“To have this opportunity is both a privilege and a responsibility. A responsibility to keep the fundamental spirit of alpinism alive – the pursuit of the impossible and the unknown.”
- Jamie Vinton-Boot
As a preface to this piece, I would like to note that I had known Jamie for only a short period, but he made a huge impact on me in such time. My relationship with Jamie barely scratches the surface of an amazing man, and I wish to extend my sincerest condolences to those who knew Jamie best.
For a number of years, Jamie Vinton-Boot had been an icon and one of the pinnacles of New Zealand alpinism for me. Perhaps one of the most memorable points of my early climbing days was reading about Jamie and Jono Clarke’s climb on the west face of Conway Peak; Technospectacle (IV, AI5, M7). To this day, what sticks in my head, is a quote from Jamie in The Climber, where he noted, “I will no longer be blinkered by lines of weakness when I seek new ways to climb mountains. Instead, I will seek lines of most resistance.”
Jamie’s ethos of ‘the line of most resistance’ became a distant, but persistent dream of where I eventually hoped my climbing would lead. A couple of years later, when I saw a notice regarding applications for the New Zealand Alpine Team, I leapt at the opportunity. Prior to being aware of Jamie’s involvement in the team, I noted my long-term climbing goals as closely mimicking those of Jamie; not necessarily setting out to climb the highest mountain, but rather trying to climb the hardest route, in an attempt to challenge established ideas of what’s possible. In the weeks after I first met him, Jamie went out of his way to constantly encourage me, from helpful tips and ideas, to openly observing my issues and telling me what I needed to work on.
Jamie’s comment to me that “You’ll get as much from this [the mentoring] as you’re prepared to put in” fuelled a burning desire to impress him and really make improvements in my rock-climbing. It was the constant interest, and involvement which Jamie took in me that spoke volumes of his commitment to mentoring and seeking to foster the next generation. In such a short period of time, Jamie completely took me under his wing, helping me to step out of my box, by encouraging me to go to National Indoor Bouldering Series, sending me frequent training e-mails, loaning me climbing books and movies; all in an attempt to foster my climbing. Jamie had a knack for identifying and vocalising my foibles with climbing. As I struggled through a plateau, he sent me a number of e-mails motivating me to push on, noting the necessity of rock-climbing training in one of his e-mails where he went on to say; “I’m assuming it’s technical alpine routes you aspire to, and as far as I’m concerned this is the future of alpinism so if you’re going to be climbing with me you don’t have much choice :-)”.
Somehow Jamie just understood my goals and aspirations, constantly supporting and aiding my progress towards achieving them. Over time, Jamie showed a genuine personal interest in me. He’d enquire about the trivial things, ask me which mountains I hoped to climb and tell me which routes I should be out climbing. He’d send me training schedules, and congratulate me for the most minor improvements. Jamie was a mentor and an inspiration to so many people. At a recent speaking engagement, the packed room could be seen hanging off his every word, leaning in to hear him quietly tell of his adventures in a most humble manner. Jamie closed the evening by encouraging everyone to simply get out into the hills to try something new, and challenge themselves in the process. Hearing so many other sides to Jamie at his memorial service showed how he had a similar affect on a huge range of people. Jamie was always ready with a smile, and a comment encouraging you to take the most from every moment, and learn from all your supposed failures.
In such short period, Jamie had an unforgettable impact on me. He taught me more about myself, as well as climbing, than I could ever have hoped. Right up until the last time I saw him, he was encouraging me to head out, push the boundaries, and extend myself. Jamie, I’ll never forget what you’ve taught me. Thank you for everything, and I hope that one day, I’ll truly impress you by carrying that flame of alpinism forward into the future.