One of the country's leading experts in mountain safety is
likely to be called in to determine whether a permanent
safety rope should be installed along the treacherous Cascade
Saddle in the Mt Aspiring National Park, west of Wanaka.
Department of Conservation regional planning manager in
Christchurch Don Bogie, who earlier this year became a member
of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to land
search and rescue, was named by Otago-Southland coroner David
Crerar in his report into the death near the saddle of German
tourist Frank Spychalski (38).
Mr Spychalski died from severe head injuries on November 29,
2012, when he slipped and fell several hundred metres while
attempting to negotiate the steep slopes below ''the Pylon''
near the saddle.
Ten other trampers are understood to have died in the same
A Doc spokesman told the Otago Daily Times yesterday while
arrangements were not yet ''set in concrete'', the work was
likely to be done by Mr Bogie or an engineer early next year.
Mr Bogie was the first person mountaineers Mark Inglis and
Phil Doole saw when a rescue team brought to an end their
14-day ordeal, trapped on the summit ridge of Aoraki/Mt Cook,
In his report, Mr Crerar noted following Mr Spychalski's
death a ''consultative group'' of Doc staff and search and
rescue personnel ''discarded'' the idea of installing what it
described as safety ''furniture'', such as fixed ladders,
chains and ropes because it considered maintenance would be
''unmanageable'', that they would be ineffective when covered
with snow and they could possibly be avalanche prone.
The group also considered such permanent structures could
lead users into further danger.
Mr Crerar acknowledged the difficulty of equipping the route
but other advice he had received led him to believe a wire
rope on posts was ''technically possible'' and he had
received a number of submissions ''generally supportive'' of
a fixed rope.
''The difficulty, in that equipping the route in this manner
may attract users of lesser competence, is acknowledged.''
Mr Crerar believed signage to ensure users were left in no
doubt about the hazards of the saddle route was ''a minimum''
and he noted Doc in the Fox Glacier area had changed the
colours of its warning signs to make them distinct from its
green and gold information signs.
Mr Crerar said the consultative group considered all those
who died in recent years had ''specifically ignored, or
failed to adequately act on'', either the signage or advice
of Doc staff.
''The feeling of the consultative group was that some people
do not accept advice given and are therefore the authors of
their own subsequent misfortune.''
But Mr Crerar did not agree with the group when it
categorised Mr Spychalski as ''one of those people you just
Mr Spychalski, a Google IT expert, was a ''fit, competent,
responsible tramper'', Mr Crerar said.
''Frank Spychalski did not argue with or ignore the advice
... He did not, however, acknowledge or understand fully the
dangers of the terrain in which he was traversing.''
After the death of German tourist Frank Spychalski on the
Cascade Saddle in the Mt Aspiring National Park in November,
a group of search and rescue experts considered the risks the
saddle posed and summarised them in these terms: ''The climb
from the Matukituki Valley above the bush line to the Pylon
on the ridge is a poled route which works its way up the edge
of a spur.
The route has numerous risks attached; being exposed, steep,
loose stones and rocks, slippery snow grass (when wet or
covered in snow), is extremely dangerous (long fall lines,
some leading into near vertical gullies). The area where the
snow remains the longest and presents the greatest risk is
near the top of the climb to the ridge. The fall line at the
bottom of the snow-patch leads to a spur which has steep
near-vertical gullies where victims have fallen.''
- From the report by Otago-Southland coroner David