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Article in the SMH

11:07:01 PM

11:09:21 PM

That's better. I blame Google Chrome ....

10:25:26 AM

One of his closing comments in the article:

"I know why Mark and Miles were there. Why they were unguided is harder to explain. I have always gone onto the mountain under the expert care of professionals - Anton Wopereis, Aaron Halsted and John Morgan. They kept me alive, and the extra cost of a guided climb is a trifle compared with the consequences of doing it alone."

I don't think he understands at all why...

Epic Steve
11:19:50 AM
I was at Mt Cook, in the hut with the Vinars and knew them for a few days. Yes they made a fatal error in their choice of route, considering the current conditions, their knowledge of the area and their current experience/fitness level...Shite happens and they paid the price for it...the fact that they were climbing UNGUIDED has nothing to do with the accident. No guide has taken clients up Zurbriggen's for years...for it (Zurbriggen's) to be climbed fast it has to be soloed for much of its a bit hard walking the dog on a leash on a 50 - 55 degree snow slope for 1000 metres...

As for Kelly, and his blatant pushing of his equally shite book (yeh, I read about 40 pages before donating it to the local lifeline bin...!), a couple of the guys in Plateau Hut spent time with KK in the Upper Tasman Glacier area of Cook, and noted he was the biggest loser that they had ever met...continually hosing off about his abilities and his book and how everyone in the hut should buy it as they would all be better off for it...vomit!!! Guides are great and they do an awesome job...but anyone who tells me they conquered Aoraki or Tititea with a guide, is pulling your chain. They won't tell you a guide dragged them up the hill...will they???'ll be I did this and I did that... Most guides are trained to drag people to the top of a mountain who probably shouldn't really be there in the first place (aka Everest!!!)...given enough time and pre trip training, anyone can be dragged up a big hill, even Mt Cook...many Japanese pay for two guides (NZ$10,000...!!!) to do this...cause they usually trip over on the footpath outside the Hermitage Hotel at Mount Cook Village!!!

Climbing alone in the hills with just your climbing partner and the bond that comes with that is also priceless...the decision making, trust and dependence that you have with each other could only be likened to the comaraderie of need to use your skills, judgement, experience, fitness and throw in a small dash of good luck (even renowned guides die in the hills...sometimes with their clients!!!). The guys made their choice (after receiving sound advise from others in the hut who were not guides but had done the route in question...) and it went bad for them. That's life...I bet they don't write a book about it!!! I can't wait to read KK's thrilling account of climbing Mt Kosciosko (guided of course...) and all the perils that it entails...will be riveting stuff!!! NOT!!!

Go and climb, yes get skilled up, get experience, get instruction...but sooner or later you will have to let the guides hand go and just climb for yourself...start out easy and build your experience up...then you will know WHY!!!

5:16:42 PM

Yeah i was a pretty annoyed about those closing comments. To suggest that the only reason some of us
go into the mountains unguided is related to the cost of hiring one is a pretty ignorant comment.

Also the comment about how they could have (read: should have) done the Linda glacier route. No
appreciation of the importance of doing the route vs ticking the summit.

1:27:54 AM
Interesting to see others got as pissed off about the final paragraphs as I did. It's hard to know without spending some time in a hut with him, but just based on the article he came across as a dickhead.

Making your own decisions and getting through it together with your partner, no guide in sight, is the whole bloody point of the exercise.
miss crag
7:11:25 PM
In stark comparison I'm enjoying the book Mountains of My Life (bit of a history of Walter Bonatti).
Perhaps for his solo ascent of the Southwest Pillar of the Dru he should've waited for a guide to take him
2:34:22 AM
I am not sure about this Kieran Kelly fellow. It's a bit sad if he was trying to write an article about the two guys, but actually ended up mainly speaking about himself and promoting his book.
So I don't think the article he wrote in the papers is doing much positive advertising for his book. I will certainly place it back on the shelf if I accidentally pick it up in a bookshop. I'd rather go to a second hand bookshop and pay $29.99 for a ragged & scruffed up old book about prehistoric flightless birds of gondwanaland.
8:56:02 AM
I nearly bought his book (got halfway to the check-out) about three days before his article came up in this thread. Now I'm a big purchaser of mountaineering books but it'll be a cold day in hell before I read, let alone buy his book.
for fox sake
10:40:50 AM

I've read the article and overall it's not that bad. I've done plenty of climbs in NZ, backed off Cook 3 times due to both Weather and my own doubts once (when attempting White Dreams on the South Face). The reporter is giving his opinion as a guided climber, it's blatantley obvious he has done no mountaineering without one, and yes, people have got it right when they say he is in no position to question why they chose the climb they did.

