30 Nov 2018

Trampers caught in avalanche were tourists

5:02 pm on 30 November 2018

Police have released the name of the tramper who died after being caught in an avalanche with another camper in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park yesterday, the third death in the area a month.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Nathan Deutschbein, 40, from Australia was tramping with his companion when the avalanche occurred at about 1.30pm yesterday on the Eugenie Glacier.

Mid and South Canterbury area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin said the pair were climbing the mountain when the weather turned and they decided to turn back.

"But unfortunately as they were coming down they triggered a small avalanche and were swept away for a very short distance. One of them was buried."

Mr Gaskin said the second tramper managed to get himself out from under the snow and tried to save his friend, but it was too late.

The man who survived suffered minor injuries. A third tramper was feeling unwell that morning, so didn't join his friends, he said.

The two men have now been flown off the mountain, and family overseas are being contacted.

An avalanche advisory issued yesterday afternoon said there were dangerous avalanche conditions on alpine and high alpine areas of the mountain.

Mr Gaskin agreed tramping conditions on Aoraki/Mount Cook were not good.

"The unfortunate thing is that a lot of people climb at this time of the year," he said.

"It's just people taking chances. Sometimes they get away with it, and unfortunately in this occasion they didn't."

It's the third death due to an avalanche on Aoraki/Mount Cook within a month.

Late last month, two mountain guides, Martin Hess and Wolfgang Maier, also died on a climb. A third climber, adventurer Jo Morgan, survived.

Andrew Hobman from the avalanche safety organisation, Avalanche New Zealand, said glaciers declining because of the climate have affected the climbing season.

"The snow pack goes away quite quickly, the crevasses open up, access to the climbing route becomes very, very difficult."

"So people are now climbing much earlier in the year and that means they're also interacting with more of these winter-like storms that are coming through," he said.

There has been bad weather in the Mount Cook area in recent days, Mr Hobman said.

His advice was that people should wait at least 24 hours after bad weather before attempting a climb, but not everyone does so.

"We often see people rushing out straight after the storm to try and get out in the small weather window they've been given, but that's certainly increasing their risk," he said.

He said New Zealand is unique in that half of those killed in avalanches are climbers, about 90 percent of which are triggered by people.

He said more needed to be done to make sure climbers were safe.

Safety tips:

  • Avoid walking on slopes between 30 - 45 degrees
  • Pack avalanche rescue gear such as as a shovel, transceiver and probe
  • Climb one at a time across slopes
  • Wait at least a day after a storm before attempting a climb
  • Seek information and check avalanche advisories and adhere to the advice.

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