Mike Jones lead the 1976 Dudh Kosi expedition and was the leading expedition kayak paddler of his generation. He drowned two years later in Pakistan when paddling on the Braldu River that flows off K2 the world’s 2nd highest mountain. After his death a memorial fund was set up in his name by his parents to promote kayaking and exploration. It is now administered by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and gives grants for your travel expenses for many categories; not just adventure and exploration, are open to anyone with a British passport. Further details can be found on their website www.wcmt.org.uk
Mike Jones Remembered….by Dave Manby
This is a copy of the speech I gave when I retired after running the Mike Jones Memorial Rally for 10 Years inn Llangollen, weekends of paddling, fun, beer, meeting old friends and making new ones. Weekends of friendship produced by that great leveller – the river!
Mike Jones whose good friends call Rupert for an unknown reason performed the job of tea boy with alarming vigour was the introduction that Chris Bonnington gave the 16 year old Mike when covering the 1968 British trip down the river Inn in Austria for the Daily Telegraph Magazine. Mike maintained that Chris Bonnington was only filling column inches and there was no truth in the statement, but from then on the Rupert name stuck and so Mike reckoned that Chris owed him several favours. It took four years for Mike to start pulling in these favours.
Chris had been the journalist on Blashford-Snell’s attempted descent of the Blue Nile in the totally unsuitable Avon Redshank inflatable boats and he remarked in his text that kayaks might have been a better craft to have used. That was enough for Mike to go on, and he immediately started extracting his pound of flesh. This was the first trip that Mike led and it became typical of his trips: conceived in a bar, planned on a beer mat and organised whilst in the middle of something else (this time his medical degree course at Birmingham University).
As was often the case with Mikes escapades a lot depended on all traffic lights being green — or at least amber. Mike was not put off by the fact that Chris Hawksworth, the cameraman/paddler, fell victim to Mike’s highly coloured publicity drive and pulled out crocodiles and cataracts were fine, but trigger happy bandits was going a little too far. Mike bought a 16mm camera and borrowed a book from the library – How to shoot 16mm film and proceeded to undertake the filming of the trip as well. The river lived up to its reputation and team members pulled off the river: half way through the trip Mike had his 21st birthday and Mick Hopkinson was the only members of the team left on the river to share the celebration. That night they were camped above a serious stretch of white water. In the middle of the night Mike woke Mick up saying that he was sure that he had heard bandits in the bushes; they drew their World War One revolvers bought back in Bradford to the amazement of the local gun-shop (we need em to shoot crocodiles), and sat back-to-back hoping that their sodden ammunition had dried out sufficiently to work.
The following morning Mick opened his eyes to find Mike fast asleep and that he was staring down the barrel of Mikes loaded and cocked revolver with his finger still around the trigger! Some days later the two of them, having no real idea of where they were, rounded a bend to see the Portuguese Bridge. Here they met the rest of the team, who had had an exhausting four day hike to get there, and the four then paddled the 140 miles to the Shafartak Bridge
I met up with Mike in 1975 when I got invited on a three-week trip round the rivers of the Austrian Alps. Mike came out to join us after the first week; he was literally in the middle of his final university exams, and we had to get him back to Birmingham a fortnight later in time for his last psychology paper. It was a typical Mike Jones trip: in one day it was not unusual to run three sections of serious white water, rush back to the campsite, cook a curry that included everything that was to hand, and then down to the bar for some serious drinking. We got reprimanded for leading the British Youth Team astray at Lofer slalom, destroyed the Swedish and Dutch slalom teams at Augsburg in back to back beer races of litres each, got Slime (Pete Knowles) to pay the bar bill at Landeck to cover his embarrassment, and still managed to paddle all the top runs of the time.
At this time the Dudh Kosi Everest trip was being talked about, I suppose the start of what the film calls 18 months of planning. Two years after Everest, in 1978, Mike decided to head for K2 and the Braldu River in the Karakorum. I was also on the trip. He drowned whilst rescuing a friend. He was 25. Life around Mike could only be described as hectic, but he also had the charisma and basic common sense which enabled him to persuade all but the most staid of institutions that his idea was not only feasible, but also worth backing. He had millions of acquaintances and many friends: I think I was friend of his he certainly was a good friend of mine. I owe him a great deal. I suppose the best way to sum up Mike is to quote my favourite phrase of his:-
Hypothetical conjecture is just a waste of time let’s just do it.