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January 2022 Issue
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Climbing avalanche deaths under investigation

The MSC wants to find out why climbers are over-represented in avalanche fatalities

The Mountain Safety Council (MSC) is investigating why mountaineers are overrepresented in avalanche fatalities in New Zealand and wants to hear from climbers to help solve the mystery.

Since 1999, 27 people have died in avalanches in New Zealand, including 19 mountaineers.  By contrast, just six per cent of avalanche fatalities in Canada involved climbers during the same period. People caught in avalanches in summer also appear to be more likely to die. There were 11 avalanche deaths in the last 20 years in summer involving nine avalanche incidents, whereas there were 16 deaths in winter involving 745 incidents.

MSC has launched a survey to determine what factors may explain why climbers are overrepresented in the statistics. MSC operations manager Nathan Watson said there could be various factors that explain the           discrepancy, including weather and terrain, or the culture and preparedness of climbers. The survey will help MSC understand how climbers view avalanche risk, whether they are managing that risk appropriately and what might help reduce the death toll.

“We’re not saying there is a problem in the mountaineering community in relation to avalanches, but we’re trying to establish whether there is a problem and what the contributing factors are. And then we may look at whether there is an opportunity for prevention work in the social-behavioural space.”

The survey can be found at the MSC website,