its not difficult to understand why.
weather was obviously windy, cloudy. could see that from home on the day. (maybe newcomers might not understand the significance of that)
But considering they planned to traverse the worst bit of the southern crossing, you'd think they would have been cautious.
They did take on a massive trip for the first day. a look at the map shows that. and the map does indicate its was going to be easy
it was blowing a gale when the got to the tops, (mobile phone pics show that) so they could have retreated. back out via way in.
gear was maybe inadequate, but they did have sleeping bags, could have sought shelter below ridge and waited
Did they do any research of the route?. bail out options. water (theres none the entire way), estimated time etc.
Boils down to lack of understanding of our backcountry and underestimating conditions.
Poor decision making. Has happened a bit. Day runner nearly came unstuck at Kime not long ago (trampers had to help him)conditions got to him, apparently
2 incidents of trampers attempting to exit Dundas in gale conditions, having to be rescued.
Then again, you dont know what you don't
what annoys me, is the media ie "When Pavel Pazniak and Mykhailo Stepura set out to tramp through the Tararua Range, it was a clear, sunny day. Blue skies and a light wind could have made anyone think it was a good day to tackle the treacherous mountains..."
It definitely was not a blue skies/light wind, clear sunny"
it was in town, but that's irrelevant.
>Did they do any research of the route?. bail out options. water (theres none the entire way), estimated time etc.
Who knows? Maybe the coroner will present some evidence about research they did. Meanwhile I've just googled "neill-winchcombe". Here are the resulting trip reports. I haven't edited this list, except from removing a couple of items which aren't trip reports. One was a tracks.org.nz report about Cone Saddle which had nothing to do with Neill Winchcombe. The other was my own collection of photos on flickr which maps back to the separate report that's included in the list.
> We summited Winchcombe and tramped as swiftly as we could towards the next steep peak (height 1398). This brute had almost sheer sides. With daylight almost exhausted and the westerly growing in strength we decided to retreat back the way we had come. A little after nightfall, we bivvied in a half decent spot just off the track.
In 2000, the TTC group left Otaki Forks at 7.20am, then past Hector and over Neill-Winchcombe, arriving at Waiohine Gorge at 6pm.
Also from the TTC, the title "Benighted on Winchcombe" suggests what it describes.
> After at least one false start we started towards Hector again using cairns. However shortly thereafter the GPS told us we were off track. Making our way back onto the track, it was difficult to find the route forward in the mist. After a 12 hour day, with night approaching, a decision was made to find somewhere to camp. A hollow area about six metres below and in the lee of the ridge offered shelter and a nearby shallow tarn, protected by leatherwood and spaniards, provided water.
This is the same trip as item 1, but written by a different author on Craig's blog instead of the WTMC website.
>We did not cover this ground as fast as I had hoped, but this didn't become a problem until we reached Winchcombe. The wind was howling in from the west. Walking upright was becoming somewhat of a challenge and we soon found ourselves crawling along the ridge toward pt1378 tightly grasping the tussock. With fading light, gale-force winds and the ridge narrowing toward razorback we chose to turn back for the safety of the bushline for a night of unscheduled fly camping.
A 6 day trip report of Ian Fisks's which didn't actually follow the Neill-Winchcombe route, but climbed to Cone from Cone Saddle before dropping to Neill Forks, and merely mentioned Neill-Winchcombe in passing.
(6) http://www.windy.gen.nz/index.php/archives/253 (My report from 2008.)
> Getting down from Neill was fairly steep and muddy in places, but easily do-able with care. By 11am we were in trees again, heading towards point 1055.
> It was about now that things changed. After 4 hours of walking we were only a third of the distance we’d planned to travel for the day. Nobody was knackered, but although we expected things to get much faster and easier after reaching Hector and the main Southern Crossing trench back to Alpha Hut, several of us were starting to wonder if we were likely to make it through the entire day. Optimists in the group were guessing we’d be at Alpha by 4.30pm, but pessimists were picking more in the region of 6pm and becoming concerned about whether it was worth it. After some brief negotiations, we very quickly reached a happy consensus that we’d be better off not continuing with the original plan, and at 11.15am we decided to turn around and go back.
