/ NEWS: British climbers die in the Alps

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Kyuzo on 11 Jan 2009
[UKC Staff Edit] Now on the UKC News Page:

(Report by Lindsay Griffin on the BMC Site)

http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/older.html?month=01&year=2009#n45558


From the BBC:

"The youngest Briton to have climbed Mount Everest has been killed, along with a second British climber, in an accident in the French Alps.

Rob Gauntlett, of Petworth, Sussex, reached the summit of Mount Everest when he was just 19 in 2006 and was highly regarded in the climbing world...."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7822567.stm
petestack - on 11 Jan 2009
DEvans - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply

playing with fire.
tom84 - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to DEvans: would you care to explain this comment?
DEvans - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to thomasfoote:

the risks involved in mountainering are great. a bit like playing with fire. eventually something might go wrong. i just finished reading lynn hills autobiography, she had lots of friends who mountainered and they were dropping like flies in the book. i'm never suprised to hear of mountainers getting killed.
Bruce Hooker - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to DEvans:

Apparently they were killed by an avalanche. Quite often valley ice climbs lead up steep cliffs with large less steep areas above... the best ice falls being formed when these upper slopes collect water (and snow) like funnels... which is why it is extremely important to be aware of the dangers in times of thaw and after fresh snow... as you say, it can be dangerous to say the least.

In this case it seems two local guides, responsible for many new routes and, one would presume, well up on these sorts of considerations, were killed just before also by avalanche, so it's not a simple problem.

fishy1 - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to Kyuzo: Had the other guy been named yet?
John Roberts (JR) - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

No the news reports are confusing. I believe they were killed on the gervassutti couloir. Specifics unknown so far, but there is no avalanche evidence.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/4217754/British-climber-Rob-Gauntlett-who-di...
subalpine - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to JR: maybe related to http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=335613? or different conditions?
John Roberts (JR) - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to fishy1:

yes see the link above.
tom84 - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to DEvans: im sure she had many friends who died in the mountains, as of today i have one too.
Byronius Maximus - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to DEvans:

While you are entitled to your opinion, don't you think a thread reporting such a tragedy is a rather insensitive place to air it?
Paulio79 - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to thomasfoote:
Just seen sean s f/book sorry to hear the sad news Tom ,
condolences to the families
DEvans - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to Byron Buck: is it an opinion that the mountains are very dangerous.
James Oswald - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to Kyuzo:
Condolences to all.
James Oswald - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to DEvans:
Yes it is. Saying something is dangerous is a value judgement.
DEvans - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to james oswald: i disagree.
liz j on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to JR:
The news reports are a bit mixed up as yesterday Hors Piste was reporting that they had been killed at Sixt. It would now appear that there were two fatalities there yesterday in a separate accident, hence the confusion.
Gordon Stainforth - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to james oswald:
> (In reply to DEvans)
> Yes it is. Saying something is dangerous is a value judgement.

No, assessing objective dangers is a matter of statistics, not values. E.g. on a mountain like K2 you have an appallingly high chance of killing yourself (I think it may be as high as 1 in 20). To say it is 'dangerous' is applying the English language in a rather understated way to a cruel, hard fact. Likewise a rock climb like Indian Face, with its very inadequate protection, is factually very dangerous.
pec on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to DEvans: Your attitude is very casual and dismissive as if somehow they were "asking for it" by doing something unecessarily dangerous.
Of course mountaineering is dangerous, but all climbing is dangerous, if you've been climbing for as long as your profile suggests and up to those grades I can't believe you've never been in a situation in which you could have got killed.
Until you have some more hard facts upon which to base your opinion of this specific case, I suggest you keep it to yourself, this is not the time or the place. Show a little more compassion for your fellow climbers, one day it might be you.
DEvans - on 11 Jan 2009
In reply to pec: i don't think i have commented on this specific event . i don't feel i have been in a more dangerous position while climbing than i have while driving, or working on a roof or many other dangerous things. i also have compassion for the tragic loss of life. to even suggest that i thought someone was asking to have a fatal accident is not nice.
In reply to DEvans:
> to even suggest that i thought someone was asking to have a fatal accident is not nice.

You said:

"playing with fire."

and nothing else. What on earth did you think people would understand from that?
Bruce Hooker - on 12 Jan 2009
In reply to Byron Buck:
> (In reply to DEvans)
>
> While you are entitled to your opinion, don't you think a thread reporting such a tragedy is a rather insensitive place to air it?

People always say this... and the accidents just continue, year after year. I didn't take it as putting particular blame on the climbers concerned, just pointing out the intrinsic danger of this particular climbing activity.

In general I think people underestimate the dangers of winter Alpine climbing and ice climbing in high mountain environments in winter. The reporting of successful climbs may give some the impression that it's on a par with other climbing activities and perhaps don't always say just how much previous experience is preferable before having a go at this now rather fashionable activity. Obviously the commercial aspects may play a role too as you need a whole lot more high priced gear than you do for rock-climbing or mountain walking in the summer.

Al Evans on 12 Jan 2009
In reply to Bruce Hooker: Bruce, you reply was factual and sensible up to the last sentence, we, my mate and I, were both little more than schoolboys from poor families when we first went to the Alps, and did 6 grandes courses/ED's. I dont think commercial aspects or high priced gear comes into it.
Bruce Hooker - on 12 Jan 2009
In reply to Al Evans:

You weren't doing it in winter though, were you?

