Monday, 2 March 2015

Climber's body discovered on Tasman Glacier

I worked at Mount Cook on the alpine rescue team from 1970 to 1973 and was fascinated to read
of  a climber's body being found 40 years later. I think I know who the climber is but I will wait
until the Police announce his name. See the second article below where is name is announced.

Here is a photograph I took recently of the Tasman Glacier. with Aoraki Mount Cook and Mount
Tasman dominating the skyline.

BODY UNCOVERED: The Tasman Glacier as seen from the Tasman moraine wall.
  Photo: Rachel Hay

THE body of a young climber killed more than 40 years ago has been discovered at the foot of New Zealand’s Tasman Glacier.

Police believe the well-preserved remains, discovered in late January, belong to a 19-year-old South Islander who died in a slab avalanche near the top of the glacier on September 16, 1973. The body of his 64-year-old climbing companion was discovered soon after the accident, which was triggered when the pair walked underneath ice cliffs that gave way.
“It seems the young guy, if this is him, was buried in that avalanche and then his body has taken all this time to come down the glacier and out into the open,” Senior Constable Brent Swanson from Lake Tekapo police said.
Police are awaiting DNA results before they confirm the man’s identity.
Independent guide Gavin Lang was one of two climbers to discover the remains near the old Malte Brun Hut.
He photographed and recorded the location co-ordinates for police. Once home, a quick photo search revealed the boots and materials were similar to those used by climbers in the early 1970s.
“It was pretty amazing to realise he had been up there more than 40 years. That’s an incredible journey, long and slow over all those decades, and then it shows up.”
The bodies of 62 climbers who have disappeared in Mt Cook National Park since 1907 remain missing today.

A shot from the top of the Tasman Glacier in 1973 taken somewhere near where the accident happened. Photo: Bob McKerrow

It is thought that most would have fallen into glacier crevasses, where they could remain hidden for decades. However as glaciers melt and move, the bodies may eventually be uncovered.
Andrew Hobman, an avalanche and alpine safety expert with Mountain Safety Council, said people who perished in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park commonly showed up at the foot of the glacier. He said the discovery would likely bring some much-needed closure for the man’s family.
“It’s great news really,” Mr Hobman said.
“Families can struggle to understand why we can’t recover people at the time, that it’s simply impossible. So when someone just shows up, even so much later, relatives can get huge relief.”
It is by no means the first time bodies of lost climbers have been found decades after their deaths on the mountain.
In 2001, the remains of Swiss climbers August Manser and Edwin Kunz, who went missing in 1963, were uncovered on the Hooker Glacier, near Mt Cook.
In 1999, the remains of NZ climbers John Cousins and Michael Goldsmith were found by a climbing party 36 years after they disappeared.

At the time of this accident in late 1973, Tasman Saddle Hut was a popular one for climbers Photo: Bob McKerrow

Final chapter: 

Father dies weeks before son's body found

The father of a teenage climber who was lost on Canterbury's Tasman Glacier more than 40 years ago died just weeks before the discovery of what is believed to be his son's body.
David Moen was 19 when he was swept away by an avalanche near the Tasman Saddle on September 16, 1973. Moen, of Invercargill, had been climbing with Australian William Richards, 64.
Both were killed when an area of overhanging snow gave way beneath them - known as a cornice collapse.
A 20-hour search uncovered Richards' body and Moen's bag. The young man's body was not located until last month when two climbers discovered what was believed to be his well-preserved remains on the glacier.
Department of Conservation ranger Shirley Slatter said authorities believed the remains were those of Moen because of where the body was found and the type of equipment found with it.
Records showed Moen and Richards had been climbing from the Tasman Saddle landing strip to the Tasman Saddle Hut when the avalanche happened.
No-one else was reported missing in the park around that time.
Immediate relatives of Moen declined comment on the discovery until the body had been formally identified by the coroner.
His second-cousin John Moen, of Christchurch, said the news was incredible.
He said he did not really know David Moen but had visited a memorial plaque for him near Mt Cook.
David Moen's father, Erek, died only a few weeks before the discovery of what could be his son's remains. He died at a rest home in Alexandra on January 30, aged 92 - just over a year after his wife of 62 years died in a Christchurch rest home.
Ngaire Moen was 85 when she died on January 17, 2014.
News reports from the time of Moen's disappearance state the search for Moen had to be abandoned because of safety concerns.
Mt Cook National Park head ranger B W Thomas said at the time he believed everything "humanly possible" had been done to try find the climber.
"Probing of the avalanche was difficult on account of the size of the ice blocks and the time involved in checking any likelihood of the presence of the missing man," he said.
Since 1907, 62 people have gone missing in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and never been found but seasonal melting of the Tasman Glacier this year has revealed the remains of a second missing climber.
The second set of human remains was recovered last week from the bottom of the Hochstetter ice fall as it entered the Tasman Glacier. No details on the possible identity of that person were available yet but police said the two discoveries were from separate incidents and not related.
Andrew Hobman, Mountain Safety Council avalanche and alpine programme manager, said it was not uncommon for human remains to be found after long periods of time on the glaciers.
Avalanches threw climbers into crevasses, burying them until slow glacial movement pushed their remains to the bottom of the ice shelf - a process that could take 30 years.
There was a surge in climbers attempting New Zealand's highest mountain in the 1970s and 80s, which led to a rise in accidents and deaths at the time, Hobman said.
"It may be that this is the victims of that time coming out."
 - The Press