I was going to try the Zubriggen ridge a few years ago and spoke with a very reknowned NZ climber about the route, he told me it was like running the gauntlet as there's a constant amount of rockfall, and not little pebbles. We didn't choose a different route because of this, we decided on the South Face for other reasons.

We, who push the boundaries and take on these routes know what dangers they hold, and we still take the mountain on, on it's terms. Many people have died on the Linda route, it's the 'easiest' on Cook, but still they perish.

4 months ago my partner and i returned to Pioneer hut in a similar (probably worst state) than the brothers returning after their Aspiring climb. It's a welcome relief when there are people in a hut willing to cook and brew up for you. It's an unwritten law after someone's had an epic day.

His line about underestimating NZ's mountains is true, and it comes across like he was relating it to the parties involved in the story, i'm sure he was generalising, and as a reporter should really proof read what he writes before publishing.

Like i wrote before, he's never climbed without a guide so doesnt understand about climbign as a pair, having your partners life in your hands, putting your life in his hands, the bond it has and the elation (after the despair of returning to a hut broken). Feeling like you never want to put crampons on ever again, then sitting in a pub sipping a beer and planning the next climb.

9:22:09 AM
I did not like K Kelly's suggestion that the Linda Glacier route up Cook is the safest way to climb the mountain. I wrote the letter below to the SMH the day I read Kelly's article & emailed it to them 26/12. They have not published it.


Keiran Kelly (SMH 24 Dec) wonders why the Vinar brothers chose the mixed rock and ice Zurbriggenís Ridge route up Mt Cook rather than the Linda Glacier route. Maybe the prospect of 1000 metres of ridge largely free from avalanche danger compared sensibly with the three kilometre snow slog along the avalanche funnel that is the Linda Glacier route.

With two New Zealanders, Iíve tried the route that guide Matthias Zurbriggen pioneered alone in 1896 to make the second ascent of Aorangi. In our case we were hit by an unexpected blizzard something like 800 metres up the route. We all got down but it took us nine hours. I climbed the mountain with another friend the next year via the East Ridge and down the Linda. On the way down the Linda a few bits fell off from above, but missed us. The next year (1982) we climbed the North West (Sheila) Face and went down the Linda again (gulp).

There is no argument against the scale of danger the Vinars would have faced, they were just unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mountaineering is like that. On our Zurbriggenís climb we were too high when the blizzard hit. That we got down unhurt was in part because of good luck on the day.

When we were married in 1983 I told my wife I would not go alpine climbing. I doubt if itís a cure for middle age but I still yearn desperately to get back up there.

I still havenít climbed Zurbriggenís Ridge.

We are still married.

3:58:49 PM
I was on Aspiring the day after John Pawson fell off the South West Ridge, down the West Face, a couple of days before the Vinars went through their ordeal on Cook.

The weather was causing absolute havoc with wind and rain being the order of the day most days up there. So when you got a chance, you'd get kitted up and fly up and down whatever you could. Getting down was often in shocking conditions with huge winds, up you could always crawl when it got too blowey...

NZ is a funny place, so beautiful, magical to climb, but it is treacherous with or without a guide. Try and find crevasse lines with ice burning your skin and eyes. Even more treacherous than Aspiring was coming down Bevan Col to the Matukituki Valley, the rock was wet and slippery as all hell in your plastics... now that was scary.

But I wouldn't have missed the shitty weather or the scary bits for quids.... I had a lovely summit view and a special time with John Pawson's spirit floating around Aspiring. May he and Mark Vinar rest in peace!
5:32:21 PM
"Mountains are cathedrals: grand and pure, the houses of my religion. I go to them as humans go to worship...From their lofty summits, I view my past, dream of the future, and with unusual acuity I am allowed to experience the present moment. My strength renewed, my vision cleared, in the mountains I celebrate creation. On each journey I am reborn." -Anatoli Boukreev,

this is one of my favourite quotes, everybody goes into the hills for diffrent reasons. Some people go to push there limits, Some people go with a guide to be "safe". It sounds like these guys where pushing there limits. Climbing over here is a catch 22 situation, if you stick your neck out and climb something hard your a hero, if you die people think you shouldnt have been there. I have read "Aspiring" and don't think Kieren should have been on Aspiring, even with a guide. If he had died he would have been pushing his limit and in over his head, instead he summited writes a book, and thinks he's a hero...

There are 13 messages in this topic.


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