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Treacherous ice on Mt Cook
9:49:14 AM
Hi all, don't want to be a "doomsayer" but I thought I'd post this for your information. There have been 3 (non-fatal) accidents on Mt Cook in the last 48 hours. Some news articles about this are here, here, and here.

From the third article:
Police and Department of Conservation staff said that in all three incidents the climbers were well equipped, but "in the wrong place at the wrong time". DoC head of rescues Grant Prattley warned climbers not to over-extend themselves.

Some good advice... take care out there people!
12:54:07 PM
Umm .. anyone get any names? John K. (Chockstoner) is over there at the moment but I don't think his itinerary places him in that location (yet).

11:23:38 AM
Just returned from Mt Cook, NZ (with my own injuries) and can tell you that there were 3 Aussies, from Adelaide I think, staying at the YHA last week who were flying up to the plateau so I would assume it was them.
Another Australian named Andrew King, 26, was injured in a fall off Mt Annette (mueller glacier area) on the weekend.
John was going to Tasman Saddle first, and then heading to the plateau in a couple of weeks as far as I know.
Conditions are dangerous. There was still an almost winter-like cover of snow in the park when I left and there have been other earlier rescues off Mt Cook as well as Mt Aspiring; most have been Australians. Be careful - we're starting to get a bad name over there (seriously).

11:28:50 AM
We always had a bad name. ;-)
12:54:20 PM
On 10/12/2003 nmonteith wrote:
>We always had a bad name. ;-)

I think the term used by the DoC rangers on the radio is "YAMs" --- "Young Aussie Males".

1:01:41 PM
Just heard on JJJ Radio news - 4 climbers have been found dead on Mt Cook. The bodies were found by guides. This is really not good.

1:10:54 PM
Four climbers found dead
From correspondents in Wellington, New Zealand
December 10, 2003
From The Australian Newspaper online...

FOUR climbers, all roped together, were found dead early today by a guide on Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak, police said.
"It appears the four, roped together, may have fallen on the Linda Shelf, below Mount Cook," Constable Brent Swanson said.

The identities and nationalities of the four were not immediately released.

Weather conditions were excellent in the area and there had been no bad weather overnight, Swanson said. It was too early to speculate about what caused the apparent fall, he said.

1:10:57 PM
Further to the above: From

Police were using helicopters to recover the bodies from the mountain 700km.

No further details were immediately available.

The Associated Press

2:33:53 PM
From the Sydney Morning Herald site:

And best of luck to all others on the mountain for a safe return.
3:17:58 PM
The four climbers were Latvians, according to this article.

4:54:34 PM
This is tragic and a little crazy/unreal.
Why so many accidents in such a short time?
This is also an example of why moving together roped up can protect you from danger in some places and hugely increase it in others.
Hmmmm.....2 months away from heading that way myself...maybe I'll take up dried flower arranging instead.
9:36:58 PM
On 10/12/2003 shmalec wrote:
>Why so many accidents in such a short time?

Apparently there was a very late winter and there is still a lot of snow up in the alps. So it's a bit like late winter or spring mountaineering conditions. There's been a lot of fine weather the last few days, which means all that ice/snow is melting, and there have been some big ice avalanches on Cook, by the sound of it. Enter climbers from abroad (mostly Aussie) who come expecting "summer climbing" and are not aware of the dangers of avalanche.

12:39:16 PM
Current articles from AAP here:
and here:

2:21:39 PM
V is right. At the moment it seems to be the 'shoulder' period between winter and summer when the ice and snow is falling away - it isn't helped by the standard summer heat though. Mark (bananachicken) and I saw avalanche debris on the Annette Plateau of all places, supposedly a 'safe' area for beginners!
shmalec, conditions will be prime in 2 months and you should get the best of it although I am considering birdwatching for next year.
1:06:14 PM
Hi Everyone,

It's my second day back at Unwin Hut south of Mt Cook Village after 5 days at the Upper Tasman.

It's been an accident prone week as people have reported. Sharing a room with one guy that got rescued off Haast Ridge after trying to walk up to the Grand Pleateu area. His mate got to the top and raised the alarm. Another walker/climber fell when his crampon came off and he fell/slid down 150 metres near Mueller Hut. Shaken but not hurt. And then there are the four Latvians that were killed. Apparently one was soloing and the others were tied in a threesome. Theory is that they were all rock climbing together on the outer part of summit rocks without crampons at the time and either the soloing climber took them out or they have taken each other out. Thoughts turn to the danger of being roped toegther and not using belays in difficult terrain or in a crux section. I am sure there will be lots more to this story. Apparently the solo climber had sling like material on his tie in points on his harness, so it is possible that his anchor point may have failed.

In terms of conditions here, the week started off great whilst it was cold, but it continued to warm up as the high cme over the south island with increasingly soft snow. They had a late season like us here and now it is all turning to a big pile of slush. It took us over 15 hrs to do Mt Green due to knee/waist deep soft snow on the way down. It took like 3 hours to just to get back to Tasman Saddle Hut from the base of the climb (4 kms) with crevasses opening up everywhere. Half way up Elie De Beaumont we were ice climbing over crevases and putting up with the crap coming down from Mt Walter so we turned back after not being able to haul our packs up through a crevasse lip. This area is completely cut off.

The weather has been extremely windy in the last 2 days, but it is meant to improve, so will be flying to Grand Pleatu hopefully in the next day or so.

More reports to come soon....

9:29:00 AM
Sounds like the snowshoes woudl be useful John!
1:11:06 PM
The Linda Glacier is starting to get cut up. We summited Cook via this route on Monday the 22nd of December after zig zaging our way across. On the way back we had to use our long jumping skills and jump over about half a dozen or so crevaces that were opening up. There is also a really rotten section of ice at the top of the Linda Shelf starting at a bergschrund section. So take care here particularly when decending. The ice cap has some reasonable steps cut into it as a result of the multitude of climbers that have been up there but it still needs good footwork with crampons to decend it.

We did Dixon a few days earlier via the South Ridge and due to the rockfall and avalanch danger in the normal decent route on the East Ridge we decide to do a traverse of the entire East Ridge all the way to Glacier Dome. As a result the climb turned into a 33 hour epic! so take care if you decide to abseil at the first snow/ice arete on the East Ridge as there is serious rockfall and avalanch danger, otherwise be prepared for a really long day/night session continuing along the ridge.

Walk out route over Cinerama Col is quite good apart from a few crevasse crossings on the the top of the Caroline Cglacier and a 10 meter ice cliff/creavase section when traversing the Boys. Lots of good foot prints and cairns to show you the way.

4:27:16 PM
Hey, well done on the Cook bagging John! Look forward to hearing about it at the gym.
- Steve

12:48:45 PM
4 more dead at Mt Cook (avalanche off Mt Tasman) . . . December 2003 will surely go down as one of the most tragic months of mountaineering in NZ history. Respect to all and anyone involved. Lets hope for a happier 2004.
1:12:21 PM
This is unbelievable. Must be a season DoC and the rescue parties they will never forget.

Link as follows:

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