15 Aug 2008

Party still in mountain hut

10:40 am on 15 August 2008

Police are working on a plan to bring the rest of the Prime Minister's party, including the body of her guide, out of the Canterbury back-country near Lake Tekapo.

Gottlieb Braun-Elwert, 59, a mountain guide and friend of Helen Clark, died on Thursday during a trip with the prime minister and others.

Rescuers reached the hut where the group was staying on Thursday night and the Prime Minister and cabinet minister Damien O'Connor were taken to Tekapo on a snowmobile to be with Mr Elwert's family.

Mr Braun-Elwert's widow, Anne, said Miss Clark spent the evening with her in Tekapo.

Other members of the party, including Miss Clark's husband Peter Davis, her niece, and another cabinet minister, David Parker; remained at the hut overnight, with the body of Mr Braun-Elwert.

They are at the Rex Simpson Hut at an altitude of nearly 1300 metres.

Inspector Dave Gaskin, who's in charge of the operation, told Morning Report he hoped to bring the rest of the party out by helicopter on Friday.

But, he said that depended on the weather. It's now snowing at Lake Tekapo.

Well known climber

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister says she is shocked and distressed at the sudden death of a close friend.

Mr Braun-Elwert took trips with Miss Clark for the last 11 years. He was regarded as a pinnacle of the climbing community for nearly three decades.

He emigrated from Germany in 1978 where he worked as a nuclear physicist.

He made his base in Lake Tekapo where he began a mountain guiding company with his wife Anne, in 1981.

Mr Braun-Elwert climbed Mt Cook 26 times. In 1989, he climbed all of New Zealand's peaks over 3000m in one winter.