CSAC Avalanche Incident

Northern India - March 6, 1998

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NZ mountain guide killed in avalanche

From The Press, New Zealand

INVERCARGILL -- One of New Zealand's most respected mountain guides has been killed in an avalanche while leading a heli-skiing party in Northern India.

Chris Jillett, 32, of Wanaka, and his group were in the Himalayan valley of Kulu, Himachal Pradesh, on Friday when the avalanche hit about 11.30am.

Four groups had already skied the slope and Mr Jillett was 50m into his run when a client entered the slope above Mr Jillett, according to heli-ski operations head guide Nick Cradock, also of Wanaka. The slope broke away and Mr Jillett was swept 700m. The avalanche was about 500m wide and 3m to 4m deep at the point it fractured.

No-one else was caught in the avalanche and Mr Jillett's clients started searching for him, backed up by Mr Cradock and other guides when they arrived. The rescue effort was complicated by cloud that rolled in.

Mr Jillett was found about 40 minutes later, face down under 2m of snow. He was not breathing, but showed signs of life.

He was flown by helicopter to the Mission Hospital in Manali. Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation was kept up for about 1 hours, but Mr Jillett was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Mr Jillett was one of the country's leading snow safety experts. He worked for the ski-field patrol at Treble Cone for six years and was snow safety officer for Harris Mountains Heli-skiing for the past three years. This was his first season with Himachal. He started his guiding career 12 years ago at Fox Glacier and was still involved in guiding there. Two years ago he was part of the rescue operation after the Everest tragedy which claimed eight lives, including Kiwis Rob Hall and Andy Harris.

The Wanaka operations manager for Harris Mountains Heli-skiing, Eric Napier, described Mr Jillett as a man of special qualities . . . "a man of integrity -- very balanced, very dedicated to his job; a total professional."

Guy Cotter, of the Adventure Consultants company, and who was with Mr Jillett at Everest base camp in 1996, said his death was a huge loss to the guiding fraternity.

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