten him to the first winter ascent of the West face of Mt Tutoko.
His next big goal and hopefully next first ascent was to be the North West Face of Mt D’archiac. Unfortunately for everyone, Jamie’s last climb comes all too soon and will be via a box on the back of his buddies, as they climb the 2,885 metres of Tapuae-o-Uenuku. From here Jamie can watch the surf roll in over Kaikoura, see on to his hometown of Wellington and keep an eye on us here in Christchurch.
“All I can see is how dysfunctional society is, at least in my view. Mountain life is such a contrast, not just the lack of people, but the pace of time and the priority of things. The way things are in the mountains, all in the present moment, is what I strive for in the city life. Suddenly when I step back into civilisation I realise all too quickly why it is so hard to achieve. There are so many distractions and every decision suddenly has a million variables. I know this because in the supermarket I wander from aisle to aisle dazed and confused, where as in the mountains everything is so much clearer and simple. Nature dictates decisions and I fall into the natural rhythm of my surrounds” Jamie Vinton-Boot
I could write about Jamie forever. About how amazing he was and the love we shared. It’s funny that when someone dies, everyone claims they couldn’t say a bad word about the person. Most of the time this is a complete lie. I would say that in relation to Jamie this is almost true. But I will let you in on a secret. He was arrogant. As arrogant as they come. He was adamant that he had it all figured out, knew more than the next person and was the ultimate human; in health, behaviour, integrity, character and love. As far as I am concerned he was the ultimate human and this was reflected in the incredible life he was living.
Let me share a few other of Jamie’s loves. The things he didn’t write about on here, but the things that were just as important to him as climbing.
There was bread. His obsession for bread had been growing for the last 6 years. He thought about it, talked about it, made it, ate it, shared it and loved it. Only 2 days after Mahe was born, he poured the foundation for his wood fired pizza oven. The oven was the next step in the bread empire and the intention was to start selling bread from the gate on Saturday mornings.
Aotearoa and everything it contains was also another great love. The landscape, the culture, the community, the music, the beer and the people. He had a great respect for all things Kiwi and so greatly wanted the country to be heading in the right direction. It was important to him to support local businesses and he frowned upon anything entering the house that had been made or grown outside of NZ.
Of course there was me! And he told me this at every opportune moment. As I begin my rollercoaster ride into the unknown, I hold on tight to his pounamu pendant (left behind that morning as he didn’t want the 16g of weight to slow him down on the climb), knowing that for 10 years I was lucky to have such a great man to grow, learn, laugh and love with.
Lastly, his most recent great love. Our baby boy, Mahe Thomas. Born in January of this year. My heart is broken at what Jamie and Mahe will not get to share. In just 2 short weeks there has already been so many firsts that he has missed. Mahe carries the genes of great mana, something I am so thankful for.
I’ve written all of this because I love talking, thinking and writing about Jamie. It is here for the world to read. Maybe one day it might bring some comfort to someone in a similar position as myself.
“Every day I am totally psyched to: be alive, climb my best, be with Jess, enjoy every moment, make the world a better place, eat real and healthy food, do more with less, be me!” Jamie Vinton-Boot
(photo by Mark Watson)
So you’ve got the basics of ice and mixing climbing sorted and would like to get proficient on steeper (i.e. vertical to overhanging) or more difficult routes. The only sure way to do this is to climb more, but in addition there a whole range of practical things to work on that can help you along the way. Below are ten of the things that have worked for me (but I’m by no means good at).
1) Scope the route or pitch from the ground or belay. If you can see the route ahead, identify the key features and any obvious gear placements and resting stances, then form a rough plan of attack and discuss it with your partner. At minimum I like to have a plan for placing my first piece of gear.
2) Relax at the first piece of gear. Get your first piece of gear in as soon as possible and then take a few moments to relax and find your rhythm. Take some deep breaths. Check that you’re not over-gripping. Scope the next section. Then focus and go!
3) Keep your arms straight. Just like rock climbing, the only time your arms should be bent is when you pull up to make the next swing or placement. Otherwise you’re wasting energy.
4) Don’t leave your feet behind. This is a really basic one, but it still happens all too often and can really stuff things up. One way to avoid it is to get into the habit of watching your feet as much as you watch your hands.
5) Lower your arms regularly. Let each arm hang down (with or without holding your ice tool) and shake out for a few seconds every couple of moves. This makes a real difference in warding off the dreaded pump on strenuous or long pitches.
6) Test your placements. On ice or rock, if there is any doubt about the security of a tool placement, test it with a small tug or just some of your body weight before fully loading it. Generally, if it can take some body weight it’s solid.
7) Get creative with your placements. On featured ice, make the most of any feature that can be held or stood on without having to swing a tool or foot. Stemming between pillars or bulges is a good one. On rock, tools can be used in a surprising variety of ways, don’t limit yourself to just hooking edges; you can reach just as far with pick cams and stein pulls. The key to being creative is to stay relaxed, which means controlling fear (see below).
8) The tool thumb hook. On rock, hooking the pick of your tool over the thumb of the hand holding the other tool is the quickest way to free up a hand for a quick shake out or to place gear, as opposed to draping the tool over your shoulder. Practice this often so it becomes second nature.
9) Centre of gravity awareness. This can be quite subtle but can make a big difference, particularly on overhanging routes. On ice, do the triangle: centre your weight between bent legs and a central upper placement. On rock, keep your weight low (i.e. bent legs) and over your feet as much as possible, and experiment with small shifts to extend your reach. Just pulling your hips in towards the rock can make a big difference.
10) Find a way to control fear. This is very much a personal issue. For me, I’m pretty comfortable on anything close to vertical where the climbing is obvious but as soon as it gets overhanging or tricky fear starts to well up. The way I keep it at bay is to focus on breathing, and the feel of the moves or placements at hand and if they need adjusting. This tends to require all my attention so there is little or no room left for fear. The key to controlling fear is to keep trying and experiment.