A leading Kiwi climber says the death of his friend shows the
mountains have no respect for experience.
Christchurch mountaineer Jamie Vinton-Boot (30), one of the
country's most gifted alpinists, was killed on the
Remarkables on August 12 last year.
A coroner's report, released yesterday, confirmed he was
swept off his feet by a small avalanche and fell 500m.
NZ Alpine Team member Ben Dare (30), who raised the alarm
after being phoned by Mr Vinton-Boot's climbing partner that
day, believes there are lessons to learn.
''[It shows] no matter how much experience you have or how
small an incident could be, when you're in the hills there's
absolutely no room for complacency and you need to stay on
your toes at all times,'' Mr Dare said.
He described the climber's death as a ''tragic loss''.
Mr Vinton-Boot and his climbing partner, Steven Fortune, were
making their way to a climb across the Queens Drive route on
the southwest face of the mountain range, without using a
rope and belay.
At 8.15am, a slab avalanche 4m wide and about 30cm-40cm deep
swept Mr Vinton-Boot off the steep slope and down a gully.
He died of multiple traumatic injuries, including a head
Otago coroner David Crerar's report states the pair had set
off before a back-country avalanche advisory upgraded the
avalanche risk from moderate to considerable.
Senior guide Geoff Wayatt gave evidence to the inquest and,
in his opinion, ''they appeared unaware of, or ignored the
possibility of, the significant avalanche danger on the
''They did not fully consider the new snowfall, steep access
terrain and avalanche implications when they were traversing
the steep slopes of the Queens Drive,'' Mr Crerar quotes Mr
Wayatt as saying.
The coroner said that with the benefit of hindsight, it was
clear the pair needed to rope up and belay over the
avalanche-prone sections of the approach route, despite the
fact this could delay the climb to the point that they would
return without attempting it.
Mr Dare, who rescued climbing partner Scott Scheele on an
ill-fated Himalayan expedition last year, said the NZ Alpine
Team would pass on the findings to a group of young climbers
''Obviously, avalanche risk is a very real risk and
irrespective of the size or location, the consequences of
that can be very major,'' he said.
''Jamie got caught in a very small slide. If an avalanche is
triggered in that situation, a terrain trap, it funnels down
a chute. It's not just the avalanche that will cause
problems, it's where it will go. Mr Crerar issued
recommendations that alpine climbers should be encouraged to
gain an increased awareness of avalanche risk and the
consequences, should be encouraged to talk to experienced
locals and resort ski controllers about risks and conditions,
and should carry beacons, probes and shovels. New Zealand
Alpine Club general manager Sam Newton said he would be
circulating the finding to members, as directed by the
coroner. ''The report serves as a reminder to all climbers
that even small pockets of instability can fatally knock you
off your feet,'' Mr Newton said. ''An avalanche doesn't have
to bury you to kill you.''