Martyn Smith, writing about Wesley College


(Speech for the launch of a display cabinet honouring his mountaineering feats, National Sports Museum, Melbourne Cricket Ground, 18 June, 2010)
(Published with permission of his family)

It is an understatement to describe Mick as a ‘modest hero’, but, certainly, he was.  Never one for a public show, he just did his ‘thing’, quietly and passionately.

He was becoming more and more interested in Tibetan Buddhism so it is highly appropriate, as you are about to hear, that I quote a central verse from the Buddhist sacred poem, ‘The Way of the Bodhisattva’, written by Shantideva, in the 8th century.

In Tibetan Buddhism, a Bodhisattva is a hero of the enlightened mind, a Buddhist practitioner who strives for enlightenment in order that others may be enlightened, even at personal cost.

In verse 109 of the eighth chapter of his poem, Shantideva proclaims:-

“The work of bringing benefit to beings
Will not, then, make me proud and self-admiring.
The happiness of others is itself my satisfaction;
I will not expect some ripening reward.”

Mick Parker lived these qualities.

Mick was always stripping himself of his own means for the sake of the needy in Nepal and Pakistan.

In 2004, when making the long walk out from Makalu, he flopped, exhausted, into an overnight lodge, had a good dinner and quickly went to sleep.  Next morning, he saw that the son of the householder was desperately ill … needing evacuation.  Without hesitation, Mick gave up more than USD100 to get the lad to medical attention.

This kind of thing happened more than once … on one occasion requiring the services of a helicopter, on which he spent all the money he had.

Then, more basically, there was the time he simply rummaged in his pack to give up some torch batteries to a local porter, who was heading in the opposite direction on the Gondogoro Pass.

Often, Mick gave up ambition, too.

In 2005, effectively alone at 8100 metres in a howling wind and white out, he left his tent to bring an isolated member of another climbing team to safety, and then descended to Base Camp with him, thus forgoing his own chance of summiting K2.

Also, Mick would take on sheer risk for the sake of a principle … like the occasion in 2007 when, after summiting and in the face of great danger during an unplanned overstay on Gasherbrum 1, Mick went out of his way to retrieve the body of a climber who had fallen to his death just 100 metres short of the summit.

And he readily would take up the burden of others.

Last year, on his successful expedition to his last summit, the 8462m Makalu (another Olympic gold medal equivalent achievement), and in poor weather on the Makalu Pass, he opted not to return to safety after he and his climbing partner, Roland Hunter, had gone out to rescue two other climbers in trouble.

Thirty minutes passed and still no Mick?  Before long, however, Mick came trudging in through the snow.  He had decided to go further up the trail to retrieve an enormous, outsize pack left behind by the rescued climbers.  The ‘extra mile’ was no trouble for Mick.

Finally, there is the legendary story of Mick and his Pakistani mate, an expedition cook, who, in 2004, joined Mick as pillion passenger on a motorbike excursion across the Pakistan/India Line of Control into the most hotly contested high-altitude region in the world!  After a couple of days checking out alternative approaches to K2, they headed back to the line only to be arrested by an Indian Army patrol, likely suspected as spies!

Obituary writer, Gerry Carman, later wrote:-

“After several hours of explaining, via radio, all the way up the army's chain of command, Parker was told he could leave but that the cook was a prisoner.  Parker would have none of that.  He stayed, and it wasn't until the next afternoon that his determined argument swayed the Indians to release the hapless cook.”

I think it is probably correct to say that Mick gave an ultimatum something like this:-  “He stays, I stay! Your problem!”

This was Mick Parker.

Andrew Lock is an Australian mountaineering hero.  A close friend of Mick’s, Andrew has successfully completed his own odyssey of summiting all 14 of the planet’s 8000m peaks.  He has described Mick as a “quintessential Australian”, and also has said, echoing Shantideva’s 8th century words:-

“Mick didn’t pursue the limelight but just kept doing his thing and loving it.  He was quite a humanitarian and I know of a few cases where he delayed his summit push as he was helping other people.”

And so, today, here in Australia’s National Sports Museum, we add “Good on yer, Mick!”



Material for the above was drawn from Roland Hunter’s ‘My Memories of Mick Parker’, Billi Bierling’s ‘Climbing World Loses One of the Finest Australian Climbers’ and, especially, Gerry Carman’s obituary (‘The Age’, 13 June, 2009) ‘Unconventional Climber of Selfless Bravery’.

Bruce Parker, Mick’s father, reviewed all details that appear above.

Buddhist reference:-  Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, A Flash Of Lightning In The Dark Of Night:  A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, (Shambhala, Boston, 1999)
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