Hiddleston Scaife Tributes
About Dave Hiddleston by Dave Vass
The rain’s coming. Dark sheets move down the lake, building for a long time, coming at last.
The evening circus lights brighten as the gloom deepens. First fat warm drops pop dust into the air, soon beaten down and swamped. Summer smells, childish excitement; “ take your seats folks…”
Rain at last.
A long standing westerly brings this rain. It started the day they died. Long banners of storm cloud stretch from the mountains to us, for days, gold sunset lit, wind shaped. Always beautiful, always reminding.
Everything is a reminder. The circus acrobats – strong, confident, athletic. Kids; everyone with children has a ‘Hip’ story. The mountains, always there, the wind seethed lake. He seems everywhere. Perhaps he is.
We finish hacking out the bivvy site from a spectacular razor blade of snow. It turns out good – atmospheric and comfortable. The days climbing has gone well, no dramas, big grins.
The crux was Daves’. Unable to reach the holds above from a small ledge, he slapped and teetered up a blunt arête; powerful and off balance moves. I’d wondered if he was going to fall off.
Seconding, I just reach up, grab the flake and carry on. It drew some laughs.
After settling in Dave pulls out the phone. It’s party night in Wanaka; preparations in progress, small talk with lovers. Our little crest seems even more homely. We talk, relax, revel in the closeness. The west face of Tasman seems a long way from the dance floor. Winter stars, big universe.
The Hawea foreshore looks like a brochure for the tropics. The little yellow boat throws a fine curvy wake, cut across by the twisting lines of a surfer. Hip, in his street pants, hair dry, effortless.
Monty tries hard at taking off. Hip puts the time in, feeds him energy, enthusiasm, stoke. He gets up, he does it, he’s proud.
The sun bakes. Hip tries on my new sunglasses; “makes everything look like a movie”. He sits and watches it for a while, smiling as always. This is his home, as most places are. Life is contentment.
The rope lengths above the bivvy are absorbing and sustained, crampons scratching on solid rock, sun warmed early.
We savour the height gained, the fall- away below. Glacier becoming ocean.
The top of the buttress is a mini summit. We take photos. I become a poster pin-up. I recall we laughed some more.
Luck. Good luck, bad luck. Randomness. Violent death.
Skill and intuition; the stuff of experience. Luck completes the triangle.
Today, the idea of my life hanging on the thread of luck seems unbearable. I’d convinced myself that luck is what you make it; be careful, be good at what you do, you’ll be ‘lucky’. Stop believing in your mastery and luck will fail too.
So what now? They were masters also. I need to know that they made a mistake, one I might not have made.
Or, I have to accept whatever share of ‘luck’ comes my way. Where to go from here?
The exit pitch climbs around a spectacular cleft in the ice of the North Shoulder, a dramatic finish to the route. The top is expansive, relaxing, a quiet buzz.
The ridge is firm, cold winter snow, ideal for the descent. We face in, front pointing down and across, the climbing simple enough but the exposure a constant force. Conditions are stable, the wind breathless.
Or maybe just holding its breath; we cross the place where, three years later, Daves life will be taken. But this day, this perfect day, we feel masters of our destinies.
The descent is a joy. There is no pressure, just concentration. No worry, only awareness. We soak it all up.
From the deck of the hut, we watch the sun sink into the sea, blood over water.
It was beautiful. Thanks Hip
A tribute to Paul and Dave by Guy Cotter
We in the New Zealand mountain guiding community are attempting to come to terms with the tragic events on Mt Tasman on New Years eve which saw a small avalanche take three mountain guides and their three clients 500m down the side of the mountain resulting in 4 fatalities.
As an industry, we have always been very aware of the risks involved in our professional activities as most of us have lost friends in the mountains. The training to become a mountain guide is rigorous and the qualifications difficult to achieve. It generally takes an aspirant guide about 7 years to achieve their full international qualification.
With 120 years of guiding history in this country there have been very few guiding casualties with the only fatality prior to 2003 being Dave McNulty in an avalanche in 1989 and one other earlier in the 1900s. Considering the perceived risks of the occupation this is a remarkable record and is a testament to the professionalism and risk management that is essential to any guide.
Paul Scaife and Dave Hiddleston were an integral part of the climbing and guiding community in Wanaka. Dave Gardner was new to the industry yet had a long history of climbing with significant ascents to his credit.
My guiding career started when I came to Wanaka in 1984 and met Paul Scaife. Paul had been running his fledgling business, Harris Mountains Heliskiing (HMH), for just a few years and was becoming established as the major heliskiing operation in New Zealand.
Paul was chief guide, chief administrator, marketing director, helicopter coordinator and just about everything else for the company in those days and it was a real family operation. His mother Marg, and Jules, his wife, made the heliski lunches and we drove the clients around in Paul’s fathers Landcruiser.
In the 10 years I worked with Paul and HMH, the company grew into an operation that employed up to 30 guides and had 2000 skier days in a season. Paul’s contribution to the skiing and guiding industry played a considerable part in the success of Wanaka and the Southern Lakes as a skiing destination. Promoting Harris Mountains internationally figured highly on Paul’s travel itinerary and the promotion resulted in HMH gaining good coverage overseas with the major film crews like Warren Millar Productions who came here specifically to film Paul at work in the hills.
