Climber killed in fall on Mt Aspiring
A Czech man has fallen to his death from the northwest ridge of Mt Aspiring.
The man, who had been in New Zealand for about a week, fell several hundred metres from the buttress area of the 3033 metre peak on to the Therma Glacier.
A volunteer Wanaka Search and Rescue alpine rescue team recovered the man in a treacherous rescue on Wednesday afternoon in an operation that lasted over three hours.
Wanaka Police Search and Rescue were alerted to the fall by satellite phone around midday from a guided climbing party, who met the victim's climbing partner on the mountain.
Search and Rescue spokesman Phillip Melchior said the man in his mid-twenties had fallen on the descent. The man and his climbing partner, an Australian tourist who he had recently met, were descending the sheer cliff close to each other but they were not roped together.
He slipped and fell more than 200m down the rock face.
Melchior said this was the seventh incident the Search and Rescue team had been called out to in a week. Although it was usually a busy time of year, it was more calls than normal for the season. Although most had been to minor incidents, two men were rescued after they fell 200m on the southwest route. The pair were flown by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital with moderate to serious injuries, including broken bones.
"If they had not been rescued quickly, I am sure they would have frozen to death," Melchior said.
The northwest ridge is the most commonly climbed route on Mt Aspiring, a peak in the Southern Alps between Otago and south Westland. It is known to be a technically difficult climb, and Wanaka Police Search and Rescuer Dean Harperson said the conditions were typical of alpine terrain.
The weather on Wednesday afternoon had been mild, with temperatures sitting between 4C and 21C and a south-west gale of 60 kmh at the peak.
Melchior said it had been a "beautiful day" in Wanaka, there had been a breeze throughout the day up the mountain, but nothing severe. He did not believe weather had played a factor.
Wanaka Police Search and Rescue coordinator Sergeant Aaron Nicholson said the climber's death was a tragedy.
"The very busy start to the summer outdoor season is a sobering reminder of the inherent risks in mountaineering"
"There have been several fatalities over the years, especially on the ramp," Melchior said. The ramp is a particularly steep, snowy bank that forms part of the most-travelled route to the summit.
In the past decade more than 30 people have lost their lives in and around Mount Aspiring National Park.