taranaki deaths 2013

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story of the deaths on mt taranki, 2013 labour weekend https://interactives.stuff.co.nz/2017/10/too-high-too-late-two-dead/

Quite a good read. There was another one published not long ago about someone who disappeared on Mt Owen. I find these stories fascinating, not because of any morbid enjoyment but because it's interesting to see where and how things go wrong.

"The dynamic was tricky. There was no designated leader and everyone had signed a pre-trip waiver explaining they were responsible for themselves." Is this normal for the Alpine Club?

This trip was very loose, thankfully most trips usually have someone or even a leadership group that communicate intentions and gauge the level of participants well before the trip is undertaken. I know that this trip was a wake up call to many and has resulted in fewer trips being organised, or kept within a group who know each other. A personal responsibility waiver is standard but that's just an arse covering exercise and shouldn't affect some form of leadership. Sometimes egos are involved though and people tip toe around the hard questions. They were all on the mountain as members but not a team. Too many differing objectives at play. I think it's clear that before this trip even began to unravel there was a serious miscalculation of the potential for disaster.

alpine climbing esp in winter is a tough activity. i did a course with the wellington alpine club, i didnt have to sign a waiver. but one of the lectures was basically that, if you want to persist with climbing you will have to accept that eventually someone you know personally will die in the sport, not to mention other people who will suffer lifelong injuries from it... I got the impression they wanted to sort out the wheat from the chaff early and i'm guessing theres a high turnover of newbies who decide the sport isnt for them other people had told me that the alpine club is a place where you generally have to prove yourself to get accepted by the more experienced members. I didnt stay in the club after the course for various reasons, not all to do with the above. arguably if you need a lot of hand holding you'd be better served by paying for a commercial guide. I wouldnt expect endless handholding from the alpine club, sooner or later you'll be expected to stand on your own to feet as much as possible and sort yourself out in the mountains.. but in a group situation thats a debateable practice, when you're with more experienced people you're automatically more likely to defer to them for decision making and you may find that you're not going to get them making decisions for you.. its a big jump to go from a training course to a standard trip where you are no longer the student.. in a way you have graduated, but even graduates can still need extra guidance. climbing is like a lot of intense sports where you have to have your wits about you, only unlike most sports that stop after a couple of hours, it can go on all day and all night, sometimes for days or longer, then you add in being cold, wet, exhausted, hungry, scared, sore, uncomfortable... if you dont have the mental and physical capacity to cope with all the information you have to process with all the other factors that make it harder to focus to stay in one piece and deal with the physical demands which can be extreme, then you're more likely to have an accident, and arguably more likely to be put off. alpine climbing isnt for most people. to me it would start to feel like too much hard work after a while, a lot harder than tramping and it wasnt what i wanted for a recreational activity when combined with the danger... I knew if i relaxed mentally too much, i'd make a mistake that could cause serious injury or death.

Sure and it's one thing to say 'you have to be individually responsible', but every time I read about this it comes across as if a bunch of those people simply shouldn't have been there under those circumstances. They clearly weren't capable of being individually responsible, and certainly not under those conditions. In the end two people died, another two nearly died, and a further six appeared to be at risk of dying. It was a hair's breadth of becoming another nurses tragedy. It was good to see the immediate and public response from the NZAC, though.

if the other more inexperienced members of the party made their own decision they would have tried to climb over the top and may have ended up as fatalities as well

"R.... - the trip organiser for the Auckland Alpine Club's annual Labour Weekend Mt Taranaki climb - considered cancelling. 'I agree the weather looks s...,' he emailed his mate. H..... reckoned Saturday might be OK, 'as long as we get off the top by mid day', before the evening's forecast gale westerlies and snow. 'If we use the ropes from here we are not going to get to the top today', R.... said to H...... 'It is what it is,' H..... replied."

A very well written up article. It looks like they were very unlucky with the weather, catching them just at the moment when it was hard to go either forward or back down. It fits with my approach which is to be always thinking of my 'decision points of safety', and what can happen if I press on or need to turn back for any reason. The lack of formal leadership showed up at the moment when the party split up; the entire group should have in hindsight gone back down the East Ridge however daunting that prospect might have seemed at the moment to some of them. The main role of leader is to be responsible for the safety of the entire group, and lacking this person too many details, such as the mornings forecast, were missed. Not turning back when it was clear the roped up group was moving too slow, not being aware of the possible need to retreat over difficult ground, rope lengths too short, some people having inadequate clothing, missing the early signs of exposure, not enough snow/ice stakes ... and so on. On reflection the entire very sad event stands in condemnation of the modern trend for 'meetup' groups tackling tough trips where everyone behaves autonomously. I'm sure everyone on that awful day did their absolute best, I'm sure no-one intended for two fine young people to die in such sad circumstances; but they all walked into a terrible trap unawares, heedless of lessons that generations prior have already learned the hard way.

"It looks like they were very unlucky with the weather, catching them just at the moment when it was hard to go either forward or back down." The weather was bad and clearly getting worse, and they were running extraordinarily late. The thing I don't understand is they just kept going even though it must have been clear at midday when they were quite low on the mountain and perhaps a pitch up stuff they were going to have to pitch climb with lots of people, and that it would take much too long and the weather was seriously crapping out. This photo just before 4pm: https://interactives.stuff.co.nz/2017/10/too-high-too-late-two-dead/media/incoming_weather_3.52pm_on_the_saturday_-_john_cooper-lr_7m82olr.jpg You can back off and get people down something like this quite quickly as long as you have one competent person - anchor a single rope at the top, people climb/slide down with a prussic on the rope, anchor in at the bottom, last competent person climbs down quickly, repeat. I agree with the 'decision points of safety' idea, but those decision points needed to be much earlier - first light, then 9 or 10 am. Aim to be on top by 10 am, turn around at that point unless it's absolutely clear weather is going to hold.

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Forum The campfire
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