New Zealand Alpine Team selects youngest member from CPIT

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30 Nov 2015

The New Zealand Alpine Team's youngest member David Chen is living his mountaineering dreams, for himself and his best friend.

The CPIT Bachelor of Sustainability and Outdoor Education student's recent selection onto the prestigious team has occurred close to his friend's anniversary, who died a year ago in a rock fall while climbing in China. The best mates shared ambitions of conquering the world's most challenging mountains.

"He was really important to me and I want to carry on the dream."

An incident shortly after his friend's death when he too was caught in a rock fall while attempting to climb Mount Cook had not put him off the sport.

"I got a bad feeling after the rock fall and I took that as a warning and turned back.  I've learned to listen to those feelings. You can always try again another day."

These experiences were added incentives for the 20 year-old second year international student to apply to become a member of the alpine team mentoring programme for climbers aged 18-25. He was one of nine selected for trials, six of whom made the team, after a rigorous boot camp in Queenstown in late October. 

From Cheng Du in south western China's Sichuan province, Chen came to New Zealand as a 15 year-old secondary school student, attending Auckland Grammar. 

Back in China, his father manages a ski-field, so he has been skiing and in the mountains since the age of four.  After leaving Auckland, he shifted to Christchurch to study English and eventually went onto CPIT's Sustainability and Outdoor Education programme, specialising in the alpine focussed parts of the curriculum such as above snow-line winter tramping, avalanche safety and backcountry travel.   

He described his time on the course as "absolutely amazing".

"I've got inspiring tutors and I've appreciated their support, especially during the time my friend died. They kept me going."

CPIT manager of the sustainability and outdoor education programmes Dr David Irwin said Chen was intent on his personal development as a climber and that making the alpine team had been a key goal.

"David has been a good student and manages to balance significant time in the mountains with his studies, which is no easy task.  It is wonderful to be able to support students such as David to pursue their dreams while completing the degree."

Chen's goal is to use his degree and alpine team experience to get both New Zealand and international guiding qualifications.

"I'd like to be the first internationally qualified Chinese guide."

There were fewer than 200 climbers in China, he said. One of his aims was to also increase the number of young people interested in the sport, so that he and other mountaineers would be in a better position to help injured climbers.

"There's not enough of the young generation of mountaineers, and I hope by being on the team, it encourages people to get involved and push themselves."

The New Zealand Alpine Team concept was introduced in 2013, to support and encourage aspiring young Kiwi alpinists looking to improve their mountain skills.

As a team member, Chen will be given three year's intensive training, with trips and expeditions around the world, including the Canadian Rockies in 2017, to further his climbing skills.

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David Chen

Up where he belongs: CPIT international Chinese student and newly elected New Zealand Alpine Team member David Chen in the mountain environment he loves.