There’s an interesting article on the NZ Alpine Team blog. It’s courtesy of Rose Pearson (thanks!), one of two people who suffered an accident near Zit Saddle, within 1 km of Top Kokatahi Hut, late last month. The pair were ultimately located and rescued after eventually being reported overdue. This followed several days and nights of struggling to survive, with serious injuries, in the open, and with luck on their side as far as weather was concerned.
Emphasis is my own:
So what were our mistakes? We didn’t turn around when we reached the icy south side of Zit’s Saddle, which had significantly more snow that the northern side. At this point we could have still extracted ourselves. The second mistake is my own. I began rushing and didn’t act appropriately given the danger of a fall.
Finally, should we have had a PLB? In our case yes. I had just spent $700 on one. I purposely bought the smallest model so it wouldn’t matter if I always carried it. Why didn’t I carry it? I bought it two weeks prior for mountaineering or solo trips. I did not consider user error, or the possibility that all party members could be immobilised. I also didn’t consider the difference in time between rescue due to being overdue versus rescue as a result of PLB activation. In our case, Nelson’s broken and dislocated wrist became much worse as it began healing crooked and he suffered from frostbite as a result of our five days out.
I also didn’t consider that SAR might act differently as I owned a PLB. They knew I had a PLB and I was told by both the West Coast Police and West Coast SAR that they would have come a day earlier if I didn’t own a PLB. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t activate it.
It’s normal to make mistakes, and hopefully those who do can learn things as a consequence. Unfortunately, for those who haven’t yet made mistakes, there are too few reflective accounts from others in public, and this can obscure some of the most useful learning insight for others. It’s for understandable reasons, but it also means that when someone manages to write about their experiences so that others can learn, it’s valuable material.
The article’s definitely worth a read. It contains some very good, and insightful reflections of the immediate consequences, and on what went wrong, both as individual mistakes and what combined to make a risky situation much more critical.