Wānaka Sun       

Climbers not climbing beyond their ability

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 15 Apr, 2021 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

The death of two promising mountaineers, one of whom was from Wānaka, was the subject of a three-day inquest in January last year.

Sarwan Chand, 27 of Wānaka and Conor Smith, 22 of Queenstown, died while attempting a challenging route on the south face of Marian Peak in the Darran Mountains on April 22, 2017.

The pair's death, to which there were no witnesses, was the subject of the inquest.

The pair were not climbing beyond their abilities, the coroner found.

Coroner David Robinson, who released his findings on Wednesday, concluded Smith fell — for an unknown reason but possibly a hand or foot slip, or a dislodged rock — up to 34 vertical metres, or twice the length of the played-out rope between the pair.

The force of his fall went on to a cam anchor that immediately dislodged, putting the force on to Chand's belay, his body, and then on to a micro-cam secondary anchor that also dislodged, resulting in him being pulled from the rock face.

The two men then fell a further 100 vertical metres.

The pair had been members, since 2015, of the New Zealand Alpine Team, which is made up of promising young climbers who are mentored by experienced older climbers.

The team was set up 2013 and climbers aged 18 to 25 are able to apply to join its three-yearly intake as mentees.

Robinson said he considered whether the team's culture had contributed to the pair's deaths, partly because of media articles at the time in which experienced climbers had voiced concerns it was instilling "outsized confidence" in its mentees.

Two climbers who publicly expressed some of those concerns gave evidence at the hearing but expressed some regret at their earlier comments.

They admitted their knowledge of the team's culture was incomplete, and their perspectives had changed somewhat subsequently, Robinson said.

Read edition 1022 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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