I miss Jamie the most when the bread doesn’t rise

Written by Jess and dedicated to a fellow bread lover. For Mark, I hope you and Jamie are baking together somewhere. 

Jamie, the bread whisperer. For him, flour plus water equalled magic. Jamie had been exclusively eating his own hand made bread for near on 6 years. About 12 months into the obsession he collected some grapes from a friends house so he could establish his own sourdough starter. I’m not completely certain it is the same one, but a friend is still looking after what will forever be known as “Jamie’s Bug”.

It wasn’t just sourdough. It was anything containing the magical ingredients. He had mastered them all.

Pizza bases so perfect you would think Jamie was an Italian Mama.
Baguettes too good to call French sticks.
Flat breads so pliable he would have proudly served them to Sam and Sam Clarke.
Tortillas just like those on the hot plates in the streets of Mexico.
Pita breads better than anything served at your local souvlaki joint.
Chapati that would rival any made by Madhur Jaffary.
Hot cross buns so soft and sweet you would think Jesus himself had made them.

P1140297 P1140267 P1140113 P1110141 P1100293 P1080227 IMG_0229

I think you get the picture.

There is only one place in Christchurch that Jamie would buy bread from. This is the Bellbird Bakery. Available at all the best farmers markets around town. I got a little star struck when I bumped into the owner of this Bakery on the street recently. But I managed to pluck up the courage to tell him how great his bread was.

When Jamie came across the following short film about Chad Robertson and his San Francisco bakery, Tartine, Jamie decided that this was his future. We were both pretty keen to start trading bread for money on a small scale and I’m still hoping that I might have the confidence to do this sometime in the future. 


Jamie always said that I didn’t have the patience to make good bread. Good bread takes time and a little bit of science. Well Jamie, I listened and found me some patience. I’ve also managed to remember all of those tips you taught me. All those years of politely smiling and nodding every time you blabbed on about some new folding technique or flour mill, I can remember all of that now. Not only can I make a pretty good loaf, I can also recite answers to most peoples bread related questions.

There are so many notes on, and recipes for, bread lying around I don’t actually know which method Jamie was currently using for his every day loaf. So instead I will have to share my own foolproof method.

For lack of a better name I will call this.…..


Jamie was always telling me off for measuring by volume. So out of respect for him I will record it by weight. Where possible, I have included some photographs to accompany the method. These photos were taken by Jamie. He was in the process of recording his recipes, but unfortunately hadn’t yet put pen to paper.

250g white flour (approx 1 ½ cups)
125g wholemeal flour (approx 1 cup)
85g rye flour (approx ½ cup)
10g salt (approx 2 tsp)
¼ teaspoon instant active dried yeast (my scales don’t read this low)
355g tepid water (approx 1 ½ cups)

Place flours and salt into a large bowl and mix to combine. Make a well in the centre and drop in yeast. Pour the water into the well. Mix to combine. It should look quite sticky and shaggy. Cover with a plastic wrap and leave for between 12 and 24 hours.
number 1

Dust bench with flour, turn the dough out and dust the top with a little more flour.number 2

Fold the dough in half a few times until it resembles a round-ish shape. Move the dough into desired shape by tucking a side under and giving the dough a quarter turn, repeat this action until you have an even surface on the top. Very hard to explain using words. You can do this using your bare hands, or as Jamie does in the picture, using a dough cutter/scraper.

number 3 number 4

Dust the top with a little more flour and cover with a tea towel. Let rest for 10 minutes.

At this point I always dust the loaf and chosen rising surface with cornmeal. Cornmeal is a great for not letting things stick. If you don’t have this on hand you could use a mix of corn-flour and plain-flour.

Place into or onto chosen rising surface, cover (with either 2 tea towels with no gaps around the side, or a plastic cover) and leave for 2 hours in a warm-ish place. This could be on a chopping board or in a banneton basket.

number 5

I use either a clay baker or very heavy cast iron pot. As long as you have something reasonably heavy with a lid it should work. Heat up for half an hour at 250 degrees Celsius before turning your bread into it. Bake with the lid on for 25 minutes, remove lid and bake for a further 7 – 10 minutes.

Take out and rest on wire rack.

Voilà, you just made bread.

number 6

And here are all the important points that Jamie taught me.

You can use any combination of flours. But the type and mix of flours you use will dictate the exact amount of water required. So hold back approximately 2 tablespoons of the water and add if the mixture is still a little dry. The longer you leave for the first rise, the better it is. Always use a linen tea towel. A terry-cloth one will always end in a sticky disaster. If the dough is quite sticky use a little more flour on the surface and on your hands as you shape it. Slash the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife before baking so it looks pretty and neat when it splits open. Make sure it is cool before you cut it open.



