In appreciation of Simon Bell
Simon Bell was last seen at Esquilant Bivvy on January 14, 2015. He had intended to climb the west to east face of Mt Earnslaw.
This page records memorial articles by Simon's friends and links to the many photo collections Simon uploaded.
Attached is the book Simon's Trips which was compiled from trip reports by Colin and Jeni Bell.
Simon Bell As Seen By His Peers
I know that many climbers and non-climbers around New Zealand are watching the search for Simon unfold and you are all hoping that the search and rescue team will be able to find him.† Simon is in an area of dramatic but unforgiving beauty.† Many of you will also now know of the New Zealand Alpine Clubís list of 100 great peaks and that Simon was on a quest to climb all 100 of those peaks.† Simon has climbed at least 67 of the 100 peaks.† This is a phenomenal achievement for a number of reasons.
First, many of those 67 peaks are technically difficult and demand an exceptional level of competency.† And this is if you climb the easiest route.† Simon climbed challenging routes that would test climbers of the highest calibre, to gain the summit of wild peaks such as Magellan and Unicorn.† The simple conclusion is that Simon is a climber of the highest calibre.† Ask anyone who has climbed with him and they will agree with me.† Or read the hundreds of messages I have received from climbers around New Zealand who know about Simonís remarkable ability.
Second, Simon has climbed these 67 peaks as well as many other non-100 peaks (yes there is such a thing!) in a very short period of time, all while living and working in Wellington.† It was me who introduced him to mountaineering so I should know.
After discovering New Zealandís mountains, Simon told his dad that his life would be dedicated to them.† Certain things such as an enjoyment of playing squash and other sports fell by the wayside.† The psyche of climbers can fascinate other people.† Simon never needed to explain how he felt to me because I feel the same way.† Most of the 100 peaks are located in the south island of New Zealand.† Simon would often fly down to Christchurch, hop into the car he parked near the airport, spend a weekend climbing, fly back first thing on a Monday morning, and go straight to work.† I was a willing partner, though I didnít care what I climbed as long as I climbed it with Simon.† It was my idea to spend my 30th†birthday driving from Wellington to Gisborne just so we could climb Mount Hikurangi, the northern most 100 peak.† I couldnít have had a happier day. I am in awe of Simonís drive, fitness, and technical competency.† There are few people I trust in the hills the way I trust Simon.† He is meticulous with his decision making, he takes safety extremely seriously, and he climbs very carefully.† He was meant to climb, he has a gift for it. Third, as much as Simon loves his 100 peaks, proportionately, he spends most of his time doing other things.† There are many dimensions to Simon and I want to tell you about some of them. Simon is a volunteer instructor for the Tararua Tramping Club.† He has introduced many beginners to the alpine world.† Fellow instructors and students have remarked upon his safety conscious and gentle manner.† A friend observing him instruct a group including her son described him as ďa shepherd with his flockĒ.† Simon is always willing to help people in the mountains, and he always knows exactly what people needed to climb safely.† An anchor would be placed and a rope offered with no questions asked.† He ensures the routes he takes are suitable for all members of his team.† He looked after me and kept me safe all the time, especially when we climbed to the summit of the highest mountain in New Zealand, Aoraki/Mount Cook. †I am so proud of his contribution to our club and the climbing community.
Simon has also visited all the huts in the Tararua Forest Park!† Thatís another list us north islanders love.† This one can also be a lifelong quest, but Simon just moves so fast he outpaced the list.
But it isnít all about the outdoors!† Nothing can distract Simon from plans to go rock climbing or into the hills like the possibility of minigolf and bacon and eggs, and a lazy day filled with sleeping, movies and hanging out with friends.† Simon is also developing as a promising photographer and is committed to exploring his potential.† He is starting to receive recognition in the climbing community for the photos he is taking and his prints are being sold in a little shop near Eketahuna.
Simon is also the smartest person I know.† Just before I met him, he graduated from Canterbury University with a Phd in engineering.† He made the Deanís List Ė not that he would tell you, as he is too modest to talk much about what he achieves.† He did like to ask me to call him Doctor Bell, but that was pretty much the one thing I wouldnít do for him.† He was promoted to senior engineer at his work, Transpower, in 2013.† As soon as he asked to take leave for six months to climb, they agreed.† Nobody could afford to lose Simon, not his colleagues, not his friends, not his family, not me.
That brings me to him.† Simon is pretty much the cheekiest human being I know.† He made me laugh so much.† Simon is very shy, and he really appreciates it when people want to get to know him.† He can chatter away about all manner of things, but only if you make the effort to make him comfortable enough to open up to you.† Many people are telling me how they found him such a positive, polite young man.† His friends and family are very important to him, and I have been hearing about the kind and considerate things he does for them.† His good character reflects his loving upbringing and is a tribute to his parents and sisters.† I canít really tell you what he means to me simply because he means everything to me.
No-one who saw me with Simon could fail to comprehend how much I loved him.† Simon knew it too and knows it still.† In offering an opinion to him he once told me ďyeah, but you just think Iím perfect, so you donít count.Ē† Simon and I separated very recently.† We knew each other the best, and only we could determine what the future might hold.† But we were not together in January as these unthinkable events unfolded and we had not shared our respective plans to climb.† I can and must attest to what a careful and respectful person he is.† Above many other things, Simon doesnít like to impose on or trouble anyone.† He takes his responsibilities very seriously.† He would never have allowed his family to worry over his wellbeing for a single moment.† †Only the most tragic of circumstances can explain the silence that now surrounds him.
