15 November 2011

Early Climbing Days - Six


Starting for de La Beche Hut

Jim Wilson and Snow Williams
Waiting for More Rescuers


Not all our summer climbing trips turned out to be roaring successes.  For the summer of 1957/58 we had ambitious plans.  We hoped to double-pack over Clarke Saddle into the Balfour Neve, a high area with lots of unclimbed routes for us to savour.  We packed up to the old Haast hut and tried to carry the first pack up to Clarke Saddle in dubious weather.

About half way up a big ice avalanche came down on us and we just escaped by some rather fast running (with heavy packs).  The weather didn't look to be improving so we retreated to Haast hut. Here we stayed for about ten days in foul weather. Snow Williams and Dave Heraud were in the hut and we passed the days in discussions and hilarity.

Loading Eddie into Auster
Just as the weather was looking to improve an exhausted climber (John Richards) arrived with the news that two fellow climbers had fallen and slid into a crevasse up on Mt De La Beche.  John Brownlie had been retrieved but the other (Eddie Brownlee) was still lying on rock at the bottom of the crevasse with a broken femur. Dave Heraud came up with an action plan and we set off for the site further up the Tasman Glacier. Dave and I were lowered into the crevasse and, under difficult circumstances, Dave did a grand job of splinting his femur before we were all hauled out.

A few of us stayed the night in a snowcave that had been dug and the next morning a  group of climbers arrive from below and we managed to get Eddie down to de la Beche hut. From there we managed a difficult descent of the moraine wall and sledged Eddie up to Darwin Corner where a ski plane could land and took him to hospital.  Interestingly after 54 years I Googled "Eddie Brownlee" and found him fit and well, still in Christchurch where he has survived more trauma in the form of earthquakes!!
John Brownlie in Plane

Eddie Browlee in Auster