Two climbers from Australia have died in a tragic climbing accident after falling hundreds of metres on a popular New Zealand mountain range.
New Zealand confirmed on Thursday that Brett Alexander Lentfer, 62, and James Harry Spaile, 44, were killed after their ropes were severed during a climb on the Remarkables range near Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island.
The pair were attempting a challenging route across the top of the Remarkables, along with a guide, who was unharmed.
Police said they recovered the body of one of the men Wednesday and recovered the body of the second after a helicopter search Thursday morning.
“Our condolences are with the family and friends of both men,” police said in a statement.
The trio was negotiating a stretch near the summit of the climb known as the Grand Traverse, near the Double Cone summit, when disaster struck.
At 2307 metres, the peak is higher than any mountain on the Australian mainland.
Chris Prudden, an experienced climber of Mountain Rescue who was in the area, told Radio NZ climbing conditions were fine but it was a very tough endeavour.
“It’s technical terrain. It’s very steep on either side. The only way off it is to go across it,” he said.
“It’s a guide’s worst nightmare when things become unstuck.
“It was pretty sad, pretty tragic… to see the end of that situation knowing full well that they’d fallen 300 metres – it’s a hell of a long way in that steep terrain.”
Police are treating the deaths as an accident.
The company director of Aspiring Guides, which organised the climb, offered her condolences and said they would conduct an internal review.
“Aspiring Guides is deeply saddened to confirm that two clients have died following a tragic climbing accident in the Remarkables,” the company said in a statement on its Facebook page.
“We are devastated and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives,” it said.
“Our thanks to Emergency Services and the Wanaka and Wakatipu Alpine Cliff Rescue team for their quick response and assistance.”