Athol Whimp climbing Tiger Tiger (27) in the Grampians. [Photo] Simon Middlemas
Climbers mourn loss of the best
The New Zealand Alpine Club and climbers throughout New Zealand mourn the loss of one of the country’s most celebrated mountaineers in a fall in Fiordland on Thursday.
Athol Whimp was widely recognised as the country’s most accomplished mountaineer of the modern era, with a string of extreme ascents in New Zealand, South America and the Himalayas to his name. He had been climbing for twenty years and was an aficionado of a cutting-edge, lightweight style mountaineering (in direct contrast to the style used to climb Mt Everest) used only by the most technically proficient climbers. He was once quoted as saying:
“If you think you’re a good alpinist, then you’ve got to climb hard routes on hard mountains. Without that, what is the point? ”
In 1998 Mr Whimp won the coveted Piolet d’Or Award for his first ascent of the north face of Thalay Sagar in Northern India, with Australian Andrew Lindblade. He was the only New Zealander ever to win the award, given annually by the French Alpine Club for the finest international alpine achievement of the year. The pair won international accolades again two years later with a fast and light ascent of the technical north face of Jannu, Nepal , and then in 2003 when they attempted an unclimbed route on the giant west face of Gasherbrum IV in Pakistan.
Christchurch climber Matt Evrard, who was with Mr Whimp when he died, said they were traversing easy terrain close to Homer Saddle.
“It was easy, not somewhere where climbers would put on a rope, but very exposed, so the consequences of slip either side was fatal,” he said.
Mr Whimp began climbing in the mid-80’s after finishing a career in the New Zealand Army as a Captain in the SAS. He was brought up on a farm near Rangiora, but moved to Melbourne twenty years ago to start a business.