Trip Report Wanaka 2014

Heinz

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Minaret station tented lodge

website: http://www.minaretstation.com

Apparently you can stay here for a lazy NZD2000 a night!! They fly in a gourmet chef to do the cooking. We had to make do with our standard heliski lunch on the balcony.















We were able to have a peek into the lounge - no ski boots allowed though.
 

Heinz

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Not much to report on the skiing today. It was ok but I guess I was perhaps lucky not to have been in the machine that crashed this afternoon.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/10391195/Helicopter-crashes-near-Wanaka

Don't have much more in the way of detail. Back in town the guides were all upstairs in the guides room with the police with them so best I stayed clear of that.

Don't know about the possible fatality but heard that the others were being flown to Wanaka Medical centre.
The only good indication that says it that if they were really serious they would be flown to Dunedin hospital.

What I do know is that the guide Mark radioed back after the crash. I had 3 days with Mark this trip and that machine was operating from the same base (Phoebe Creek) where I started from today. I was in a different machine today flying on the other side of the valley. If I had been in the same operation I would most likely have been with Mark.

The crash apparently happened on Mt Alta which is the highest peak in the South Buchanans. Today was fine and warm and no wind where we were in the North Harris. That is not to say there may not have been some wind gusts around Alta at that time, but probably unlikely.

When it happened they pulled most of the guides out from the other operations to help out. We didn't actually know what the incident was at that point - just had our lunch. Just knew that it was serious especially when all ops were canned. Only started hearing the story once back in the valley.
 

Heinz

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Just caught up with some of the guides to catch up with news and say goodbyes. Have got a few more details but probably not appropriate to post all of them. Main thing from my point of view was that while Mark had chest injuries and was flown to Dunedin he is not too bad. A couple of others were also flown to Dunedin. The skiers were Aucklanders and the guy who was killed was a regular that I have probably skied with in the past. It happened on a run on a sunny aspect on Mt Alta which i have skied a few times, though not this year.

It was the lead item on the TV1 news just now.
 

LMB

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Absolutely tragic news Heinz.
A close knit community will be reeling from this for a while I suspect.

One report I read suggests the heli may have been attempting a ridge landing when it came unstuck :(

My thoughts and condolences to all involved/affected.
NZ Heli Skiing is one of the most magical experiences. I'm so sad this has happened :(
 
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Draizuh

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I came straight on here after i saw it on the news website i was reading and hoping it wasnt you! im glad you are ok :( Sucks to hear about this after another fantastic day in the mountains :(
 

Heinz

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Absolutely tragic news Heinz.
A close knit community will be reeling from this for a while I suspect.

One report I read suggests the heli may have been attempting a ridge landing when it came unstuck :(

My thoughts and condolences to all involved/affected.
NZ Heli Skiing is one of the most magical experiences. I'm so sad this has happened :(

It is indeed a close knit community, one I am happy to associate with.

Yes it would have been a ridge landing but these are very common in NZ. The AS350B2's are well suited to these. Normally wind can be an issue especially gusty or swirling wind but today was calm.
 
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Red_switch

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Yeah I'm in one of the club lodges at CP tonight, it's certainly the topic of conversation. A few people around know some of the HMH guys really well. An absolute bummer on what would have been one of the days of the season in the mountains. Very pleased to hear you weren't involved Heinz, and I really hope this doesn't have too much of a negative impact on HMH's operations.
 

Heinz

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There will clearly be an impact on operations for the next few days. The guys will be busy on incident reports for the Police who may put a temporary hold on operations. Will have to wait and see what the outcome of that will be. Hopefully no long term impact. From my viewpoint though probably a good time to leave.

From my recollection that was only the 3rd fatality with HMH in their 35 years of operation. One was a heart attack in the 80's and the other was decapitated by rotor blade in 1993 (hence their safety brief warning of holding on to caps and other loose clothing or tucking them away).
 

LMB

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There will clearly be an impact on operations for the next few days. The guys will be busy on incident reports for the Police who may put a temporary hold on operations. Will have to wait and see what the outcome of that will be. Hopefully no long term impact. From my viewpoint though probably a good time to leave.

From my recollection that was only the 3rd fatality with HMH in their 35 years of operation. One was a heart attack in the 80's and the other was decapitated by rotor blade in 1993 (hence their safety brief warning of holding on to caps and other loose clothing or tucking them away).
oh wow... 'Assume the position/take a knee/lock down your gear' seemed like common sense, but I guess there had to be an incident in the past.... Pretty horrific thought though.
 

Heinz

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oh wow... 'Assume the position/take a knee/lock down your gear' seemed like common sense, but I guess there had to be an incident in the past.... Pretty horrific thought though.

