Climber killed in avalanche was ‘passionate, exceptional’

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The Queenstown Climbing Club president has recalled the man who perished up the Remarkables as a passionate and exceptional climber.
 
An avalanche swept experienced Christchurch climber Jamie Vinton-Boot off his feet while climbing the west face of the Remarkables yesterday and he fell to his death. 

Vinton-Boot was ”an exceptional climber and climbing was his passion”, his friend Queenstown Climbing Club president Guillaume Charton told the Otago Daily Times yesterday. 

”He was one of the most talented climbers in New Zealand in regards to mountaineering and rock and ice climbing. 

”Lots of people in the Queenstown climbing community knew him because he was quite respected and would often come to this part of New Zealand. He was young and had a bright future.”
 
New Zealand Alpine Club general manager Sam Newton, of Christchurch, says Vinton-Boot participated in the New Zealand Alpine Team to mentor the next generation of climbers, despite being a young man himself.
 
”His death is a tragic loss for the climbing community and, of course, his friends and family.” 

Vinton-Boot was in Queenstown ahead of the four-day Remarkables Mixed Rock and Ice Festival starting on Thursday. 

Newtown says the fundraising gathering of 100 enthusiasts was likely to go ahead. 

Vinton-Boot and his 34-year-old male companion were caught in the avalanche at 8.35am yesterday at Queens Drive, around the west face of the Remarkables, used by rock climbers because it is far from the ski area. 

Charton says Queens Drive is very exposed to snow transported by the wind. 

”Conditions are changing every day and when we went there on Saturday, we decided to turn around because there was so much fresh snow,” he says. 

Mountain Safety Council avalanche and alpine programme manager Andrew Hobman, of Christchurch, says yesterday there was a ”considerable danger” of wind slab avalanche because 10cm of fresh snow had fallen in the past day and a-half on to a compacted snow pack. 

Hobman adds the wind deposited snow into dense layers called wind slabs that didn’t adhere well to the layers below them and were susceptible to light loads walking on them. 

”This event highlights that any time you’re on snow and the slope angle is greater than 25 degrees, avalanches can happen, and even very small avalanches which can take you off your feet are just as deadly as a great big avalanche. 

”The advisory for the day was noting it was likely to trigger an avalanche and the size would be small, so it’s all about, then, the consequences of what happens when you do get taken.” 

Queenstown police say Vinton-Boot fell 500m in an avalanche that was about four metres wide and 30cm to 40cm deep. It swept him off his feet and down a steep face. He was unable to gain control of his descent. 

Sergeant Steve Watt of Queenstown police says the climber’s uninjured companion called avalanche control at the Remarkables Ski Area first, which was the best thing to do. 

The ski area patrol and police responded, while three or four search and rescuers were airlifted to near where the climber was found and had to trek to where he was. 

”They carried out initial first-aid response on the victim and they put an airway through and tried their very best to bring the deceased back, but were unable to do so. He was not breathing when he was initially found and that’s when CPR began.”

In a recent online post, Vinton-Boot describes his ”burning desire to ascend mountains by the most challenging ways imaginable”. 

”This has nothing to do with conquering summits. It is about discovering what it means to be alive and to be human.” – Otago Daily Times