Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Climber killed in avalanche near Remarkables ski field

Jamie Vinton-Boot.
Jamie Vinton-Boot.

The New Zealand Alpine Club has paid tribute to a climber swept to his death in an avalanche near Queenstown this morning.

The 30-year-old man, named by the alpine club as Jamie Vinton-Boot was with a 34-year-old companion when they were caught in the avalanche in the Remarkables about 8.35am.

The experienced pair were in an area commonly used by rock climbers beyond the ski boundary.

Mr Vinton-boot fell 500 metres down the west face of the mountain in the avalanche, which was about four metres wide and 300 to 400mm deep, police said.

It swept him from his feet, carrying him down a steep face and he was unable to gain control of his descent.

His companion, who was uninjured, managed to reach him some time later and raise the alarm.

An emergency response was activated involving The Remarkables ski-field patrol and police.

Alpine Club general manager Sam Newton said Mr Vinton-Boot's death was a tragic loss.

"Jamie Vinton-Boot is an outstanding climber of this generation and one of New Zealand's most gifted alpinists.

"He has completed numerous first ascents in New Zealand of an extremely high standard. These were often undertaken with his unique, self-imposed 'the line of most resistance' style and ethos," Mr Newton said.

Mr Vinton-Boot was recently joined the 'Backyard and Beyond' project, which sought out and promoted home-grown exploration and adventure, he said.

"As evidenced by his participation in the New Zealand Alpine Team, he was committed to developing and mentoring the next generation of climbers and adventurers in New Zealand - despite being a young man himself.

"His death is a tragic loss for the climbing community and, of course, his friends and family. Our thoughts are with his loved ones, at this sad time."

Andrew Hobman of the Mountain Safety Council said conditions on the mountain had resulted in a "very firm" base layer of snow and a lighter top layer.

This was referred to as "wind slab avalanche condition", he said.

Climbers often became caught out and triggered avalanches when the snow was packed like this.

"We've got a very firm layer underneath and then a little bit of snow over the last 24 to 36 hours and a lot of wind associated with that means that the snow gets transported by the wind

"That wind transported snow doesn't bond very well to the layer below it, especially if the layer was a very firm layer which it was. So it doesn't take a lot of weight on top of it to trigger an avalanche...especially with a steep gully," Mr Hobman said.

This morning's incident was a "fairly typical scenario" for climbers.

"Of all recorded avalanche fatalities in New Zealand in the last 100 years, 55 per cent of them were climbers."

In June last year, two climbers on Mount Taranaki had a lucky escape after triggering an avalanche, he said.

"It was the same thing."

"Slab avalanches make up the majority of the type of avalanches that catch people out."

Between 2000 and 2009, 10 people had died after being caught in avalanches, Mr Hobman said.

- APNZ

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