Skier's astonishing survival from 400m Mt Aspiring fall

The skier who survived a 400m fall down Mt Aspiring last week is in a stable condition in Dunedin Hospital and those who rescued him say he had more than just luck on his side.

On Thursday, two men, believed to be in their 30s and Wanaka locals, climbed to the summit of Mt Aspiring and were skiing down the west face when one suddenly fell 400m to the glacier below.

The path of the skier’s fall down the west face of Mt Aspiring.  IMAGE: SUPPLIED
The path of the skier’s fall down the west face of Mt Aspiring. IMAGE: SUPPLIED

Wanaka search and rescue spokesman Phil Melchior said it was astonishing the skier survived the fall and how well he survived it, but it was also the speed at which he was rescued that was ‘‘absolutely extraordinary’’.

Mr Melchior said alpine rescue leader Gary Dickson and team member Lionel Clay were with the injured skier within 45 minutes of the button being pushed on the skiers’ emergency beacon.

‘‘If you extract the 20 minutes it takes to fly from the base to the mountain, then they were good to go within 20 minutes of getting the call.

‘‘In my view that would be really good for a professional organisation with rescue personnel on standby, but these volunteers have to drop everything, go to the rescue base and get kitted up,’’ he said.

The Wanaka alpine rescue team was the most experienced and busiest in the country and Mr Dickson and Mr Clay had been involved in dozens and dozens of rescues and had decades of experience, he said.

One of the time-saving practices introduced by Mr Dickson was having the rescue packs loaded and labelled with everything in them, ‘‘so you don’t have to go and sort it,’’ Mr Melchior said.

Wanaka volunteer SAR Alpine rescue team member Davie Robinson arranging the pre-packed gear for...
Wanaka volunteer SAR Alpine rescue team member Davie Robinson arranging the pre-packed gear for the next emergency. PHOTO: KERRIE WATERWORTH

They get their gear on, grab the packs, the stretcher and go up to the helipad, he said.

Mr Melchior said skiing down the west face of Mt Aspiring was not the common route.

He said the whole route required total commitment from start to finish and there was zero margin for error.

kerrie.waterworth@odt.co.nz

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