Friends mourn Melbourne woman Nicola Andrews, who died in Mt Cook fall

The lighting designer and biomedical science student loved the outdoors.

The lighting designer and biomedical science student loved the outdoors.

A Melbourne lighting designer and biomedical engineering student who fell to her death in New Zealand is being remembered as an intelligent, talented maverick and much-loved friend.

Nicola Anne Andrews, 29, fell 300 metres in the Aoraki-Mount Cook National Park, near the peak of the Footstool mountain, on Wednesday morning.

She was described as an experienced climber, and her Instagram posts show a love of the outdoors, including fishing, skiing, and motorbikes.

Mt Sefton, left, and Footstool peak, right, where Melbourne woman Nicola Anne Andrews fell 300 metres to her death on ...

Mt Sefton, left, and Footstool peak, right, where Melbourne woman Nicola Anne Andrews fell 300 metres to her death on Wednesday.

The Melbourne theatre world was mourning her loss, including friend and collaborator Bryce Ives who met Andrews at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2010 when she was studying fine arts.

* Mt Cook climbing victim a talented lighting designer
Mt Cook - Does reaching the summit outweigh risks?


"I'm heartbroken, but really feel it was a privilege and an honour to have known her," he said.

Ives, who is the artistic director at Present Tense Theatre, which Andrews helped found, described her as unique in her vast talent not only in art but in science.

"She was head and shoulders the most impressive lighting designer to come through the VCA in the last five to ten years," he said.

Fernie Alpine Resort

A photo posted by @nicola_andrews on

"Her design work would make the hair on your back stand up, it was that good.

Ad Feedback

"I have no doubt if she wanted to continue with lighting designing, she could have been one of the lighting designers of theatre around the world."

Although Andrews was working in jobs not usually offered to young designers, including with renowned director Daniel Schlusser, her "crazy hunger for knowledge" led her to study a Bachelor of Bioengineering Systems and Biochemistry at Melbourne University.

"Her knowledge went way above and beyond theatre, she was fascinated with science and big ideas," Ives said.

"I always thought she is the kind of person who will live many different lives - she'll make a huge discovery in science and then she'll turn around and create an amazing work of art.

"Everything she did she was exceptional at."

Nicola Andrews was a talented lighting designer.

Nicola Andrews was a talented lighting designer.

Ives said the latest passion of Andrews, who grew up in Brisbane, was the outdoors, where she found her love of climbing.


Director Tom Gutteridge said it was an "extraordinary" shock to hear of  the "in-demand" designer's death due to her "incredible life force".

"There was something about her capabilities because she was extremely intelligent … and creative," he said.

"As one of those people who has that rare cross over of a science mind as well a creative mind, I always thought she ... was going to save the world.

"It's shattering not only for her friends and family but for the world, in a way, to lose someone like that."

Theatre Works creative director Daniel Clarke described Ms Andrews as a creative, clever and passionate young woman.

"We're just so shocked and saddened," he said.

"She was such an incredibly smart woman and just so willing to learn."

Present Tense Theatre posted a heartfelt Facebook tribute to the young climber. 

Our hearts are broken. Nicola Andrews was one of the brightest and singularly most talented artists we have...

Posted by Present Tense on  Wednesday, 23 December 2015

"Nicola Andrews was one of the brightest and singularly most talented artists we have encountered," the troupe wrote.

"Her instinct for theatre and design had the cut-through and mastery that most artists can only wish they might achieve, one day in the distant future after years of practice."


Police were investigating what caused her to slip down to the Eugene Glacier, but said her death appeared to be a tragic accident.

"When you are climbing in at the top end of the Southern Alps, every error is manifestly exaggerated, and unfortunately, it appears a small error has cost her," Mid-South Canterbury area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin said.

"The margins for error are so small."

Andrews was an experienced climber and was well-equipped. Weather conditions on the mountain were good, Gaskin said.

She and her group did "everything they possibly could" to minimise any risk.

Gaskin said Andrews was alive when a locator beacon was set off by members of a climbing party near where she fell.

A rescue helicopter was sent from Christchurch and airlifted her to the Aoraki-Mount Cook search and rescue base where she received medical treatment.

Having a locator beacon gave the Andrews the "best chance of survival", but "unfortunately she passed away a short time later," Gaskin said.

"It meant that within an hour of the accident happening we were able to get on the scene – unfortunately on this occasion the injuries were too severe."

He said Andrews was climbing with four others when she fell. Her death would be "absolutely gut-wrenching" for the rest of the party, he said.

"I feel very sorry for them, they will be doing a lot of self-blaming at the moment, trying to understand what happened and sometimes there is no explanation."

The other members of Andrews' climbing party were flown back to Mt Cook village, and werehelping police piece together what had happened.

Andrews' death had been referred to the coroner.


It was the second climbing death in the past month in the Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park.

Stephen Dowall, a South Canterbury-raised United Nations worker based in Myanmar, died after failing to reach the Empress Hut, at the head of the Hooker Glacier, in poor conditions in late November.

The 52-year-old was reported missing by his climbing companion, Wanaka's Rob Hawes, after the two were separated.

Gaskin said police urged those going into the back-country over the summer period to carry a personal locator beacon so help could be sent quickly in an emergency.

Southern Alps Guiding's Charlie Hobbs said conditions up in the mountains could "go horribly wrong really quickly". 

"People need to make sure they stay alert when on mountains, when to go back and when to carry on," he said.

"People need to remember where they are and watch the conditions. We want people to love being here and enjoy climbing."

- Stuff and Brisbane Times

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback