Authorities have confirmed two men who died in a climbing accident on The Remarkables on Wednesday were Australian.
Australian residents Brett Alexander Lentfer, 62, and James Harry Spaile, 44, have tragically lost their lives after falling hundreds of metres while climbing on New Zealand’s The Remarkables mountain range, New Zealand Police confirmed in a statement on Thursday.
“Our condolences are with the family and friends of both men,” they said.
Lentfer and Spaile were on a guided climb with Wanaka-based Aspiring Guides of the popular Grand Traverse on Wednesday when they fell, tied together, from the Grand Alta Ridge. Their guide was unharmed.
“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 posted to its Facebook page.
“We are devastated and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives.”
Both men were experienced climbers, Otago Lakes central area commander Olaf Jensen said on Thursday.
Chris Prudden from the Queenstown mountain rescue team, who was first on the scene, told New Zealand news outlet Stuff it appeared the accident had occurred after the pair’s ropes had been cut by rocks.
“The initial report I got was … somehow the rope was cut,” Prudden told the outlet.
“The ropes are incredibly strong but sharp rocks can do the damage really quickly. That’s not surprising given the nature of the terrain.”
Police are treating the deaths as an accident.
Prudden told the New Zealand Herald when he arrived at the scene, he saw one person at the bottom of a hill and another person at the top.
“It was pretty sad, pretty tragic,” Prudden said. “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.”
The bodies of both men have been recovered by emergency personnel, after a two-day recovery effort to secure them.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) confirmed in a statement to Travel Weekly that it is providing consular assistance to the families of two Australian men who died in New Zealand.
In a separate statement issued to Travel Weekly by DFAT, Lentfer’s family thanked police and emergency services.
“It is with great sadness that we farewell Brett – a beloved husband, father and brother,” they said.