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Avalanche Claims Alpine Ski Club Secretary on Mount Ararat

May 15 2004 at 10:16 AM
Financial Times  (Login dipper)

Response to May Accident Reports

On our expedition there were 14 people, all of whom were in the Palandoken area that day, just outside the garrison town of Erzerum, 700 miles east of Istanbul. But only five had been skiing in our close-knit group: myself and Robert and expedition leader David Hamilton, along with ex-soldier Alun Davies and Alpine Ski Club secretary Alasdair Ross. We could not see any of them.
An army team arrived and took over the rescue, placing Alasdair on a stretcher. The avalanche had occurred just over 100metres from the safety of a military post.
For much of the last 35 years it has been out of bounds due to a series of wars in the area and the claim by the Armenians that it belonged to them and not to Turkey.
As we set off the wind was, if anything, stronger than the evening before, constantly blowing us over on our skis. It was surprisingly warm with worrying patches of orange in the snow, sand blown by the hot wind all the way from the Sahara. We could see the occasional tell-tale sloughs of snow on slopes of 30 degrees and above. Perfect avalanche conditions.
Just before we got to the bridge close to our Kurdish friends' farmhouse, some of us wondered aloud whether any sane ski mountaineer would be out in such conditions. Looking back, the weather was so wild and so warm that we should have all stayed at home. But we were here on the trip of a lifetime, trying to cram in as much adventure as possible and we were all so keen to get ready for the big mountain.
Now Alasdair was dead.
At 59, unmarried and with no children, he was a fanatical skier who loved indulging his passion in the wilder parts of the world. Unfortunately, when we got him out he had stopped breathing and all attempts to resuscitate him failed.
By the time darkness fell and Alasdair was on his way to the mortuary in Erzerum the wind on the mountain was gusting over 100mph, ripping the roofs off several local buildings in one of the worst storms of the winter.

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