At What Cost?
By R. Richards
If you live in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and have anything to do with climbing, the name Jamie Vinton-Boot pops up all the time. New hard routes, and lots of them. The other day, the news that he had been killed in an avalanche sent shock waves through the climbing community, right after the sad news that NZ climbers Marty Schmidt and his son Denali had been swept away by an avalanche at a high camp on K2 in the Himalaya.
Vinton-Boot was a new father who leaves his new baby and wife behind. And the loss of Schmidt and his son are a one-two punch which seems hard to fathom. I was chatting with a checkout person in the grocery store about these losses, and part of her summation was, “At least he was doing something he loved to do.” Being a new father myself, I’m trying to balance my adventure goals, (not that I’m a cutting edge climber by any means) with the risk involved. My risk, (subject hazards) seems worlds apart from the climbers’ mentioned here. Vinton-Boot had decided to do easier routes since becoming a dad, so states the article below. Easy terrain for him might be my upper limit, so it all depends on what you’re comfortable with. It’s the objective hazards that give you the chop, no matter how easy the terrain. Whether it’s a ski descent or a mixed route, easy or hard, there are those hazards, and if it’s your time to go, you get the chop.
As the list of friends, mentors, and famous climbers who’ve gotten the chop grows, the whole thing, for me, comes down to making damn sure I’m stacking the deck in favor of being around for my son. There’s simply no reason not to be. Sure, I could get hit by a car, (as the checkout girl added in her summation), but looking for trouble is a different matter.
When it comes right down to it, we have to really evaluate what roles and games we’re playing in the world of mountaineering. Are internal peaks and challenges of the family journey not enough? Or what about being very present in the mountains without having to be on the edge (See Mindfulness in the Mountains). What is the measure of a man, a climber, a father? I’m just saying…it’s time for me to continue to re-evaluate my everyday decisions as if I were on the end of a lead rope. I have people I’m belaying in life: my wife, my son. And that’s a handful in itself, I don’t want to drop that belay, at any cost. As my mentor and former boss, Willie Prittie said to me in Peru when we were guiding there, “It’s just as important to get down the mountain, (with all your limbs and digits intact), as it is to make the summit. On second thought, it’s more important.”
The following is from an op-ed ..More food for thought:
Climber not at fault: friend
By Paul Hersey, Climber and friend of Jamie Vinton-Boot
Otago Daily Times
Warrington mountaineer Paul Hersey has attended the funerals of many of his mountaineering mates but he will continue to climb.
Mr Hersey (45) said Christchurch climber Jamie Vinton-Boot (30) was a close friend and the pair had climbed together extensively in New Zealand. Mr Vinton-Boot was swept off his feet by snow on Monday when traversing and fell 500m to his death into a Remarkables ravine. Mr Hersey and Mr Vinton-Boot created the climbing documentary One Fine Day on a Mountain, which won a special jury award at the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival this year.
Mr Hersey said the risks to which Mr Vinton-Boot had exposed himself had been exaggerated and conditions at the Remarkables were reasonable for climbing. The avalanche risk was standard for winter mountaineering and not at high or extreme levels, and the ”snow release” was a ”small, isolated pocket”. ”It’s not an avalanche; more a snow sluff, a small release of snow. It can happen a lot when climbing.”
Mr Vinton-Boot was not anchored up because he was traversing to the route, he said. The more difficult a climb, the safer the climb usually was, because more safety gear was used. ”But on a more moderate climb, or approach, you can’t rope up for those situations because it would take forever and you wouldn’t actually get to the climb. In this case, it was walking across a snow slope.”
Mr Vinton-Boot was a safe climber and the wrong message had been attached to his death. ”He’s a really close mate, one of my best mates, and you stick up for your mates and in this instance, he was taking all the reasonable safety steps … Jamie wasn’t doing anything wrong. It just happened.” Mountaineers seek a challenge, not risk, he said. ”But that’s a consequence of the environment sometimes.”
Christchurch mountaineers Marty and Denali Schmidt, who were killed while climbing K2 in Pakistan last month, were also read the rest of this story..