Editorial: The power of nature

Last updated 05:00 22/01/2013
Mt Cook rockfall landscape
Rob Randall

CAPTURED: A major rockfall in the Mt Cook National Park, by the Hochstetter glacier, above the Tasman glacier valley today.

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OPINION: Sometimes when Mother Nature acts there's little one can do but stand by and watch.

That would have been the terrifying fate for the 12 climbers and guides in the Plateau Hut when a massive rockfall from the west face of Mt Dixon, in the Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park, took place around 2.25pm yesterday.

Dramatic pictures supplied by Department of Conservation staff show just how far the fan of rock and debris stretched from where it originated, on an almost vertical section high on the west face, and more importantly, how close it came to the popular tramping hut.

Realistically the placement of the hut on a ridge means the rockfall would have had to have tremendous momentum to reach the hut. However, given the time of day, and apparently settled conditions, there could easily have been climbers in the path of the rockfall did reach when it happened, and they could have been in serious trouble.

Anyone who has been in the national park in summer will be aware that good weather often results in ice falls which are loud and dramatic. Yesterday's event, though, was on another scale altogether, and it came out of the blue.

It's a cautionary tale for all those who might contemplate venturing into the Southern Alps during the climbing season that, even when the weather is good, danger lurks. It's a reminder that every possible safety precaution should be taken, including the carrying of emergency locator beacons. It's quite possible the massive rockfall yesterday could have left climbers severely injured and in need of urgent assistance and such a beacon could have been a life-saver.

Thankfully, though, this time everyone escaped unharmed.

Another thing:

All Black Zac Guildford would have to consider himself lucky to have a coach like Todd Blackadder at the Crusaders, as the troubled winger confronts the latest allegations of an alcohol-fuelled indiscretion to blight his rugby career.

Blackadder came across as the picture of concern and, indeed, patience, in footage of a press conference yesterday. But it appears that even he may be resigned to the possibility that Guildford could have gone too far. Certainly he seemed clear that time away from rugby was needed for the young flyer right now.

Hopefully seeing the genuine concern from his coach, and others in the Crusaders and All Black camps, will help the winger realise he risks throwing away a special talent if he continues on this road and help him to turn things around.

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- The Timaru Herald

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