I always believed Simon would achieve his goal of reaching the summit of all 100 peaks.† There is some talk of Simon wanting to be the first person, but he did not start climbing these peaks with that objective. †He climbs because it enriches his life and makes him who he is.† He was reading an account his parents wrote about taking time out in their youth to follow their dreams.† He wanted to follow their wonderful example and take six months to embrace life.† Short of a climbing accident, I knew Simon would be the first to climb all of the 100 peaks.† He is that good. I cannot comprehend no longer sharing this world with someone so special who has had such a profound impact on my life.† I know there are many others around New Zealand and overseas who are grieving too.† Simon is so dearly loved by his family and friends, and he is held in great esteem by the climbing community and his colleagues at Transpower.† I am so proud of him, and I feel so lucky that he blessed my life for so long.† I could not be who I am today if I had not had him by my side. †A friend has said to me ďWe're all here on a return trip, so make the most of that trip here and nowĒ.† Iím holding onto both this and Simonís sunny outlook, so I can find a way of being happy again.
I hope that this tiny glimpse into the unique personality and life of this wonderful person provides a completeness that honours Simon.† And I hope that the lasting truth of these words will be of some comfort to those who love and cherish Simon and are suffering right now.
Lorraine Johns, Simonís former partner, first published by the New Zealand Alpine Club on 5 February 2015
TTC member Simon Bell, 33, sadly failed to return from a solo climbing trip to the Mt Earnslaw area of Aspiring National park. Last seen at Esquilant Bivvy on January 14, Simon is thought to have been attempting a traverse of the west and east peaks of Mt Earnslaw as part of climbing the Ď100 Great Peaksí of New Zealand. Aerial searches of the area failed to locate Simon and police referred his disappearance to the coroner.
In 2009 when I first met him, Simon was a keen, likeable and unassuming tramper, his weekend missions bashing bush and bagging huts of the Tararuas. Simon soon got the climbing bug and began to develop as a rock climber and mountaineer. My first and only mountaineering trip with Simon was a climb of Aoraki Mt Cook in November 2011 (photos). For me, this trip marked the begining of Simonís incredible rise as a capable NZ mountaineer.
2012 was a standout year for Simon with a traverse of Malte Brun in March (photos), a brave winter attempt on the central couloir of Douglas Peakís south face (photos), and the November crossing (with Rob Hawes et al.) of the Main Divide from Hooker Valley to Fox Glacier featuring a traverse of Mt Tasman.
Simonís mountaineering achievements continued in 2013 with an awesome 1500m rock climb up the Strauchon face of Mt Dilemma (photos) and solos of Double Cone, Dasler Pinnacles, Mt Manakau and Mt Alarm, among many other peaks. Between 2011 and 2015, Simon logged 69 trips in TTCís Climbing Trip Log, contributing half of all entries in the log. He was at the top of his game and among the most active and driven mountaineers in the country.
Simon was an alpine instructor for TTC and gave his time unequivocally to assist others learn and enjoy the mountains. AIC students of 2012-2014 recall Simonís patient, thorough yet motivational style. Simon will be sorely missed as a competent and accomplished member of the instruction team. While the cause of Simonís untimely demise in Aspiring National Park is unclear and may never be known, I think all of Simonís fellow mountaineers and friends in the club would agree that he truly made the most of his energy and opportunities to enjoy the freedom of the hills. May he rest in peace.
David Grainger, convenor of alpine instruction, February 26 2015.
I met Simon one day tagging behind Lorraine at Maungahuka hut in the Tararuas a few years ago. They were heading for Anderson memorial. With giant packs for a two day tramp. Over the years the packs shrunk as Simon learnt less was more. And as we both used the Tararuas to get into shape (more me than him) we kept running into eachother. I climbed with Simon at Kawakawa bay and on a few mountain trips, Rollestone, Cook, Aspiring but what I most miss about Simon was the sessions at Fergs climbing wall when we practicing lead climbing, all sorts of humor popped out with a shifty grin and laugh. Each trying to out cheek each other. I still expect to see him walk in and start the banta.
I never had the privilege of climbing with Simon. We instructed together on the Club's AIC and sometimes we would meet midweek in town for a coffee or lunch at Higher Taste, the Hare Krishna eatery in the Old Bank Arcade. I have fond memories of talking mountains over heaped plates of delicious Asian food. Often the chat would be of future projects. Simon's research and preparation meant that he invariably knew more of future objectives and detailed routes than I could recollect from having been there.
The book of Simon's Trips, so lovingly put together by Colin and Jeni, is a wonderful tribute to a fine man. If I were to be objective about Simon's climbing achivements it would be tempting to say that we shall never see his like again. But suffice it to say that what he achieved in a few short years on the 100 peaks and many others was extraordinary. To the preparation I mentioned above add consummate climbing ability, fitness, motivation and determination. The abilities of those with whom he climbed and their love of being with him is a reflection of these skills and qualities and his delightful personality...yes, who can forget that disarming smile. Many of his routes on the 100 peaks were not the easiest ways up. Simon had a sense of style and an eye for the fine lines; witness his climbs on Magellan, Sabre and Unicorn via Dilemma to name but a few. Climbing has a broad range of "genres". Undoubtedly the combination of skills which made Simon such a complete alpine climber would have enabled him to thrive in any of these, to the extent that he had not already done so as part of his mountaineering.
At a personal level I thank Simon for the support he gave me after a serious mountaineering accident.
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