Yeah, that was a brief lapse of concentration late in the day - cap blew off and he instinctively reached up for it. I skied my first day in 1983 with him. He was very experienced - had skied over 1m vert ft. I was in South America at the time so missed the news but came a week or so later and noticed the addition to the briefing.
 

ScottGN

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I came straight on here after i saw it on the news website i was reading and hoping it wasnt you! im glad you are ok :( Sucks to hear about this after another fantastic day in the mountains :(
Me too Heinz. Radio NZ is reporting that the chopper was attempting a ridge landing on Mt Alta and then tumbled a thousand feet.
 

Red_switch

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I'm more worried about their long term operational prospects... the H&S environment in NZ has changed markedly in recent times, Worksafe NZ could make things very difficult for them. Obviously we can't read much into it until we know the details of the incident.

Really at this stage, all that counts, is condolences to all involved.
 

Heinz

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Me too Heinz. Radio NZ is reporting that the chopper was attempting a ridge landing on Mt Alta and then tumbled a thousand feet.

Yes, that is the indication I got. Tipped over and rolled down the slope. How it tipped over though is the question. Mark was the lead guide so that would most likely have been the first landing on that ridge for the day.
 

LMB

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Yes, that is the indication I got. Tipped over and rolled down the slope. How it tipped over though is the question. Mark was the lead guide so that would most likely have been the first landing on that ridge for the day.
Makes me wonder if someone jumped out heavily, upsetting the chopper balance... Especially if the wind was still...

Or if the ridge was weak and gave way in such a way as the pilot couldn't right her before disaster.

All speculation. The one definite is it truly sucks!
 

expatgm

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Those pilots make hundreds of ridge landings throuout the year, something out of the ordinary happened.
What should have been a good day turned into a tragedy. All we can do is pray for the deceased.
 

Heinz

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After all that almost forgot about the Bledisloe cup. Good game but frustrating, Wallabies should have won that.
 

trappers

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So good to hear from you Heinz, I was worried. Obviously an absolute tragedy, having been in a heli in that area only a few weeks ago it feels all the more tangible.

Thoughts are with the family of the deceased and injured :( RIP
 

Heinz

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Mood rather sombre leaving Wanaka this morning. HMH have understandbly closed up shop so no one around this morning.
 

Heinz

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Back home now. Pretty routine trip home, except skis missed the connecting flight in Sydney. Actually that bit is almost routine as well - has happened several times now.

HMH suspended ops today but plan to resume tomorrow.

http://www.heliski.co.nz/2014/08/helicopter-accident-16th-august/

The team at Harris Mountains Heli-Ski expresses their sincerest condolences to the families, friend’s and those involved in the tragedy that occurred on Saturday the 16th of August. We are all extremely saddened by the incident and deeply appreciate the amount of support that is being received. Operations were suspended and will resume again as of Monday the 18th of August
 

Heinz

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Makes me wonder if someone jumped out heavily, upsetting the chopper balance... Especially if the wind was still...

Or if the ridge was weak and gave way in such a way as the pilot couldn't right her before disaster.

All speculation. The one definite is it truly sucks!

Yes, still speculation. It wouldn't have been someone jumping out. The first person to get out is always the guide. Everyone else stays until he indicates. Normally this will be after he has finished unloading skis.

As I suggested earlier this would most likely have been the first landing on that ridge for the day and most likely for several days, weeks even? We were in the South Buchanans a few days for a run last Sunday but not on Alta. Yesterday I'm sure Mark was trying to get to the sunny North side looking for spring type corn conditions as the powder had largely been damaged by wind.

So maybe there was a build up of snow on one side which wasn't supportive and the pilot had already taken the power off and wasn't able to recover in time? - still all just speculation.

I didn't know the pilot actually. I saw him in the morning and didn't recognise him - not one that I had ever flown with, so I assume Queenstown based. So can't comment on that side, although anyone who has qualified to fly in the mountains knows what they are doing.
 
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LMB

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Yes, still speculation. It wouldn't have been someone jumping out. The first person to get out is always the guide. Everyone else stays until he indicates. Normally this will be after he has finished unloading skis.

As I suggested earlier this would most likely have been the first landing on that ridge for the day and most likely for several days, weeks even? We were in the South Buchanans a few days for a run last Sunday but not on Alta. Yesterday I'm sure Mark was trying to get to the sunny North side looking for spring type corn conditions as the powder had largely been damaged by wind.

So maybe there was a build up of snow on one side which wasn't supportive and the pilot had already taken the power off and wasn't able to recover in time? - still all just speculation.

