Jock Jeffery - Jock’s intrepid journeys
He grew up tough as a Crown Terrace farm boy, destined for a life on the edge as an extreme adventurer - a journey that’s seen Jock Jeffery conquer undiscovered peaks from Pakistan to Peru, and sled through outer Greenland.
The son of legendary Queenstown pilot and farmer Jim Jeffery, who’d sailed the world several times at 17, it was inevitable that Jock – still sailing his father’s yacht 44 years later, would follow suit.
He and his sisters would trudge home up the Zig Zag from the school bus stop at Arrow Junction. A tennis player, Jock would bike the 6kms into Arrowtown to play tennis, then bike the steep incline home.
Even in record snowfalls the Jeffery kids made it to school on the back of Dad’s tractor, while the ‘town kids’ got to stay home. “Dad was big on education,” he grins. It was a gravel road. “There were no four-wheel drives, lots of chain fitting and getting stuck. It made us more resilient.”
As a 14-year-old he’d walk from Crown Terrace to the Aero Club in Frankton, where his dad was instructing, just to play pool.
Badminton, squash, and rugby were also big with Jock winning Central Otago badminton titles.
After a year’s training for a surveying cadetship in Invercargill, Jock returned to work on the farm and then went on his OE to communist Russia (Soviet Union), where the normally law-abiding citizen ended up in jail six times. “I spent a lot of time in jail. You didn’t have to do anything. You could be taking a photo in the supermarket and they’d grab you, lock you up and destroy the film, then let you go.”
He and his mates were driving from Helsinki to Leningrad when he was detained by armed guards. Officials hadn’t initialed his visa. “They were waving their guns and telling me I had to go (back to Helsinki) while my mates went through.”
On the train back to Leningrad he was detained by immigration officials who discovered a little bag of white powder in his pack. “I’m sitting on one side of the trestle table with three armed officials glaring at me, the powder in the middle. They wet a finger and dipped it in. I knew what they were thinking, so I was laughing. They blew a few bubbles. It was washing powder.”
After another year on the farm, Jock headed to Perth where he launched his own trucking business. “I was very young, and it was quite daunting. I had a lot of debt, so I had to make it work.”
He built that up, selling it before returning home where jobs were few. Jock became night janitor at YHA before quickly working his way up to assistant operations and Visitor Centre manager at Real Journeys.
In his 30s, Jock became hooked on mountaineering while in the US, joining other climbers around the world for epic expeditions off the beaten track. The internet was a new phenomenon, and they advertised for others to join them in the likes of The Karakoram, naming newly conquered peaks, including three 1828m (6000ft) peaks in Pakistan. Many were later documented in mountaineering journals.
“We’d go where others didn’t want to go, climbing in Bolivia, Peru and Tajikistan, Iran and India,” says Jock. The Pakistani peak – their first, was named Uddin Zom after the only guy who lived in the desolate valley and sold them goats which they lived off for up to six weeks. On one occasion they were dropped at the Afghan / Tajikistan border. “We didn’t see a person, shrub, bird for 31 days but climbed a beautiful mountain, never climbed before – Zartosh.” Dust storms in the valley pushed temperatures to 35degC and they endured minus20C up the mountain.
Jock’s been involved in some daring rescues, helping save a Frenchman who’d fallen 762m (2500ft) off a mountain in Peru, which took several days. “By the time we got up to him at 5334m (17,500ft) he was truly frozen, bleeding, with severe head and back injuries.”
A diabetic, Jock once fell into a 30.4m (100-foot) deep crevasse while hypoglycemic, dangling and spinning, his coils and ropes tight around his chest, ice picks flailing around. “All I could think about was what to do with my sunglasses that had come off.” He ‘stemmed’ his way out with help from his awaiting partner.
He’s ski mountaineered and sledged across the likes of Mongolia, Siberia and Greenland and a few weeks ago headed for another fix ski touring in Kyrgyzstan.
Multisport competitions keep him fit for climbing and Jock’s coached Arrowtown Rugby Club juniors and the Wakatipu High U14s, as well as serving on the Wakatipu Yacht Club Committee, and racing many Donald Hay races and some Nolex 25 Southland championships.
“I don’t want to get to my grave and think I’ve done nothing with my life.”