One of the most experienced mountaineers to have ever climbed
in New Zealand fell to his death when he slipped on a patch
of mud while climbing in Fiordland earlier this year.
In his finding, Coroner David Crerar found that Australian
man Athol Thomas Whimp died from multiple traumatic injuries
on February 23 while climbing near Homer Saddle in Fiordland
Mr Whimp, 50, was described by Coroner Crerar in his findings
as "one of the most experienced and accomplished mountaineers
ever to have climbed in New Zealand''.
Mr Whimp, from Melbourne, had climbed many of the world's
peaks, including in the Himalayas.
In the days before his death Mr Whimp had met friends John
Sedon and Matt Evrard in Queenstown to drive to Homer Hut in
Fiordland National Park.
Two days later they set off for Homer Saddle, intending to
stay at a location known as Camp Dog for two nights before
On the first night Mr Sedon and Mr Evrard stayed in a tent
while Mr Whimp "made do'' with a tent fly.
After dinner it started raining hard so they went to bed.
"The following morning it was still raining. All of them were
very wet,'' Coroner Crerar said.
The trio decided to return to their car a day early, but
about an hour into the walk Mr Whimp fell.
"The terrain near Camp Dog was described as steep and exposed
and the slabs of rock being described as wet and running with
Mr Whimp was following Mr Evrard when he stepped down onto an
area of mud and slipped.
"The terrain where Athol slipped was the sort of terrain any
Joe Bloggs could walk along no problem except that it was
exposed,'' Mr Sedon told Coroner Crerar.
Mr Evrard said he turned around to see Mr Whimp tumbling off
the side of the mountain.
The pair used ropes to try and get to Mr Whimp but they could
not see him and called emergency services.
Mr Whimp was described as athletic and fit, wearing
appropriate clothing for the climb and had suitable boots for
A report by experienced mountain guide Geoffrey Wayatt said
he was satisfied the trio had adequately rested and eaten
before the walk.
"The exact reason for the slip could be from a single or
multitude of factors, one being a momentary loss of
He doubted whether wearing a helmet would have resulted in a
Coroner Crerar recommended mountain information services
continue to provide information on the hazardous nature of
New Zealand's mountain routes, particularly in wet
He also recommended that climbers wearing heavy packs paid
attention to their safety and ensured their footwear was
appropriate, and that individuals considered their security
by using two- or three-point contact when scrambling.