I didn't know the pilot actually. I saw him in the morning and didn't recognise him - not one that I had ever flown with, so I assume Queenstown based. So can't comment on that side, although anyone who has qualified to fly in the mountains knows what they are doing.
Dunno about you...but I just keep thinking about it with such sadness.
Bit like when the plane was shot down over Ukraine...(my kid was in the air in the area at the time)...

Poor buggers.
Especially feel for the heli pilot.
 

TropicalPow

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Yeah, that was a brief lapse of concentration late in the day - cap blew off and he instinctively reached up for it. I skied my first day in 1983 with him. He was very experienced - had skied over 1m vert ft. I was in South America at the time so missed the news but came a week or so later and noticed the addition to the briefing.
Glad to hear all is good with you Heinz
Very sad news for all involved
I heli skied the Tyndall Glacier with that guy and my recollection was of him chatting with his mates while the heli safety briefing was being done . Stood out to me at the time given I had just completed my commercial heli license and I recall thinking he was a bit cocky about the helicopter safety , something that requires constant reinforcement
 

Heinz

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Poor buggers.
Especially feel for the heli pilot.

Yes I think you are right. I imagine the events would be running through his mind. Even if he knows he did everything he could he would be running through 'what ifs''. Apart from the tragic loss of life the machines cost around $2.5M.

Occasionally we may take the pilots for granted, but after seeing them in action for a while you appreciate the amazing job they do in this mountain environment. The way that can pinpoint landings on a ridge or down the valley putting the skids down a half metre away from our skis in variable wind and make it look easy. You often don't realise how hard they are actually working to control the machine to achieve this. There have been times where they have calmly manipulated the machine and set it down by the flag on a ridge, then we have stepped out and been blasted by the wind and marvelled how they achieved that. When the pilot says enough, there is no argument from anyone.

Respect.
 

Red_switch

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One person you don't tell how to do their job when their doing their job - heli pilots. I've seen people try. It was lol.
 

Heinz

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Some thinking that they may have landed on a cornice? I don't remember that landing specifically so can't recall if there normally is a cornice or not.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/10396713/Snow-may-be-cause-of-crash

Also Mark is out of hospital but a little worse for wear.
Sedon, who suffered two broken lumbar vertebrae, four broken ribs, bruising and contusions, remained in good spirits and was said to be overwhelmed by all the messages of support he had received.
 

LMB

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Thanks for sharing and keeping us updated Heinz :thumbs:
Glad the guide is out of hospital and in good spirits.

That pic in the article is disturbing. :eek:
I thought the heli body was relatively intact in previous shots, unless they've dismantled it during investigations....
 

Heinz

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No problem. Obviously I have a particular interest in all this. Happy to see Mark is relatively ok.

Regarding the heli body, they probably have pulled a few bits out, before relocating the whole lot for detailed investigation. But also the previous shots were I recall from above.
 

Ziggy

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Mark's recovering but it's taking longer than first expected. Compression fractures in three vertebrae & four broken ribs.
 

ScottGN

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I was interested to hear from a friend who went out on a heli to the Eyre Mountains a couple of weeks ago with a different company that her pilot had said they were reducing their passenger loads by one person on all flights in the wake of the HMH accident. She said it meant that there was an extra group for their chopper to shuttle.
 

Ziggy

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Hmm. I was going to get the story from Mark on the Gents' tour but sadly he'll still be popping pain killers.
 

Heinz

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Hmm. I was going to get the story from Mark on the Gents' tour but sadly he'll still be popping pain killers.

Yeah, I guess it was good to be optimistic initially having survived that, but they were still fairly serious injuries. So what is the status of your tour now? Someone else taking over?
 

Heinz

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I was interested to hear from a friend who went out on a heli to the Eyre Mountains a couple of weeks ago with a different company that her pilot had said they were reducing their passenger loads by one person on all flights in the wake of the HMH accident. She said it meant that there was an extra group for their chopper to shuttle.

Don't if there was any confirmation of that being a factor relating to the incident or if they are just taking extra precautions. They have been flying B2's for probably 15 years at a guess and always flown with pilot, guide & 5 clients (1 in front and 4 in back) without any issues. I did note this year there was some industry regulation about total weight limitations for passengers in the front seat, so we always put the lightest client in front, although that had always been the case anyway - front seat is fairly tight.
 

Ziggy

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Yeah, I guess it was good to be optimistic initially having survived that, but they were still fairly serious injuries. So what is the status of your tour now? Someone else taking over?

Yep. Anna Cook.
 

Heinz

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Yep. Anna Cook.

Ah, so not quite an exclusive gents tour then. Anna will be fine, heaps of experience in heli ski and ski touring guiding in NZ and India and a bit of ski touring Hokkaido. She's also been with HMH for probably 20 years and is one of their main avalanche forecasters. And don't worry she can certainly ski as well.
 
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