Kiwi mountaineers who climbed the east face of Mt Cook with Magnus Kastengren are struggling to understand how the experienced Swedish ski mountaineer came unstuck just days later.
Kastengren, aged in his 30s, died after falling 600 metres while skiing on Mt Cook yesterday. His climbing partner, Andreas Fransson, alerted the Department of Conservation Aoraki-Mt Cook Alpine Rescue Team to his friend's fall about 8.30am.
Wanaka-based Tyrone Low, 28, and Christchurch's Nick Begg, 26, had ''a perfect day'' climbing and skiing the East Face of Mt Cook with the Swedish pair last week.
''We skiied from the summit down the face. It has not been skiied many times. Most people ski it from the ridgeline. We met the night before and flew in together because we were going to the same place. It was just by chance that we were both going in at the same time to do the same thing,'' said Low.
He and Begg left Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park on Saturday and returned to Wanaka only to discover that one of their new friends had died yesterday.
They found out it was Kastengren this morning.
''It is a bizarre situation - finding out through the news and only having met him a week ago. We were basically living in each other's laps for a week,'' said Low.
The four climbers spent four nights at Plateau Hut together and climbed the East Face of Mt Cook on Tuesday.
''Immediately we were joking around with them and having a good time. Magnus was a pretty funny dude. We played a bit of cards with them and a bit of chess. We shared stories. They were both quite experienced. We found it pretty interesting to find out what they had been up to overseas,'' said Low.
''They had both been wanting to come to New Zealand for a long time. They were really happy to be here.''
Low said at first he and Begg could not believe that Kastengren - a ''sensible'' climber - had died, because he was extremely experienced.
''They took pretty good precautions to stay safe. Every decision they made the day we were with them was a really good one. We roped up when we needed to,'' he said.
''They are two of the world's best ski mountaineers. Andreas is definitely well known and Magnus has done a lot of technical stuff. It is pretty hard to know what these guys were standing on when Magnus fell. It could have been the smallest patch of ice.''
Lake Tekapo Senior Constable Brent Swanson said the men were skiing when the accident happened.
Kastengren was near the Summit Ridge Porter Col of Mt Cook when he fell.
The alpine rescue party took a helicopter to the scene yesterday, where they established he had died.
The rescue team returned Fransson at 11.50am and retrieved the body of Kastengren at 12.20pm. Fransson has since returned to Sweden.
The climbing pair went into the park with the intention of climbing Aoraki-Mt Cook.
They were skiing/traversing at 3700m towards the lower summit of the mountain.
They were described as very experienced and had successfully ski/climbed the East Face of Mt Cook and The Footstool the previous week.
At the time the call came in members of the DOC Alpine Rescue Team were in the park carrying out alpine rescue training with members of LandSAR NZ.
SERIES OF TRAGIC INCIDENTS
Department of Conservation services manager Mike Davies said yesterday's was the third death at Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park since September.
"These things can go in phases. Certainly over the last couple of years things have been fairly quiet in terms of incidents.
"We have had plenty of incidents but not to the same extent we have had this early in the season."
In September, Duncan Robert Rait, 36, a New Zealander living in Melbourne, died after falling 150m.
He was with a group of ski mountaineers who were dropped off near the Tasman Saddle Hut. After the helicopter left, they started making their way down the ridge to the hut a few hundred metres away.
While walking to the hut, Mr Rait, an experienced alpinist, slipped on ice and fell down a gully and over a bluff.
The next day, Englishman Robert Buckley, 32, died after falling 700m near the Mt Sefton Bivvy, above the Mueller Glacier.
He had been living and working in Christchurch.
Mr Buckley had been climbing with three others. They had hired some climbing equipment earlier in the day and had managed to get within 80m of the bivvy when he slipped on ice.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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