Team Selfie: Spring 1997

Photo blog October 2018. Originally posted to Facebook.

Team Selfie. Darryl Steel, Darryl Best, Mark Schafer, Gwilym Griffith-Jones. Centennial Hut, Westland National Park, Aotearoa NZ, Spring 1997.

Winners are grinners. The human race, does it get any better than this? After the run Schaf and I had just skied it was hard to comprehend. It was some higher level reality shit. As good as it gets. End of story?……

The storm blew into another day. Mark and Daz were napping. Gwil was reading. I needed to talk, big time. It was Gwil I wanted to talk to. We’d not spent all that much time together over the years, but our mutual openness and honesty gave us a good connection. But I was a bit apprehensive. (I’d met Gwilym, on the same day I’d met Martin, when he was instructing on the first rock climbing day of our alpine instruction course.)

I’d heard about Gwilym watching his companion get swept to his death in an avalanche the previous year or sometime. I didn’t want to talk to Gwilym about that incident, but I desperately needed to discuss the subject.

“Hey Gwil, I really need to talk about something”

“Sure man, what’s up?”

“I’m feeling something kind of strongly, it’s pressing on me and I can’t shake it. It’s going to be extra dangerous out there now, and I know that even if we’re cautious it’ll be a risky trip out. I’m not worried, we know what we’re doing, but still, I know that there’s a possibility that I could get killed, I mean we always know that, right? That’s part of the game. But what I mean is, if I were to get killed doing this now, I’m so completely alright with that. I’m totally okay to die doing this. So like, what are we really doing? You know what I mean?”

Gwilym understood. It was an excellent conversation. I felt much at ease afterwards, but I felt something else with a new intensity.

I took Mark’s pocket knife and climbed up onto the top bunk, out of sight, and cut off my dreadlocks. Time to go rule those crazy baldheads.

Photo blog October 2018. Originally posted to Facebook.

Darryl Best (with mysterious random lens flare (?) coming out his head), Westland National Park Aotearoa NZ, Spring 1997. Photo: Darryl Steel.

Many days get called epic. Some are.

I didn’t see Daz again after this day for a few years. It was a party in Christchurch. It took a while for him to get through the room, I was ready, I’d been waiting for it for quite some time.

“Mr Best, at long last. I have to know. Did you fuck that sheep?”

“Mr Steel. What sheep?”

“That one outside the Mt Cook airport. It had to be you. It looked very fresh.”

We’d just had a farewell drink at the Hermitage. We sat quietly, not saying much, in some zone beyond physical exhaustion, speechless. It must have been close to midnight. Above us on the big screen TV live coverage of Princess Di’s funeral played in muted silence. Who could design such a day?

Darryl left first. Mark and Gwil apologised for being incapable of driving. I had how many hours to get to Christchurch airport? I promised I wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel and got the Bluebird flying.

On the fast sweeping right hander just past the Mt Cook airport the bright red streak appeared in my high beams. Another hundred metres or more and that sheep was well and truly fucked.

Ahead in the distance a single pair of taillights could be seen. Darryl was also on a mission. He had to get back for work in Dunedin where he was designing stainless steel kitchen appliances for Fisher and Paykel, or something.

“…Okay, well, that kinda works with the thought that we’re having right now anyway because we’re talking about taking the exact same script and just hipping it up a little. You know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about this….The Return of the Kings….These four guys go up the mountaintop…”

“…And I want you to stay with me on this Darryl, if I can call you Darryl? – whatever – I’ll call you Darryl on this one. Darryl…”

Cheers guys.