15 December 2016

Siggy - a school friend mountaineer lost. 1961.


You were awkward and accident prone, Siggy, all elbows, heels and knees in a ruck, and quite capable of drowning a team-mate on a flooded Westland rugby field. "Get off me (gurgle, gurgle) you bastard". It was OK though, the local priest was not far away to deliver the last rights.

Sigmund Huston - Siggy


And then there was that infamous weekend. The front wheel of your motorbike lost its grip on the newly creasoted planks of the Porter River bridge on our way to Arthur's Pass - and you and your motorcycle bounced your way from side to side of the bridge onto the shingle at the far end. Following behind, I was grateful for the warning. And later that weekend after a good, but slow, climb of the Otira Face of Rolleston we found that, and on a moonless night without torches, we'd had to spend a cold night on some Waimak river flats - without any gear or even a match - and found everything covered in hoar frost in the morning. After my motorbike chain broke that morning near Klondyke Corner we pushed my BSA up to Arthur's Pass and onto a train. Then we doubled up, packs and all, on your Norton for the return to Christchurch. And on the Castle Hill straight you opened the throttle full. The rear tyre blew out and we became three projectiles heading for home down the shingle road: me tied to the two packs on my back, you and the bike. Petrol was pouring from your damaged tank and after we righted your bike, you passed out from the shock of it all.  Luckily the first vehicle on the scene was a Ministry of Works truck and they saved our bleeding bacon and gave us a lift to Springfield, together with your motorbike. The weekend stands out in memory.

Pete Brandford and Siggy

But the final accident got you Siggy.  With Pete, another class-mate from school, you - an acolyte in all senses - climbed over your first and last high pass, Pioneer. The avalanche cut you both down on your final traverse. I often wonder where you both are these days - even if the summit of Cook did come down to give you both your final burial - a few years ago.

We always had one foot on a banana skin in those days. One night, on my BSA motorbike, I fell asleep and ended up in a farmers paddock. The bike had gone down into a ditch at 70 mph - I was projected through a fence and rolled into the middle of the paddock leaving behind a trail of feathers from my ruptured down jacket, the BSA cartwheeling on down the road. I always wondered what the farmer thought next morning when he discovered his ruptured fence and the feathers - low-flying bird? I was glad not to have hit a post or strainer.