Dec 4, 2008, 6:58 PM
Post #1 of 2
Registered: Dec 12, 2002
by BECK ELEVEN at Mount Cook Village - The Press Friday, 05 December 2008
LATEST: A Japanese climber rescued from Aoraki/Mt Cook this morning is being airlifted to Christchurch Hospital with frostbite, but his companion has been found dead.
Good weather conditions saw rescuers use a helicopter to pluck one man off the mountain this morning.
The rescue is understood to have been made between 5.30am and 6.10am.
It is understood the second man died during a ferocious storm last night.
Constable Paul Swanson the climber was talking to an interpreter but was very unwell.
The men spent last night in the open as their tent either became buried in snow or blew away, said Inspector Dave Gaskin.
Mountain guide Kiyoshi Ikenouchi, 49, and Hideaki Nara, 51, both from Tokyo, have spent seven freezing nights 3700 metres up the mountain after gales near the summit prevented earlier rescue attempts.
This is a tragic outcome as it would have been brilliant if the two had of come about alive.
Dec 5, 2008, 8:35 PM
Post #2 of 2
Registered: Dec 12, 2002
Climber perishes in Mount Cook ordeal
Martin van Beynen and Beck Eleven - Canterbury | Saturday, 06 December 2008
Huddled in his cramped ice-hole, Japanese climber Hideaki Nara, 51, could do nothing for his friend and climbing companion as he succumbed to the alpine cold to become Mount Cook's 69th fatality.
Nara survived the night to be able to walk to a rescue helicopter yesterday morning, but the more experienced climber of the two, Kiyoshi Ikenouchi, 49, a mountain guide, was dead in his sleeping bag when rescuers landed about 5.45am.
What saved Nara, a local government official in Tokyo, was a small ice-cave carved into Middle Peak, where the climbers had attempted to shelter from the bitter winds and cold after they were trapped by a storm on the mountain last Saturday.
Although they knew by Monday that a rescue operation was under way, they endured six gruelling nights at about 3700m on the mountain the peak is 3754m before a gap in the weather allowed rescuers to fly in yesterday at first light.
Conditions over the six days were extreme. For most of it the climbers were in a relentlessly flapping tent in conditions that fellow Mount Cook survivor Mark Inglis described as "like being next to a freight train".
During a storm on Thursday night, snow collapsed the tent and the two men were left exposed to raging winds and extreme cold.
Yesterday, Nara told his interpreter he had taken shelter in an ice-cave wearing every item of clothing he had.
Ikenouchi was left with the only sleeping bag, the other having apparently been lost or rendered unusable.
Several hours after nightfall, Nara and Ikenouchi spoke their last words. Then Ikenouchi was silent.
Nara was able to stumble to the helicopter in winds that dropped to about 60km/h from 130km/h by morning yesterday. Nara had frostbite on his nose, ears and face, but was "in remarkably good condition" when rescuers got to him, Inspector Dave Gaskin said.
Rescue helicopter pilot Nigel Gee said Nara was curled into a foetal position in the hole when the helicopter arrived.
"His hands were covering his head and we had to hover for a minute before he even noticed us," Gee said.
"He was probably giving up at that stage. Slowly he raised his head. He looked so desperate.
He was so cold, getting close to hypothermia if not there already.
"I was surprised he managed to get out of that hole. He did very well to get to his feet, walk 20 yards, climb up a bank and haul himself into the machine.
"When he got in there, that was it he was totally exhausted."
Gee said a rescue team member hugged Nara as he lay on the floor to give him warmth on the flight back to Mount Cook Village.
Once there, and after a warm drink, he perked up enough to talk through an interpreter.
"He said the other climber had only stopped speaking earlier that night, so we flew straight back up there, thinking he was still with us. We checked his vital signs, but he was dead," Gee said.
Interpreter Masa Onuma, a St John volunteer at Mount Cook Village, said Nara had looked a "bit freaked out," surrounded initially by English speakers, but was in good spirits while being assessed by medical staff.
He said the pair realised their rescue might be some way off and had confined themselves to rations of three tablespoons of a rice mixture a day and a small quantity of water. The water ran out on Thursday morning, almost 24 hours before Nara was saved.
Ikenochi, a far more experienced mountaineer than Nara, had taken control.
Nara told the interpreter he was unsure if he could have lasted much longer: "He said Saturday (today) was too late. He might have lost motivation by Saturday, so he was very lucky.
"Nara escaped into a small cave so that he sheltered from the wind. He asked the other man (Ikenouchi) to come with him, but he refused because he said he had a sore back and the snow cave was too small."
The emergency pack dropped by helicopter, which might have helped Ikenochi survive the last crucial hours before the rescue, had not been noticed by the pair.
The wind meant they had not heard it drop.
