3 Mar 2016

Aoraki Mt Cook as dangerous as Everest - guide

1:42 pm on 3 March 2016

The mountain guide who escaped a fatal icefall that killed three climbers on Aoraki Mt Cook says the mountain deserves as much respect as Everest.

Johann Viellehner from Germany, his son Raphael and Michael Bishop from Australia were killed after an icefall triggered an avalanche in December 2014.

Their bodies have never been found.

Dunedin coroner David Crerar has ruled they died of suffocation or asphyxia or traumatic injury after tonnes of ice collapsed.

This was caused by a so-called slab avalanche which was triggered beneath a notorious area of a glacier on the mountain known as the gun barrels.

Veteran mountain guide Dave McKinley who turned back with a client before the accident said this area could be deadly.

"I have as much respect in my approach to Mount Cook/Aoraki as I have for Everest it is a very serious place. The seriousness of it is absolutely right up there."

The three men were last seen in December 2014, when they set out for a day-long climb.

In his ruling, the coroner said he had no doubt the deaths had occurred, because there had been no use of the trio's passports or bank cards since they were last seen.

He also noted the three had mountaineering experience but were not aware of special conditions that can apply in the mountains of New Zealand.

He noted an experienced mountain guide (Mr McKinley) had followed the trio for a while but turned back because he believed that warm air conditions made the ice on the mountain unstable.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs