Death of an Alpinist

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)



7 responses

  1. hanablack

    Well said Jess. I hope I will be able to be as strong as you, should I ever need to be. Kia Kaha. Hana

    August 28, 2013 at 11:10 pm

  2. Cam Mitchell

    Love to you, ms Jess. Here’s to the future with fond memories of the past. Xx

    August 29, 2013 at 10:31 am

  3. Lump firmly in throat. Kia kaha Jess

    August 29, 2013 at 11:23 am

  4. I don’t know you Jess, but I thank you for your courage in sharing your heart. I also have a son who lost his Dad very early on. It’s tough, feeling such sadness when you want only to bring joy into your son’s life. I’m ‘beaming the big beamie thing’ for you, wishing you much support and strength. Arohanui

    August 29, 2013 at 2:11 pm

  5. Bronwen Summers

    Thanks for this Jess

    Jamie often sent me (his mother-in-law) and my husband John links to articles we might have missed and that he thought we should read and links to various interviews Kim Hill and Brian Crump had done. All of these showed us how socially aware he was and how he was developing his ideas on our responsibility to humanity and the planet we live on. He was a very deep thinker. His interest in eating the right unadulterated food, making bread, pizzas and wonderful hearty healthy meals, his disinterest in flash cars, new furniture and the endless other consumer items are indeed things to be respected and celebrated. I often think the thing in life to aspire to and to be treasured is to feel ‘fulfilled’ about your life, to feel you have achieved some things for the betterment of the planet and everything on it whilst of course enjoying life. Jamie may have only had 30 years but I am sure from what I knew of him, all I have read and heard that he would have felt fulfilled about this time here. I feel blessed to have know Jamie for 10 years and for the part he has had in our large family and very thankful for Jess and Jamie’s beautiful son Mahe.

    Love Always

    Bronwen Summers

    August 29, 2013 at 3:08 pm

  6. Jess – what you have written about Jamie is so thoughtful and truthful. Like Bronwen, as you know, I also used to receive Jamie’s links to articles, Saturday morning interviews with Kim Hill and other articles he knew I would be interested in from beer and food to living in a sustainable environment.

    I would suggest that what you say was Jamie’s “arrogance” was Jamie’s supreme confidence and both Jenny and I wanted him to be this way. Yes we invested an enormus amount of time in his early growing years and this was our choice and what we wanted. I was so proud of himand rewarded by his love of food (that I feel I can take some credit for?), music that we shared, consideration of his fellow human being, consideration for the environment, concern for the future of Aotearoa and his philosophy of living for the “now”. You are right he did think he had it all worked out – I was forever telling people what a great planner he was, how he had everything worked out what he was going to achieve with you Jess.

    I was so pleased that he found you – you were absoultely right for him and the love you gave him and he gave you was so evident.

    There were two other qualities I would like to add that I feel Jamie demonstrated. First was his positivity – on many occasions he would say to me – “be positive”. I will always take that part of him with me. The other quality was the one Ivan reminded Jenny about and that was his ability to be mostl of the time “non-judgemental”. I think this is the one quality that will stead me well for the future and that I will attempt to live by and remember him by.

    I know his granfather would have been so proud of his climbing achievements. I am going to miss him terribly but the consulation that Mahe will iive on and I will be his Puppa is something I am going to cherish. As we would always say at the end of his ever so regular Sunday night phone calls – “love you Dad” “love you Jamie”

    September 5, 2013 at 5:59 pm

  7. It has been a month now since we said goodbye to Jamie – I am feeling
    his absence so much more. Jamie was special to so many people – to those close like family and climbing partners and those others more distant. I have spent hours reading through his climbing adventures and absorbing his philosophy. I have learned new things about him that we didn’t really discuss during those Sunday night phone calls. I know as his mother that I often annoyed him and because he loved and respected me, he needed me to understand. Memories now flood my thinking self – how as a younger Jamie he needed my support and for this support to be given unconditionally. His resistance to doing something he felt he was expected to do (by parents). He certainly always spoke his mind. I recall too how more recently on trips back to Wellington he was always unquestionably generous with his time, his wallet and his support. And we had wonderful conversations over my ‘bread’ and his. Sourdough kings.

    Jamie you knew yourself and where you were going. I will always love you, you will always be alive in my heart; here is a snippet from a poem I wrote yesterday:

    I am sad today
    to think that you
    are not now here
    to give all you had
    to offer.
    To do all those things
    that were only
    yours to give.

    September 12, 2013 at 7:39 pm

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