Famous New Zealand climber dies in fall

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 25/02/2012
Jannu North Face. Lindsay Griffin

The well-known New Zealand rock climber, mountaineer and Piolet d'or recipient Athol Whimp, has been killed in a fall.

Although details are currently unclear, it appears 50-year old Whimp was moving along an easy but exposed ridge on Homer Saddle, a granite climbing area in New Zealand's Fiordland, when he slipped, falling 800m down the west flank.

Two friends, who were with him at the time, descended to Homer Tunnel entrance, where they were able to telephone rescue services. However, poor weather meant his body could not be recovered until next day.

New Zealand born Whimp, who was a long-time Australian resident, gained international acclaim for several highly significant ascents in Patagonia and the Himalaya during the period from the mid '90s to the Millennium.

Either side of that period he was an avid and talented rock climber.

In the 1980s Whimp was a captain in the SAS, and by the mid 1990s had led sport routes up to 8a.

In 1994 he climbed the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre with Australian Andrew Lindblade. Several days later he returned to the Col of Patience with two other Australians, and next day, letting them climb ahead, made the second solo ascent of route.

That same season Lindblade and Whimp made the fourth complete ascent of the Casarotto Route on Fitz Roy.

The pair then turned to the Himalaya, and in 1996 attempted a much tried direct line up the North Face of Thalay Sager (6,904m) in India's Gangotri.

They returned next year to complete this coveted new route.

Their ascent, late in the year, failed to register at the time with the Piolet d'Or organizers. But the jury made amends the following year by awarding the climb the 1999 Piolet d'Or. Whimp is the only New Zealander to have received this accolade.

In 2000 Lindblade and Whimp made the fourth ascent of the North Face of Jannu (7,710m).

The pair originally tried a capsule ascent of the then unclimbed North Face Direct. They retreated from 6,100m after their portaledge was destroyed by stonefall and back in base camp re-assessed their options.

After fixing 200m of rope, they made an alpine-style ascent of the 1976 Japanese Route, sometimes dubbed the Wall of Shadows, returning to camp in a seven-day round trip.

In 2003 they made a spirited attempt to repeat the legendary Kurtyka-Schauer route on the West Face of Gasherbrum IV, retreating in bad weather from 6,800m.

Many of this team's exploits were documented in Andrew Lindblade's book, Expeditions, which was short-listed for the Boardman-Tasker Award in 2002.
 


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