By about 9am yesterday Nara had been flown to Christchurch Hospital for treatment. A hospital spokeswoman said he was in a comfortable condition.
The climbers were attempting Mount Cook's Grand Traverse, climbing from the Hooker Valley to the South Peak, then to the summit, before heading down to Plateau Hut.
They arrived in Mount Cook Village on November 20, staying at the youth hostel to wait for a break in the weather.
They began climbing on Thursday last week and were supposed to return by Saturday or Sunday. The alarm was sounded on Monday morning when they had not returned.
Rescuers, frustrated by the weather for six days, were left pondering what might have been. It was "extremely hard" to know that Ikenouchi died within hours of rescuers reaching him, Department of Conservation area manager Richard McNamara said.
"The only good thing to come out of it is that at least there is some closure for the family. To finally be able to do it today and realise one had passed away was extremely sad," he said.
On Wednesday, a helicopter was able to get close enough to the men's tent site to drop the emergency pack and a radio, but again wind prevented a rescue.
The climbers had probably not dug their tent back far enough into the back of the schrund to give themselves maximum protection, McNamara said.
The fact Nara was able to find some protection when the tent collapsed and Ikenouchi was more exposed was "the difference", he said.
Gaskin said it appeared the climbers may have been over-equipped, which may have slowed them on the first two days of their trip.
Ikenouchi came to New Zealand in 2001 to climb Mount Aspiring and helped in the rescue bid of two Japanese climbers in 2003. One lived and the other died.
Ikenouchi is the 69th climber known to have died on New Zealand's highest peak and the seventh Japanese.
Mon, 8 Dec 2008
Click photo to enlarge
Mount Cook survivor Hideaki Nara arrives for a press conference in Christchurch today. Photo by Martin Hunter/NZPA. The Japanese climber rescued from 50m below the peak of Aoraki/Mt Cook has told how he spent hours digging a small snow cave with a knife and ball point pen and how his dead companion lost his boots while their ice axes were buried beneath a metre of snow.
Hideaki Nara, 51, was rescued from 3700m up the mountain on Friday, but his companion and guide Kiyoshi Ikenouchi, 49, had died.
Mr Hideaki was discharged from Christchurch Hospital and attended the funeral of his friend today. Mr Ikenouchi's wife, mother and friends of his mother attended the funeral.
At a press conference this evening, Mr Hideaki thanked all the people in New Zealand and Japan who had assisted him, especially the Department of Conservation.
"While I was in hospital I couldn't feel what had happened was real. But today it sunk in. There are no ways to describe how I feel. There is a big hole inside me from the loss."
The pair arrived at Mt Cook on November 26 and reached the Middle Peak area on the night of the 28th when the wind began to blow very strongly.
"We stopped. We couldn't carry on because of the wind. We stayed there a week."
The pair heard a helicopter on one occasion but were unaware of a bag dropped by rescuers because of the noise of the wind and because ice was continually falling on the tent.
By 8am last Thursday the wind was still strong and the tent had become crushed by snow.
He was unable to use his climbing axe which was buried under a metre of snow. When the tent had been buried under the snow, his friend had been unable to find his boots when he crawled out.
Mr Hideaki said it took him hours to dig a small snow cave with a knife and ball point pen. After he managed to dig the cave he curled up in it. It was only big enough to partially protect both of them. His friend chose to remain outside two to three metres away in his sleeping bag where he could lie outstretched.
"The tent was crushed by heavy snow. We were in very difficult conditions waiting for rescue," he said.
About 10pm on Thursday Mr Hideaki heard his friend snoring in his sleeping bag. Every two to three hours they spoke to each other to keep their spirits up until the morning.
Mr Hideaki went back to the protection of the snow cave and remained there all night. He waited for the sun to rise but didn't hear from his friend again.
In the morning he noticed the wind was still blowing and still thought a rescue was out of the question. He also realised his friend had died. A few hours later the rescue helicopter returned to pick him up.
When asked about his experience, Mr Hideaki said he had climbed peaks in Japan. He said one of them was 6500m (Aoraki/Mt Cook is 3754m). The pair had practised on three climbing trips in Japan in the weeks before coming to New Zealand.
They had climbed together for the first time 15 years ago and several times since then.
Mr Hideaki said he did not know what the crucial difference was that saved him while his friend died.
He said he had been curled in a ball and tried to move his fingers and toes to keep circulation going. He thought about his family and friends and how difficult it would be for them if he died on the mountain.
Mr Hideaki declined to be specific about his occupation except that he is a government official. His job had nothing to do with what had happened, he said through an interpreter.
He was dehydrated and had light frostbite to his face, ears and toes but he looked well at the media conference, wearing a t shirt, sandals and cotton trousers.
(This post was edited by majid_sabet on Dec 8, 2008, 1:13 PM)