Outdoors were his great love
Tears flowed as close friends of Golden Bay's Ari Kingan came to grips with losing a loyal, athletically gifted young man.
Kingan, 21, died on Sunday night in a climbing accident on Mt Aspiring.
"He was in a brilliant place in his life, he'd really found his passion," said Lisa Williams, mother of one of Kingan's best friends, A J Williams.
She said since getting into outdoor education he'd found a real strength and had developed into a "strong, adventurous young man". He was happy and he'd set up his life so he could travel.
"He achieved a lot in his life," she said.
Kingan grew up in a close Golden Bay community known for taking care of each other. As he grew older he also lived with his close friends the Fersterer-Gawith family in Takaka.
His brother Dan lives in Southland with his father, and his younger sister Shaye lives in Onekaka.
Before achieving highly as a mountain climber, Kingan showed exceptional talent as a mountain biker, said his friend and family member Alex Fersterer-Gawith. He was also a keen kayaker.
After a stint at Otago University, Kingan discovered Tai Poutini Polytechnic in Greymouth, where he settled into study for a diploma in outdoor instruction and guiding, focusing on his passion for the outdoors.
Tai Poutini chief executive Allan Sargison said Kingan was a popular student who was committed to his training.
"His loss will be strongly felt at the polytechnic, where Ari had been a stand-out student of our outdoor education programme."
A J Williams said Kingan started rock climbing at school and at university discovered outdoor adventuring.
"He was telling me how everyone he climbed with was becoming an accountant or a PhD, but he took great pride in telling them he was a possum trapper."
Some of his friends were inspired enough by Kingan's passion for climbing to take up the sport themselves.
Golden Bay Kayak owners Tony Bateup and Lisa Savage were devastated to learn of their friend's accident. They'd recently met up with him in Alaska, where he climbed Mt KcKinley, in Denali National Park, North America's highest mountain.
"We were lucky to have just mountain biked at Whistler mountain bike park and kayaked on the west coast of Vancouver island with our young son Kye. Ari was such a sensitive, kind soul who was an incredibly talented athlete. He was a massive part of our lives and we are privileged to have spent time with him and his wonderful network of friends," said Bateup.
"He's been a big part of my life since we came to Golden Bay. We met him on a Golden Bay kayak trip," said Bateup.
He said Kingan came across as "quiet, reserved and well mannered, not one of the rock stars" who took unnecessary risks. By the end of the three days paddling together there was nothing Kingan wouldn't try.
"He was quietly confident, not showy," he said.
"Last year we were getting into trouble and we needed help. We asked Ari for help and he was there three hours later, despite having tough stuff going on his own life. He was a loyal friend and would do anything to help. Ari was very proud of where he came from, passionate about the community and the people he loved," said Savage.
She said members of the Golden Bay Mountain Bike Club had also "really adopted him".
His love of climbing came from his grandfather, Frank Johansson, who was a well known Golden Bay athlete right up until he died at 77.
"Whenever he made it to the top, he texted his granddad," said Trudi Fersterer.
She said Kingan's ashes would be placed with his grandfather's in the Collingwood graveyard.
His father, Ross Kingan, said: "He was just a great guy, all heart, I loved him, we all did." Kingan and his father had spent time together within the past week.
"He was one of our own," said Lisa Williams.
This week Kingan's friends are driving his body up the South Island for the funeral on Saturday at Golden Bay High School, at 2pm.
The Nelson Mail