Here is some additional information on early deaths at Mount Cook Aoraki:

 Aoraki Mt Cook Field Centre.
George Napier was the first person to die in the Mt Cook National Park in a climbing or associated activity. He probably drowned in the Hooker River back in Dec. 1907.  Mr Napier was employed by the Hermitage to assist the guides.  It was presumed he drowned while returning alone with the horses after taking a climbing party to Ball Hut. His body was never found. 'Peter Graham Mountain Guide' an autobiography, refers to the unsuccessful searches for him.  The horses were found outside the boundary fence.

Evelyn Oxenham, a young woman, died on the Mueller Glacier on June 26, 1913. Her body was found on June 26 by guide Jim Murphy. Her "climbing companion Mr Locke reported at The Hermitage, that she had become exhausted and he left her to get help."  The pair had been climbing.  For her to have been climbing with a male guide, and without a chaperon, was very unusual for those times. 
Messrs Darby Thomson, Jock Richmond, mountain guides and Sydney L. King were caught in an avalanche, off divide north of Mt Dampier, on the Linda Glacier on Feb. 22, 1914.  They had completed a successful ascent of Mount Cook and were descending by the Linda Glacier. The body of Richmond was found and carried back to the Hermitage.

Evening Post
, 2 March 1914, Page 8 Inquest
Ist March. At the Hermitage, before Mr. C. J. Pilkington, J.P., Acting-Coroner, and a jury of six, an inquest was held concerning the death of Guide J. Richmond. Guide Graham stated that on receiving word of the party being missing he arranged a search party, and proceeded to Haast bivouac, meeting Mr. Turner on the way, who returned and assisted in the search. On the morning of 25th February they proceeded to Linda Glacier and examined the steps which appeared, and arrived at the conclusion that the party had been overwhelmed by a vast avalanche. They discovered the body of Richmond very much bruiser. It had a portion of the guide-rope attached to it. The body was removed to the Haast bivouac. The avalanche had apparently been carried a quarter of a mile from where the last tracks of the party were discovered. As mountaineering goes, the spot has been generally reckoned comparatively safe. He always considered Richmond a capable and trusty guide. Richmond's watch was broken, and had stopped at 4.50, which would be about the time the party would be on the spot where the avalanche came down, judging from the time they were last seen on the summit. The avalanche would be about three-quarters of a mile long and a-quarter of a mile wide. Samuel Turner gave evidence that they saw Mr. King's party, consisting of Mr. King and Guides Richmond and Thompson, on the summit of Mount Cook about 12 noon on 22nd February. He was with the search party who found the body, and assisted to remove it to the Hermitage. A verdict was recorded in accordance with the evidence.
The accident was in no way due to carelessness, but was simply a calamity of Nature.
Evening Post, 25 February 1914, Page 3 ANOTHER ACCOUNT
CHRISTCHURCH, This Day. A different account from that contained in the official telegram was supplied last night_ by Mr. Batey, an officer of the Tourist Department, who was at the old Hermitage at the time of the supposed disaster. Batey says that King, "Darby" Thompson (senior guide), and Jock Richmond started off from the Hermitage at 4 a.m. on Saturday. Lieutenant Dennistoun and Mr. Turner started off without guides ten hours later, intending an unaided ascent of Mount Cook. They followed the track of King's party as far as the Linda Pass where, in the shadow of Mount Silberhorn, the tracks ended in an avalanche. Dennistoun and Turner searched the farther side of the avalanche, but found no further tracks, so returned and reported that King and his party had probably been swept down the crevasse. Crevasses are very numerous on Mount Silberhorn and in the Linda Pass. Thompson was a native of the West Coast, hailing from Ho Ho, three miles from Hokitika, his family being old settlers in the district. He was well known as an exceptionally clever mountaineer and was extremely popular. He had for many years been guide on Mount Cook, second in seniority only to Peter Graham. Richmond had been three years in the service. King was an Englishman who had had considerable climbing experience in the Swiss Alps. He had been unsuccessful in an attempt on the minor peaks in the Mount Cook group owing to bad luck with the weather. The present season has been especially prolific in the matter of avalanches. Mount Cook was never so bare and denuded of snow and ice as at present, owing to the hot weather.

