Climber dies on Mount Cook

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mark Vinar, an Australian climber from Perth, has been presumed dead after falling over half a kilometre from New Zealand's highest peak, Aoraki/Mount Cook. He is said to have lost his footing whilst descending the Zurbriggen Ridge.

His brother, Miles Vinar, was rescued by an alpine rescue team after being stranded for two days on a ridge on the mountain and airlifted by helicopter to Plateau Hut in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park on early morning Saturday.

Aoraki/Mount Cook as seen from Hooker Valley

Guides at Plateau Hut became concerned for the two brothers on Friday, when the latter did not return as was scheduled.

Police reports say that the two brothers were descending the ridge, with Miles Vinar going first: "Miles had to climb down using an ice pick and crampons. He instructed Mark about it, but for some reason Mark lost his footing and fell backwards and started rolling. He went behind some rocks, then appeared again rolling down the hill. He went down about 500 metres and then disappeared," said Omarama police constable Les Andrew, adding that Miles was certain that it was poor that he was obliged to take cover in the snow and wait for rescue.

"There is no sign of the missing climber and it is presumed he has either fallen into a crevasse and become buried, or has been buried under snow and ice debris," stated the New Zealand Department of Conservation, adding that there had been thirty centimetres of fresh snow.

Mark Vinar is the seventieth person to die on Mt Cook in a century, as well as the ninth to die on Zurbriggen Ridge. This is the second death on the mountain in only eight days: Kiyoshi Ikenouchi, a Japanese climber, died after being stranded on Mt Cook for a week, just hours before help arrived.