Mt Arapiles death leads to 'knee-jerk reaction': Calls to ban rock-climbing dismissed

A man died while climbing at Mt Arapiles on Tuesday. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER
A man died while climbing at Mt Arapiles on Tuesday. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

STATE Emergency Service members have described calls to ban climbing on Mt Arapiles as a knee-jerk reaction.

The calls come after a man died while climbing on Tuesday.

It was the first death on the mountain since 2006.

Natimuk Leading Senior Constable Peter Taylor said the Melbourne man, 35, and his girlfriend were descending a rocky ridge into King Rat Gully on Tuesday afternoon.

He said the man had his climbing rope around a large boulder for support.

‘‘When he put weight on the rope to descend down, the boulder broke away and he fell,’’ he said.

The fall was about three to four metres.

Leading Sen Const Taylor said the boulder landed on the man, causing severe head injuries.

His partner called emergency services but he died a short time later.

In the days since, there have been calls to ban climbing at the mount, including via the Mail-Times Facebook page.

Natimuk climber and State Emergency Service member Kieran Loughran was at the mount assisting on Tuesday.

He said the death had affected the whole community.

‘‘It’s an extremely sad and very upsetting thing to happen,’’ he said.

‘‘From people I’ve spoken to, the majority didn’t know the person involved but it still hits close to home.’’

Mr Loughran said the death would have ripple effects on the community.

‘‘It always makes people re-evaluate what they’re doing,’’ he said.

But he fought against calls to ban rock-climbing at Mt Arapiles.

‘‘That’s an extreme reaction, to try to close climbing,’’ he said.

‘‘I think that’s a knee-jerk reaction.

‘‘Death’s extremely upsetting for the climbing community and people are quite shocked by it.’’

‘‘It always makes people re-evaluate what they’re doing.''

Natimuk climber and State Emergency Service member Kieran Loughran

Mr Loughran said safety was paramount to climbers. He applauded emergency services’ efforts on Tuesday.

State Emergency Service regional operations manager Kendra Clegg said 17 people from Horsham, Goroke and Nhill units attended.

The Horsham unit included four Arapiles Rescue Group members.

Ms Clegg said the service, Ambulance Victoria, including a helicopter, and Victoria Police were rapid with their responses.

‘‘It’s a tragic outcome,’’ she said. ‘‘That was something beyond anyone’s control.’’

Ms Clegg said emergency services responded to about half a dozen technical rescues at Mt Arapiles-Tooan State Park a year.

She said these could vary from a broken ankle to a climber in trouble.

‘‘These are technical rescues - Ambulance Victoria might have more or less call-outs,’’ she said.

‘‘This is a high number for such a remote area.’’

Ms Clegg said the number of technical rescues had remained consistent throughout the past few years.

But she disagreed with calls that climbing at Mt Arapiles was dangerous and should be banned.

‘‘I believe the recreational climbers and the climbing community do everything possible to make sure they’re safe and look after themselves and their fellow climbers,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s a recreational activity. For some, it’s a passion or a career.’’

Ms Clegg said the Wimmera was privileged to have volunteers trained and eager to help when someone was in trouble.

‘‘There were 17 volunteers from the SES - that’s 17 people who left work,’’ she said. ‘‘These things affect everybody.’’

She commended Ambulance Victoria, Victoria Police and SES volunteers on their efforts and asked people to continue supporting the crews.

In 2006, Warwick ’Cookie’ Cook of Nyah West died on the Mt Arapiles climb Syrinx on Tiger Wall.