SURVIVAL IS MORE THAN JUST STAYING ALIVE THE WILLIAM PIKE STORY
William Pike was your typical adventurous young outdoorsman. He got into the outdoors when he was in High school through his school’s outdoor education program. Once he got his licence and a car he started doing longer tramps in the Waitakere Ranges as he got older. When he was at university, he saved his pennies to buy proper outdoor gear so that he could safely take on bigger adventures. At 20, he summited Mt. Tongariro in winter for the first time and since then he has climbed most of the peaks in the Central North Island. William and his friend James christie decided to climb Mt. Ruapehu in late September 2007, which ended up changing his life forever. It was James first trip to Mt. Ruapehu and his first time climbing in the snow. The climb to the summit of Mt. Ruapehu took them longer than expected, so on the way down they decided it was too late to pitch a camp or dig a snow cave. Instead, they choose to camp inside the dome shelter near crater lake, even though it is not designed to be used as an overnight shelter. That one decision saved both their lives when the volcano suddenly erupted without warning that night. If they had been camping outside the hut, the shock wave from the eruption would have blown them off the mountain or they would have been swept away by the lahar and rocks slide that was triggered by the eruption. William became trapped inside the hut by a lahar of mud, water and debris that smashed through the hut and slammed him against the hut’s far wall, before hardening around him trapping him and his crushed leg inside the ruined hut unable to escape which led to his leg needing to be amputated below the knee.
Fortunately, James was not injured or trapped by the lahar and was able to dig out his boots, William’s jacket, and one ice axe, but he was unable to find either his or William’s crampons. After about 15 minutes of trying to free William, they assessed the situation and realised that William’s only chance of surviving was for James to go get help. So William gave the inexperienced James instructions on how to get back down the mountain to find help and set into wait for help to arrive. James wrapped William in the remains of his sleeping bag and other spare clothes he could find and headed off into the night. When James left, William was not sure he was going to survive and asked his friend "Please tell my family and friends that I love them”.
"Nah, mate," James replied, "You can tell them yourself." which was probably one of the best things James could have said to him, because it gave William a little extra motivation to stay alive.
While William waited alone, he tried to keep himself as warm as possible and just focused on staying awake for as long as possible. James eventually found a Snowcat driver about half way down the mountain who was able to raise the alarm and the mountain rescue team reached William at about 1am and he was extremely hypothermic and his body temperature was only 25 degrees celsius. It was a miracle that he survived.
Some of the things that both William and James both did that enabled them to survive the accident were registering their intentions with doc (which was the practice at the time, but DOC no longer registers people’s intentions anymore) and leaving a detailed plan with family members before leaving, so people would have gone looking for them if William had just been trapped in the hut and not critically injured. Also by having basic 1st aid knowledge and experience climbing and camping in winter in an alpine environment William was able to recognise that he needed immediate medical attention and was able to treat his injuries the best he could, given the circumstances, which helped keep him just warm enough to survive. The fact that neither William nor James panicked also enabled them to assess the situation and make a plan. If he or James had panicked he would not have been able to give James instructions on how to best find help and James would not have been able to get help to his friend quick enough to save his life. William also credits his sheer desire to survive as a contributing factor in his survival.
“When James left, William was not sure he was going to survive and asked his friend “Please tell my family and friends that I love them.”
in the wake of his accident, it took him a long time to fully recover from his injuries and spent a long time relearning how to walk. It was through “sheer bloody-mindedness, grit and determination” that William was able to return to and also climb the mountain that took his leg. Though to this day looking back, there is not a single thing that he would have done differently given the conditions that he was presented with at the time.
So many times you hear about accidents and tragedies in the mountains and when experts investigate the decisions leading to the accident, they can usually find a few decisions made that led to the accident happening, but in this case, they did everything right. The one thing that has changed for him is that now whenever he is heading out into the wilderness he always has an epirb with him as a last resort insurance policy.
When he first got into the outdoors, one of the resources he turned to learn more about his new hobby was the new Zealand mountain Safety Council. In fact a copy of the nZ mountain safety council’s bushcraft manual has a permanent place next to his bed that he reads as he dreams up new adventures to go on. The Mountain Safety Council has a variety of other resources available to help educate anyone looking to go out in outdoors.
in recent years the mountain safety Council has seen a significant rise in front country trips (day tramps or shorter) highlighting the change in overall use of the outdoors in NZ. backcountry use - multi-day tramps and overnight stays in remote huts – have stayed relatively stable nationally, with a few areas declining in overall numbers.”
a lack of adherence to simple safety guidelines as outlined in the outdoor Safety Code have seen a rise in rescues where lack of preparation and equipment have played factor in their need for rescue. This trend appears to be linked to a combination of a lack of experience, poor situational awareness, seeking out and following safety guidelines and improper gear for the conditions.” Which is partly why William started the William pike challenge award (WPCA). The WPCA provides teachers, leaders and community groups with support, resources and motivation to facilitate youth development and Education outside the classroom for year 7- 9 students. Pupils, nicknamed Pikelets, participate in eight outdoor activities lead by the school during the year, as well as completing 20 hours of community service and developing a new sport or hobby. last year, 48 schools participated in the programme, including one international school in south Korea, with about 1050 pupils enrolled and this year, he hopes to run it in 60+ schools this year, enrolling more than 1600 students.
William’s advice on staying safe in the wilderness is to follow to follow the mountain safety code whenever you are heading outdoors and to get the proper training for whatever adventure you are going on by joining a local tramping club or teaming up with a partner who is more experienced than yourself. He also firmly believes that even when you have a plan carefully mapped
out, you still have to be flexible with your plan based on the weather and conditions you find yourself in. be sure to get the proper training for whatever level of adventure you are taking on by either joining a local tramping club or going out with a partner who is more experienced than yourself in the conditions and After all, if he had not been flexible about where they were going to spend the night on the mountain, they both would have not survived.
“A lack of adherence to simple safety guidelines as outlined in the Outdoor Safety Code have seen a rise in rescues where lack of preparation and equipment have played factor in their need for rescue. ”