Written by Jess

I listened to interview recently about managing chronic pain using mindfulness. It was after listening to this that I realised this is how I have been managing not having Jamie around.

My anxiety is to with the future and my sadness is to do with the past. So if I just focus on what is happening right now I actually feel ok.

Jamie and I had discussed this a lot in the past. About how people get too caught up on what might happen and what has happened. We can’t change what has already been, and we have control over what might happen in the future. The most important thing is what is happening right this second.

P1000164Jamie Vinton-Boot, Farewell Spit, Aotearoa, January 2008


Written by Jess….. on behalf of Jamie

I can’t comment on climbing technique or rad peaks to climb. But I can make recommendations on a few other great things to enjoy in your down time. Jamie enjoyed so much of what the World offers. So I’ve noted down the things he would be chatting to you about if he were here.



The classic Twisted Ankle, by local brewery The Twisted Hop. Jamie first tried this back in 2006 and there was no going back. Then most recently he discovered the limited release of the Three Boys Coconut Milk Stout.

Letting his standards slip while in Central Otago, March 2011



Jamie spent a heck of a lot of time reading. Here are three books he had finished recently that he spoke so very highly of;

– The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell

– In the Shadow of the Sun, by Ryszard Kapuściński

– Breath, by Tim Winton



Jamie wasn’t really much into fashion, but he was very much into supporting local and ethical businesses. Sadhana, Cactus, Earth Sea Sky, Chalky Digits, and Mister to name just a few.Image
Jamie in his favourite shirt by Sadhana, which he never wore because he didn’t want to ruin it. Not the best picture of him wearing it, but it is the only one I have. I do like it as it shows one his other true loves… food! December 2012


Films and/or Documentaries

There were quite a few! Generally he only made time for films that had come highly recommended from trust worthy friends. For most of you, he was your trustworthy friend, so you should make time for these.

– North of the Sun (Inge Wegge)

– Alone the Wilderness (Dick Proenneke)

– Soul Kitchen (Faith Akin)

– The Spanish Apartment (Cédric Klapisch)

– This is Her (Katie Wolfe)



On Jamie’s 25th Birthday I purchased him Moro – The Cook Book, by Sam and Sam Clark. On that very same day I managed to secure us a booking at their exclusive restaurant in central London. Over the years our love for these guys grew and we had been enjoying so many of their recipes from all of their books, including Moro East and Moro Casa.

Then just recently we discovered Yotam Ottolenghi and have so very much enjoyed his recipe book titled Plenty and the collaboration he did with Sami Tamimi titled Jerusalem.

Generally our main meal each day was a combination of recipes from one of the above and the Veg Everyday book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

In his element with his prized pizza oven, April 2013 



The uber talented Warren Maxwell was his all time favourite. His voice, lyrics and music ooze soul. For party times, something a little more up beat was on the cards. The funky Ed Solo and Skool of Thought would always be one to get Jamie dancing!



We got rid of the TV from the house 5 years ago. Jamie couldn’t stand the unproductive distraction that it offered. However, The River Cottage series by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was something that he would always make time for.



We hadn’t seen too much live theatre of late. But a piece we saw in London in 2009 called “Pictures from an Exhibition” was one that had always stuck with him. Plus he thought Scared Scriptless at the Court Theater in Christchurch was the best entertainment money could buy.


Visual Art

For someone who was so focused on the outdoors, it surprised me how passionate he was about art. For Jamie, art had to evoke emotion.

Graham Sydney was a favourite of his as he could relate to and connect with the landscape he painted.

In June of this year we happened upon the exhibition of works by Gregory Crewdson: In a Lonely Place. Jamie was stunned by his work and loved how involved it was.

He was also a very very big fan of anything produced by this guy:

Jamie also had a favourite dancer. If you knew Jamie well then I think you can figure out who this is.




written by Jess 

Welcome to Jamie’s room. This is where he trained, thought, planned, wrote, sorted out his gear and squirreled away all sorts of useful things that I thought we had thrown out.


I wasn’t allowed to go into this room, it was for manly-men only. Sometimes, when he was out, I would sneak in there and move a few things around, just to see if he would notice. He always noticed. Out of respect for Jamie I asked manly-man and fellow beer and climbing enthusiast Troy Mattingley to come and take some photos.


