An Air Force helicopter prepares to help locate two
Auckland climbers stuck on Mt Taranaki for two nights.
Photo / Jim Tucker
One of two climbers who died after being trapped on Mt
Taranaki this weekend had texted her father saying she didn't
expect to survive.
Nicole Sutton, 29, and Hiroki Ogawa, 31, died after
sheltering from bad weather in a snow cave for two nights.
Rescuers reached the pair about 7.30am today, finding Dr
Ogawa dead and Ms Sutton alive, but she lost consciousness
and died later.
Speaking at a media conference in New Plymouth this
afternoon, Ms Sutton's father Keith Sutton said he had
received a text message from his daughter on Saturday night
saying she didn't think she would survive.
When he woke this morning and heard one of the climbers had
been found dead, he thought the report was referring to his
However rescuers had found Ms Sutton still alive and talking
this morning. She deteriorated over the next few hours and
Mr Sutton said his daughter and Dr Ogawa died doing what they
They were both very independent people who loved the
outdoors, he said.
The couple met two years ago, and Mr Sutton and his wife Anne
had found Hiroki Ogawa to be a very special man. They always
knew he would take very good care of their daughter, and the
last 48 hours had proved that, Mr Sutton said.
He said he and Anne were saddened by events but had been
amazed by the response and support from the people of
Taranaki and beyond.
The Auckland couple were part of the New Zealand Alpine
Club's annual Labour weekend trip to Mt Taranaki.
They had been huddled in a snow cave they had dug for
themselves to shelter from the weather which has engulfed the
mountain since Saturday night.
The couple were stuck on an outcrop called the Lizard on the
north-western side of the mountain, near its 2500m summit,
and had been communicating with police via text message.
Two other climbers who were also stranded on the mountain,
John Salisbury, 65, and a 38-year-old woman, managed to walk
down by themselves yesterday morning. They were taken to
hospital with mild hypothermia and minor cuts and bruises.
Police said search teams spent the night on the mountain
trying to locate Ms Sutton and Dr Ogawa, but their efforts
were "significantly hampered" by the conditions.
They were forced to return to the forward staging area at
Tahurangi Lodge about 4am today.
Taranaki area commander Inspector Blair Telford said a fresh
search team was deployed and reached the stranded climbers at
Alpine rescuers had heard Ms Sutton calling out, he said.
The weather worsened, so after Ms Sutton died rescuers left
both bodies on the mountain and returned to their base to
avoid putting more lives at risk.
Mr Telford said the focus was now on recovery, which would be
done when weather improved.
"We still have a number of resources on standby including
alpine cliff rescue and the Air Force, who are waiting for a
break in the weather."
New Zealand Alpine Club general manager Sam Newton said Ms
Sutton was relatively new to mountaineering, but had a lot of
experience as a skier.
"She was already developing a reputation as someone who had a
real passion and enthusiasm for the sport," he said.
He said Dr Ogawa had voluntarily taught basic snowcraft to
"Apart for his own personal achievements in climbing, which
were considerable, he will be remembered by the climbing
community as someone who gave back to the grassroots."
Mr Newton said Mount Taranaki was known for sudden
deteriorations in weather and conditions.
"This is a tragic reminder that Mt Taranaki is New Zealand's
deadliest mountain ... achievable for day-trippers one minute
and fatal to experienced mountaineers the next.
"Our thoughts are with the friends and family of Hiroki and
Nicole. A double tragedy of this nature is deeply saddening
for the club and its members who know and climbed with them."
Dr Ogawa was a qualified geoscientist who specialised in
coastal processes, geomorphology and sedimentology.
He studied geosciences and geology at The University of
Wollongong in New South Wales, before completing a PhD at the
University of Auckland.
He was currently working at the University of Auckland as a
research fellow and tutor.
Originally from Kanagawa in Japan, Dr Ogawa was an avid rock
and mountain climber who also loved tramping, trekking and
He had been a member of the New Zealand Alpine Club's
Auckland branch for a number of years and ran classes on rock
Ms Sutton grew up near Marton and attended Chilton St James
School in Lower Hutt before studying accounting and
commercial law at Victoria University in Wellington.
According to her Old Friends profile page she had worked for
the Ministry for the Environment. She was a keen traveller
and enjoyed the outdoors, especially mountain climbing.
- By Anna Leask of the NZ Herald