Guide John Richmond belonged to Willowbridge. He is buried in Fairlie. He was 30 when he died  on 22 Feb. 1914. Son of John and Annie Richmond. They have to other children buried in Fairlie.
Evening Post, 27 February 1914, Page 3
Telegram from Mr. B. M. Wilson, general manager of the Tourist Department, this afternoon "The rescue party had a very hard time, and are resting to-day at Ball Hut, where Chief Guide Graham returns to-night, with Mr. Friend and three guides Conrad, Kane and Brass, who have volunteered their assistance. The country was so rough and broken that it was only possible to get the body out by each man taking turns to carry it a few steps at a time. "The body was fearfully mutilated, and barely recognisable. The party had almost decided to abandon the search, when Guide Graham saw a boot sticking out of the snow, and so discovered the body. They then tried hard to find the others.

Grey River Argus, 2 March 1914, Page 3
"Darby" Thompson was a very well known and extremely popular guide. He was second in seniority only to Peter Graham, and had been man years among the Mount Cook group of peaks. He was an exceptionally good mountaineer. Thompson, strangely enough, seems to have had some premonition of disaster. He "was discussing the perils of mountaineering with a Christchurch resident during a recent visit to this city, and he referred to the fact that there, had been no fatal accidents among the guides in the Mount Cook distract. 'All the same," he said, "we carry, our lives in our hands. Don't be surprised if you hear soon that one of us has met his Waterloo." Jack Richmond had been in the guide service for about three years. He was Peter Graham's assistant.

 Mrs Thomas Condon died while crossing the Copeland Pass in 1925.  She was crossing the pass from west to east, with a guide and her husband, when she died somewhere above the Hooker Hut. As of Jan. 2000 193 have died in aircraft accidents in the park or while climbing or guiding.  Mt Cook itself, continues to take its toll, claiming more than a quarter of all the fatalities.


Unknown said...

This is pretty amazing ..and don't know where to start , but the older gentleman that was climbing with David Moen, happens to be my Grandfather William (Bill Richards ...

I phoned my mother today ( Bills Daughter) for her Birthday and we were talking about that time as Bill had come to visit and stay with us for a couple of weeks before he went to New Zealand when this accident happened....

Today I decided to do a bit of research and found this....amazing ...I have tried before but came up with nothing :(

Then I found the article at Press Reader in the Nelson Mail with mention of my Grandfather .. wow !!

I can't begin to tell you how overwhelmed we are to find this article ...and how it's tugged at our heartstrings more than anyone can we have no idea what happened to my Grandfathers ashes and how little we knew of what happened leading up to and when this devastating and fatal accident occurred ...

Thank you so much ...from all who loved William Richards for the amazing adventurous human being he was ..

Jen Dwyer

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Rudy Dag said...

Hi there. Random chance this gets read, I wonder if S. L. King's body was ever found? He was not only a famous climber but a more famous footballer and played over 350 times for The Casuals Football Club. Be very interested in setting up a memorial to him, either here in England or in NZ. He was a remarkable man.