I mean that I have the feeling, after reading these forums for a while, that the extra dangers of winter Alpine climbing are often skipped over a bit. The question of commercial interests may be "not proved" but when I look through the glossy catalogues I receive each year and see how much a complete set of winter gear would cost it's not hard to see the interests involved. If people were sensible it wouldn't matter, and gear manufacturers could quite rightly say that they are just proposing the gear not forcing people to buy... which is true.

Haven't you ever been dismayed by threads in which a beginner asks about the Walker Spur saying "Apparently it only VS so how would I get on soloing it?"?

I agree, BTW, it's very sad when people die so young - I went through a similar drama at the same age and it marks one for life - but I think it is right to point out the dangers of climbing, especially the sort of climbing which is almost inevitably dangerous... No sport is really worth dying for.
Byronius Maximus - on 12 Jan 2009
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

I'm not saying that the point which DEvans made was not valid; I think that he/she in fact makes a good point and it is an issue that should of course be considered by all people doing this kind of mountaineering, but I didn't feel that a thread reporting the accident was a good place to make it. Starting another thread on it would be more appropriate I think.

Anyway, I'm starting to sound like I'm taking moral high ground here which really isn't my intention, I'm sure everyone on here does feel for the friends and family of the people involved.
Al Evans on 12 Jan 2009
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to Al Evans)
>
> You weren't doing it in winter though, were you?

No Bruce, but in the Alps, you know as well as I do that summer conditions can instantly become winter conditions.
This is especially true if you are on the valley crags in winter. So I still believe its not kit and commercial considerations but something else (luck). For gods sake, what did Heibler and Kinshofer know of modern gear in March 1961 on the N Face of the Eiger? 6 days down to -23C.
Mark Stevenson - on 12 Jan 2009
In reply to Bruce Hooker: You have raised some good points.

I've already made a longer reply on the other thread so won't repeat the content of that other than to say I don't know whether to be glad (as a mountaineer) that young alpinists are getting on big routes in Winter or concerned that aspects of serious mountaineering are somehow 'over accessible'.
Bruce Hooker - on 12 Jan 2009
In reply to JR:
> (In reply to Bruce Hooker)
>
> No the news reports are confusing. I believe they were killed on the gervassutti couloir. Specifics unknown so far, but there is no avalanche evidence.
>

You're right, it wasn't a valley ice-climb... I misread the pistehors.com report which was about several separate accidents. So it's not clear what happened. My basic point about not underestimating winter Alpine climbing still seems valid, although this doesn't imply necessarily any fault on their part.

I disagree with Al though, I think winter climbing is much more serious than summer climbing in the Alps. The days are much shorter, and it's just so much colder and lonelier. Possibly a more satisfying experience because of this, of course, but much more serious.
francoisecall - on 12 Jan 2009
In reply to Bruce Hooker: I think it comes down to a question of skills. For me a day rock climbing would be dangerous because I am crap at it. But a day ice climbing or winter climbing is safer for me because I am more confident with winter techniques.
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Anonymous on 12 Jan 2009 - cpc3-macc1-0-0-cust343.bagu.cable.ntl.com
In reply to francoisecall:

Within the context of a british climbing forum, Ice climbing is more dangerous for many reasons.

- we have less experience on ice because we only get a few short weeks every year at most in which to gain experience
- ice is an unpredictable medium
- objective dangers such as ice fall, avalanche, rock fall are greater.
- becasue we have committed to spending our money on flights and hotels and because we won't see the ice again for another year we are morelikely to go out in marginal or dangerous conditions.
- because conditions vary, some areas and routes become over-crowded when the conditions come in.
- the days are shorter and climbers are less likely to wait for another party to finish on a route before they start to climb.
- if you train hard on rock then you will want to push yourself hard on ice even though you may be inexperienced on ice.

and on and on....
katie75 - on 17 Jan 2009
In reply to Kyuzo: my condolences to all, may they rest in piece.


Al Evans on 18 Jan 2009
In reply to Anonymous: and Bruce;
I dont disagree with either of your statements about winter bein more dangerous than summer climbing, I can't speak for Francoise except that I have climbed with her and she is underestimating her rock climbing skills, but I think we are both saying the same thing, experience counts for more than gear.
Climbing in the summer in the Alps can be more dangerous just because it can turn to winter conditions in a matter of an hour, and if you don't realise this then no amount of gear subsitutes for skill in reading a mountain and being genuinely sensible in knowing that you know when to back off and that you know how to do it.
Hence my comments about the first winter ascent of the NF of the Eiger in winter with just the gear available in 1961.

It would seem this was a genuine and unfortunate accident, condolences to all affected by it.
Charlie_Zero on 18 Jan 2009
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to james oswald)
> [...]
>
> No, assessing objective dangers is a matter of statistics, not values. E.g. on a mountain like K2 you have an appallingly high chance of killing yourself (I think it may be as high as 1 in 20).

Details from www.k2climb.net

From 1990 until today 26 out of 132 climbers have died on K2 (19.7%). This is almost five times the modern Everest fatality rate of 4.4%.

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