A Canberra businessman has been remembered for his enthusiasm and adventurous spirit after he died in a horror climbing accident alongside a fellow Australian in New Zealand this week.
Local police have named Brett Alexander Lentfer, 62, from Canberra, and James Harry Spaile, 44, from Jerrabomberra, as the two climbers who fell hundreds of metres to their deaths on the treacherous Remarkables mountain range near Queenstown on Wednesday.
Both men were experienced climbers, active in the Canberra Climbers' Association, and their deaths have left the community in shock as tributes begin to flow in.
In a statement, Mr Lentfer's family thanked New Zealand police, rescuers and all those who helped in recovery efforts.
"It is with great sadness that we farewell Brett - a beloved husband, father and brother," they said.
Police are treating the deaths as an accident and one of the first rescuers on the scene said it appeared the men's ropes had been cut on a sharp rock.
The pair were roped together at the time and navigating a challenging route near the Double Cone summit along with a guide, who was unharmed in the fall.
Mountaineering veteran Armando Corvini taught Mr Lentfer to climb on the white rock cliffs along the Queanbeyan river more than six years ago and told The Canberra Times he was a very fit climber.
"He was always smiling, he had the best smile and he was so energetic," Mr Corvini said.
"It's a total shock. Brett climbed all around the world, the Italian Alps, New Zealand more than once. He would tease me about the places he'd gone, he'd say 'keep up'."
Mr Corvini, who says mountaineering is in his DNA, recalled suffering damage to one of his own ropes once on a climb in New Zealand but said a complete break was unusual.
"Those ropes are strong, they can carry weight of more than two tonnes before they break," he said. "It could have been a falling rock cut it sharp, but we don't know what happened at this stage."
President of the climbers' association Zac Zaharias told The Canberra Times Mr Lentfer had been on a climb in Victoria with the group just a week before his trip to New Zealand.
"He was the loveliest guy and a good climber, so enthusiastic," he said.
Mr Spaile, who he said was based just over the border in NSW, had also been an active member.
"I didn't know James myself, but we are all so saddened by this," Mr Zaharias said.
"A rope break like that is unusual."
Mr Lentfer was also a prominent member of Canberra's building community, described by chief executive of Master Builders Association ACT Michael Hopkins as "a highly regarded leader in the local construction industry".
At 2307 metres, the Double Cone peak is higher than any mountain on the Australian mainland and has seen a number of rescues in recent years.
Chris Prudden, an experienced local climber, was the first person to view the scene after the alarm was raised. He told local reporters climbing conditions on the mountain were good at the time but it was a punishing 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."
One body was recovered on Wednesday, and the second retrieved following a helicopter search early on Thursday morning.
Both men's families are receiving Australian consular assistance and have requested privacy.
The deaths will be referred to the coroner and the travel company which organised the climb, Aspiring Guides, is now conducting an internal review as it works with police.
Mr Corvini said he had seen the change in conditions on New Zealand's mountain tops over the years as global warming started to eat away at the ice.
"With climate change now, it's getting more dangerous to climb those kinds of mountains everywhere," he said.
"You used to put your axe into ice, now it's soft snow and [in some places like] Mount Cook the freezing point is above the summit now."
"I've been climbing since I was 18, I love it, not just the climb but the people you meet. They're so friendly.
"Still, I've lost about 15 friends to mountaineering."
with Andrew Brown, AAP