A heliski holiday with HMH became the highlight of many a clients year and most seemed to really gravitate towards Paul and he became fast friends with many of the guests.
Paul was also instrumental in the professional development of many of us as guides and HMH became an icon in the snow industry worldwide and many of the guides who passed through his door have gone on to be industry leaders in this country and mountain ranges around the world.
Eventually though, Paul decided to release himself from the manacles of self employment as he recognized that his lifestyle had been compromised by the long hours and excessive stress which often comes hand in hand with establishing a new tourism venture. He sold HMH in 1997 and went back to working as a mountain guide in the New Zealand mountains and in Canada.
However, never one to sit still for long, Paul set up a mountain guiding company, Mt Aspiring guides, with Nick Cradock and myself in the late ‘80s. I eventually moved on to direct Adventure Consultants and Martin Hawes and Dave Hiddleston became directors at Aspiring guides.
Last year Paul embarked on a traverse of the Southern Alps along the tops of the highest peaks in the Mt Cook region to raise money for ‘Save the Children’ along with his old friend and business partner Martin Hawes. Martin was forced to pull out due to health problems but Paul carried on with the project in his usual tenacious manner, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends he could cajole into accompanying him for a short section of the journey.
Paul had done the traverse in the 1980’s with his old friend and climbing partner Dave McNulty and Paul felt that even though he’d turned 50, that he was as fit as he’d ever been and really content to be spending a lot of time guiding clients in the mountains.
Paul will always be remembered for his infectious enthusiasm and the passion that he put into his mountaineering and his life; he taught us all a lot and will be surely missed.
Dave moved to Wanaka in 1992 after traveling the world to work at Treble Cone on ski patrol over winter. The following summer he began his career as a mountain guide at Mt Cook. Soon Dave too was employed by Paul Scaife at Harris Mountain Heliskiing.
It soon became apparent that Dave, or Hip as we called him once we knew him better, was a climber of the highest caliber. Once he’d set his sights on becoming a guide, and a better climber, he trained and practiced religiously until he was performing acts on the rock faces around Wanaka at as high a level as anyone in the country was achieving at the time.
In 1996 Dave joined myself and Chris Jillet on an expedition to Nepal to guide a group up a peak called Pumori near Mt Everest. We had not long been there when Rob Hall and Andy Harris were beset by a storm high on Mt Everest and we stepped up to assist with the rescue. Selflessly Dave and Chris abandoned their own attempt on Pumori so they could help with the rescue of people from Everest. Both Dave and Chris were both assisting the beleaguered climbers Beck Weathers and Makalu Gau down from the mountain when we managed to organize the helicopter rescue from the top of the Khumbu icefall.
In 1997 Dave joined me to guide the worlds sixth highest mountain, a peak called Mt Cho Oyu in Tibet. It was immediately obvious to me that Dave had a huge amount of strength at high altitude and he was a lot of fun to share a tent with. Dave had that curious mix that is required in a high altitude climber of being very good at relaxing when beset by weather or just acclimatizing, yet he could get out of his tent at 2.00am the following morning at –40 degrees Celsius and be completely ready to give it his all.
Dave went on to guide another 7 expeditions in the Himalayas for us at Adventure Consultants over the next five years and at 30 years of age he was leading expeditions himself. That he could accept the responsibility was testament to his focused drive and maturity at a young age and after every trip we would get glowing reports from Dave’s clients who emphasized his caring yet direct way of caring for them. The Sherpas also really gravitated towards Dave and he made many firm friends on his travels there. He was always helping them in any way he could and when we traveled together he was always stopping to talk to some of the children we met along the way. Dave always had a soft spot for kids and he spent hours playing with his friend’s kids who all thought he was marvelous.
When we went to Everest in 2000 Dave decided to turn back at the South Summit, only 100m vertically from the very top but, due to recent snow, it was potentially some hours there and back. For Dave to turn back even though he was so close must have been hard, but it was a tough decision he made for the right reasons. He refused to be seduced by the summit being so close.
Two years later, Dave was on Everest again guiding a group of clients and this time he went all the way to the top. What was remarkable about the ascent was that Dave had had reconstructive surgery to the ACL ligaments in both of his knees five months prior to the climb. Dave devoted every moment of the day to his recovery and astounded everybody by the speed of his recovery and the diligent way he went about his rehabilitation.
In the last few years Dave had started running expeditions to the mountains of Peru in South America, heliskiing in India and focusing on business and his house back home at Lake Hawea with his partner Anna. He also gained a lot of pleasure from surfing and kite surfing, sports which he quickly picked up and performed to a high level in a short time which was typical of Hip.
I will always remember Dave as a ‘human dynamo’. He was ball of focused energy with a twinkle in his eye, always positive and loyal to his friends.
Both Paul and Dave leave a huge void in our lives and in the guiding community that will never be filled but we will always remember them and feel privileged to have known them.