Archive for the ‘Milestones’ Category

Life & Death in the Mountains

16/08/2013

At What Cost?
By R. Richards

Vinton-Boot in Chamonix

Vinton-Boot in Chamonix

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. 

Vinton-Boot in Queenstown's Remarkables Range, NZ

Vinton-Boot in Queenstown’s Remarkables Range, NZ

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..

Marty Schmidt & Son killed on K2

29/07/2013
Denali and Marty Schmidt, Mountain Guides Extraordinaire

Denali and Marty Schmidt, Mountain Guides Extraordinaire

A New Zealand father and son’s tent has been found wrecked and vital climbing tools left abandoned, confirming fears they have been swept away and killed in an avalanche on the world’s deadliest mountain. Marty Schmidt, 53, and Denali Schmidt, 25, were hoping to become the first father-and-son team to conquer K2 in Pakistan – but they hadn’t been heard from since Friday.

Others in their climbing party turned back the day before because of the threat of an avalanche and bad weather. A Sherpa went looking for the pair on Sunday and discovered their tent wrecked by an avalanche. Equipment they would have needed to keep moving was found intact nearby.

“The news from the findings of the Sherpa who went up to their camp has us grieving tonight. They’d need their crampons and axe to go either up or down on the mountain,” said Becky Rippel, co-owner of Canada-based mountain guide firm Peak Freaks, Marty Schmidt’s employer.

Late last night, Sequoia Di Angelo, daughter and sister of the climbers, emailed the Herald: “It is with great sorrow that I confirm the tragic deaths of my beloved brother and father, Denali and Marty Schmidt. May their spirits rest in peace and their smiles never be forgotten.”

British climber Adrian Hayes – one of those who turned back – said the Schmidts were well known, highly experienced and very strong mountaineers – Read the rest of this story at New Zealand Herald

Editor’s Note: Although I never met Marty in person, I was acquainted with him, and knew of his great reputation here in New Zealand. My heart goes out to his family in Christchurch, and extended family and friends elsewhere.

Milestones: Ron Verblauw, 1933-2009

12/03/2010

By D.R. Richards

Good Friend and Mountain Man, Ron Verblauw

Unexpected friends come into one’s life, sometimes for a brief time, but leave an indelible mark. Ron Verblauw was one of those people in my life. He and his wife, Carol, moved to Sunapee, New Hampshire, USA from New Jersey because of Ron’s love of the country and skiing. He had served as a director on the National Ski Patrol’s Eastern Division, ran a trucking company in New Jersey for 40 years, served in the U.S. Air Force in the Korean conflict and was a district governor of Rotary International.

I must admit, I was prepared not to be fond of Ron at first, because of his pro-development stance regarding our local Mt. Sunapee Ski Area and his “proactive aire” about getting things done in, what used to be, our little sleepy community, which can often rub the locals the wrong way. I later saw this as a wonderful attribute, and I quickly realized Ron was an amazing person for many reasons. (more…)

Milestones: Howard Zinn

02/02/2010

Howard Zinn, 1922 - 2010

Howard Zinn, historian, author, and activist passed away last week at the age of 87. Perhaps best known for his highly influential book A People’s History of the United States, Zinn was a fierce advocate for civil rights. In his memory, the Media Education Foundation has posted a never before seen video, done it 2005.  You can see it here.

Milestones

16/05/2009

Mountain Spirit  expresses its condolences to the family, friends, and fellow staff  at North Carolina Outward Bound, of Matthew Lizotte of Aspen, Colorado, 25, who died Sunday while leading a group up 11,411-foot Mount Tronador in Argentina’s Nahuel Huapi National Park. Lizotte was a senior instructor for NCOBS and was one of three experienced instructors leading a semester course in Patagonia. To know more about the circumstances, Read the AP Article.