Tourist falls to death at Mt Cook

01:43, Jan 31 2009

A 57-year-old American tourist who fell to his death on a popular day walk in the Mt Cook National Park yesterday was inexperienced in the alpine environment, say police.

The man left no record of his intentions with anyone but was seen leaving Mueller Hut at about 1.45pm, walking down a poled route.

He was reported overdue at 5pm and his body was spotted in a narrow, rocky gorge during an aerial search this morning.

It is believed that he may have missed the turnoff on the track back to Sealy Tarns and continued down a ridge before slipping and falling to his death.

He suffered extensive injuries to his body and head.

"He was described as fit, and a keen walker, although he had very little experience of moving in the alpine environment," said Senior Constable Brent Swanson, of Twizel police.


His death was a stark reminder that New Zealand's alpine environment was unforgiving and should not be underestimated, he said. 

His travelling companion who reported him missing was still in Mt Cook Village. She was upset and being comforted by Victim Support Staff, Mr Swanson said.

The American Embassy had yet to contact him family and his name would not be released until his relatives had been notified.