Only one of these six reports actually details a successful attempt. That was a 13 hour day, and its route didn't closely match exactly what these two men were attempting anyway. Four of the reports appear to be people turning back or getting stuck and having to fly-camp. The other is a report for a 6 day trip which merely covered an edge of the route (climbing from Cone Saddle to Cone) and then mentioned Neill-Winchcombe in passing.
Surely if you'd actually seen this list of top results, you'd at *least* recognise that there are issues with this route that need to be taken into account by anyone attempting it.
This post has been edited by the author on 6 June 2018 at 23:25.
We can overdo the agonised post-mortems over tramping deaths. Tramping is an inherently risky activity, and peril is a key part of its appeal.
I haven't followed the post-mortem as closely as others, but my read is that these guys struck that most insidious form of danger; the incremental increase of moderate difficulties that merge and become fatal.
As for skills and experience, skilled and experienced outdoorspeople die doing what they love quite regularly. Two hugely skilled and expereienced climbers died on El Capitan a couple of days ago, despite having climbed it innumerable times before.
Skill and experience just improve your odds. They don't neutralise risk. And everyone has a bad day. An elite NZ climber fell to his death carrying groceries to a hut.
Just to prove I'm not a gung-ho madman, I have bailed out on my two attempts on Winchcombe Ridge due to poor weather.
I have read the reports on these guys deaths, felt sympathy for them and their families, reanalysed my tramping attitudes, and having done that, don't see the need to change my or DoC's approach.
> Skill and experience just improve your odds. They don't neutralise risk.
I completely agree, but skills and experience do help one to understand risk.
Outdoor pursuits nearly always have some degree of risk. Alpine climbing's an example of where it's usually necessary to simply accept a notable risk. Tramping's less-so, but the risk is still there. Some people also have much higher thresholds of risks they're willing to take, even when they know what they are. Dr Erik Monasterio at Otago Uni has done lots of work on this through looking at groups like alpine climbers and base jumpers.
But there's definitely a difference between going in completely unawares compared with understanding the risk that's present and then being able to make conscious decisions on if and how to mitigate those risks where appropriate.
This post has been edited by the author on 7 June 2018 at 14:12.
This morning I received a copy of the Coroner's final report on the Tararua tramper deaths. It's just a sad tale of a trip gone wrong for the usual sorts of reasons.
Most has already been reported by journalists attending the hearing.
No torches. No communication except cellphones, and by the time they reached a place where they might have worked they were probably already suffering effects of rapidly developing hypothermia. Presumably no tents or other significant shelter. The report does specifically note that there was no waterproof cover for the sleeping bags, so they'd have been useless in the conditions. Both of their raincoats were described as being more suitable for a 30 minute trip to the supermarket. One had considerable tramping experience, the other not so much, and neither had ever visited the Tararua Range previously
The coroner considered making recommendations about signage, but reverted to making no recommendations after becoming satisfied by Police that signage is already adequate.
I'm not sure how open it's meant to be given the Coroner only provides it to people who request it. Flick me a direct message, with an email address, if you want a copy of the PDFs. There are 2 nearly identical PDFs, each having a different name and details at the top.
This post has been edited by the author on 2 July 2018 at 10:09.
even with raincoats, if they didnt have suficient insulation underneath or bare arms underneath then the rainshell still transmits cold to the body, robbing it of heat.. inadequate rainshells you can't close them up properly around the neck or hood and rain can still get in.
I've edited to correct my previous comment after a second scan. The report does in fact note that there was no waterproof cover for the sleeping bags, directly implying no portable shelter, so the sleeping bags would have been next to useless in the conditions.
Well done for having the energy and discipline to do the work and getting hold of the coroners report. Appalling to read of how inadequate their jackets were; I'd guess this was the single biggest factor involved.