I’ve started going through some of his gear. I hadn’t realised the extent of what was in there, kind of reminds me of the Tardis. The list is long, but to name a few:

– 19 pairs of gloves
– 9 ropes
– infinite number of cams, quickdraws, ice screws and other things I can’t name
– 15 individual ice axes
– 9 pair of rock climbing shoes
– 6 harnesses

I remember Jamie returning home one day with another new jacket. I questioned why mountaineers needed so many when they could only wear one at a time. He didn’t think my question was worth a response. How was a climbing imbecile such as myself supposed to understand? I’m actually far more on to it than I ever let on. Looking at the jackets now I can see that there is:

– one for when it is wet
– one for when it is dry
– one for when it is cold and wet
– one for when it is warm but wet
– one for when it is cold but dry
– one for when it is warm and dry
– one for when you are climbing
– one for when you are belaying
– one for when you are approaching
– one for when you’re spending too much time in the tent when it’s raining outside
– one for when you are driving to the climb
– and of course, you have one for when you just want to look damn fine


It was me that told non-climbing friends and family that Jamie had been named the 2012 Canterbury Mountaineering Club Mountaineer of the year. He was humbled to have his name alongside so many who had been, unknowingly, inspiring and encouraging him over the years with their own stories, adventures and achievements.


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)


10 Tips and Tricks for Better Ice and Mixed Climbing

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.

Remarkables Ice and Mixed Festival

Last month I got myself down to the Queenstown area for a week of climbing culminating in the inaugural Remarkables Ice and Mixed Festival. I managed to climb something every day and had the best time ever at the Festival. Thanks to Dan Joll for making it such a great event. Heres a short run down of what I got up to.


I picked up Jono Clarke from the airport in Christchurch on Saturday afternoon and we headed down to Queenstown. Half way down we got a text message from Dan saying we had to be up at 4.30am the next morning for a day trip up the Routeburn where they had discovered some new ice. Jono and I groaned, so much for a sleep in. Half an hour later we got another message, actually we had to be up at 4.


We walked up the Routeburn track for about an hour, then slogged two hours up a steep stream into the start of the Humboldt Mountains. Dan and co had already chosen the plum line for themselves. Jono and I were left with a single but nicely formed pitch that we climbed every single variation on. We named the route Mr Kombucha, after a particular mushroom drink.

On the start of our single pitch route, Mr Kombucha, near the Routeburn track.


We were keen on a rest day but decided to check out Dan’s dry tooling venue, the Pink Palace, down on the lake front. Jono and I sent The G Man Loves My Pink Bits, and did our best to rip off a few more holds.

Climbing The G Man Loves My Pink Bits in the Pink Palace.


Jono and I teamed up with another friend, Matthias, and went into the South Wye Valley. Unfortunately the weather turned to custard but we still managed to sneak in an ascent of Haskins Drop before bailing back down the hill.

Jono climbing Haskins Drop, South Wye Valley.


We attempted a new route on the Telecom Towers. It took us all day to climb just 120m, needless to say parts of it were pretty tricky and rather desperate. Its good to get shutdown once in a while though.

On the second pitch of our new route attempt on the Telecom Towers.


We took it easy, ate a few Ferg Bakery pies, and did another session at the Pink Palace. Troy came along too. We snuck the first ascent of Sink the Pink.

My first attempt at Sink the Pink, in the Pink Palace. Photo by Troy Mattingley.


The first day of the Festival. I kicked off the day with the first winter ascent of Stone Free, a really nice crack and corner system with bomber sticks and lots of gear. In the afternoon I teamed up with Aussie climber Matt Scholes to do the 1st pitch of E.T. Goes Home. We ended up doing it as two pitches due to rope drag. Matt led the first, groveling his way under and through a large roof which made for some rather desperate climbing. I did the second pitch, the end of which required a belly-flop style mantle onto snow, funny now, but not then.

Climbing Stone Free, Telecom Towers. Photo by Troy Mattingley.

Climbing the top section of the 1st pitch of E.T. Goes Home, Telecom Towers. Photo by Troy Mattingley.


Day 2 of the Festival. I had a ground up shot at Blow Up, a steep hand-width size single pitch crack,  and got hideously shut down. I learned that placing gear on steep M climbs is way harder than having it pre-placed. By the time I got to the top with a million rests I was utterly spent. It was worth it though, as a bunch of other people got to try it with the gear in and Dan got the first ascent. In the afternoon I teamed up with Matt again to climb the 1st pitch of Los Indignados. Thus ended a fantastic week of climbing.

Climbing the 1st pitch of Los Indignados, Telecom Towers. Photo by Troy Mattingley.