Hungarian Gergo Verhas dead after 50m fall at Arthur's Pass

Gergo Verhas, of Hungary, died while climbing in the Arthur's Pass National Park.
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Gergo Verhas, of Hungary, died while climbing in the Arthur's Pass National Park.

The climber who fell 50 metres to his death at Arthur's Pass National Park has been named as Gergo Verhas.

A search and rescue effort got under way after Verhas, who was with two others, fell down a steep rockface on the northern side of the Mt Rolleston about 7.40am Monday.

It was understood the group came from Auckland to climb the 2275m-high mountain. They were climbing at the head of the Otira Valley.

A photograph from the rescue helicopter of the Gergo Verhas' climbing party.
CANTERBURY WESTPAC RESCUE HELICOPTER

A photograph from the rescue helicopter of the Gergo Verhas' climbing party.

New Zealand Alpine Club general manager Sam Newton confirmed the death of Verhas, who was from Hungary but was a member of the club's Auckland Section.

"In a team of three climbers, Gergo had ascended the Central Direct Route on the Otira Face of Mt Rolleston on Sunday.

"After spending the night near the summit, the party was descending via the standard descent route, early on Monday morning," he said.

"During that descent, Gergo slipped on loose scree, slid across a small patch of snow and came to a halt in a loose rocky area 50m below."

Newton said Verhas' death was "a tragic loss".

"Gergo was an active and popular member of the Auckland Section of NZAC. Subsequent to completing instruction courses in both rock climbing and snowcraft, Gergo had enjoyed numerous climbs of significant mountains in New Zealand."

Newton said in the past six months Verhas had climbed Mt Taranaki, all 12 peaks of Mt Ruapehu, Mt Earnslaw, Mt Temple and Mt Sefton.

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"It is saddening that someone who was enjoying the mountains so much, has had such a tragic accident."

Sergeant Chris Jones said the man's companions were "extremely traumatised".

"They've got down to him reasonably quickly but due to the extent of the fall they've been unable to provide any assistance to him."

Senior Sergeant Vaughn Lapslie said the man fell about 50m.

A Canterbury Westpac Rescue Helicopter spokesman said the crew found the man's body 1900m up the mountain.

A paramedic was winched down and discovered the climber was dead after suffering "significant injuries" from the fall. There was a lot of loose shale in the area.

"It was a relatively steep scree slope, there was quite a drop off below where the body was which made it a bit more challenging than what we would have liked."

The helicopter flew his two climbing partners to Arthur's Pass Village before returning to retrieve the body.

"[His climbing partners] were quite shocked at the events, it was obvious that they had had a traumatic morning."

The spokesman said the body was flown to Arthur's Pass Village where it was left with police. The body would be transferred to Christchurch. 

Department of Conservation senior ranger Chris Stewart said Mt Rolleston was the highest peak directly accessible from Arthur's Pass village.

It had three major ridge lines and climbers reached the peak using several routes, he said.

There was some permanent snow on the peak, but conditions had been "pretty good" during the last two days.

Jones said police had not yet been able to contact the dead man's next of kin overseas.

The matter would be referred to the coroner, police said. 

 - Stuff

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