Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Awareness: An Instant, and Everything Changed - Erhard Loretan

PlanetMountain.com brings word of the death of Erhard Loretan, an accomplished Swiss mountaineer.

In 2001, he shook his son, who died. Loretan received a suspended sentence of four months in prison.

Some apparently condemned him for losing control of his emotions.

The commentary below notes he made the decision to publicize his action to increase awareness of the vulnerability of young child to shaking injuries.

So, let's think well of him for that...
On 28 April Erhard Loretan, on the most successful alpinists and Himalayan mountaineers of all times, lost his life in a fall in the mountains. At the time one wrote that, on the Grünhorn horn, Loretan was "working" as a Mountain Guide: he was tied to a "client" who, after the accident, had been airlifted in serious condition to hospital. In truth the climbing partner was Xenia Minder, his partner in life. Now, for the first time, Xenia talks about the dramatic accident and above all how she is coming to terms with it in a beautiful article published in Le Temps. Hers is a profound reflection, emotional, sincere and dense with questions.
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A decade ago Erhard also made headline news, once again for tragic reasons. On 23 December 2011 left alone in his chalet at Crésuz, in Gruyère, with his seven month old child, he shook him, briefly, to stop him crying. The baby died. Erhard was sentenced to four months suspended sentence for negligent manslaughter.
In the light of his son's death, Erhard confronted the loss of his son with courage and dignity. At that time Shaken baby syndrome (SBS) was largely unknown, but he decided to disclose his name to the press in the hope that other parents might avoid a similar drama.
As he explained to me on various occasions, Erhard felt relieved for having been condemned by human justice even if - according to his own words on the day of the trial - the sentence was nothing compared to his suffering right to the end of his life.
However, during and after the trial Erhard became the target for violent public attacks. How could a man who had come head-to-head with death so often during his incredible ascents so easily lose his nerves of steel with his own, innocent and defenceless flesh and blood?
His broken heart never recovered from this loss and in the light of the media hounding, Erhard changed. He had obviously already lost many close friends in the mountains.
But as I witnessed during our two years of happiness, the loss of his own son was a tragedy from which he never recovered, even if he had now begun to imagine life once again, with me, with all projects possible.

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