Avalanche victim had been 'part of the community'

Martin Hess
Martin Hess
A mountain guide with Central Otago links who was killed near Mt Cook this week may not have lived permanently in Central Otago but was still "part of the community".

Martin Hess (50) was killed alongside fellow mountain guide Wolfgang Maier (58) during an avalanche on Mt Hicks on Wednesday.

Their climbing companion, Jo Morgan, survived the avalanche.

Mr Hess owned a house in the Moa Creek district, and "called the district home" when he was not working on Mt Cook or in the Antarctic, which was where he spent most of his time, Omakau School teacher Lisa Nevill, of Moa Creek, said.

"He drove the [Poolburn] school bus for a while, he was on the community baking list for when people are unwell ... He's definitely been a contributor to the community. It's [his death] a loss to the community. He was a lovely man," Mrs Nevill said.

Mr Hess recently celebrated his 50th birthday at the Moa Creek-Poolburn Community Hall, at Labour Weekend, saying in an open invitation to the community in the Poolburn School newsletter "Hi there proud folks of the Poolburn and Moa Creek communities, I have been in the valley for 15 years plus, and I would like to thank you all for letting me call our valley my home, what a true slice of heaven we live in".

Mr Hess, who was originally from Germany, was a New Zealand Mountain Guides Association (NZMGA) level 2 guide, having started climbing in 2001, aged 33, and becoming a guide in 2003.

He had also worked as a glacier guide on the West Coast, worked for the Department of Conservation and Australian Antarctic Division, and instructed for many polytechnics and companies, as well as supporting personal development.

A statement from the NZMGA said that Mr Hess was an outgoing, positive and engaging person to be around, with a quirky sense of humour.

He was "a careful, considered character who had a thorough approach to the planning and implementation of his work" and was "a huge asset to have in any team".

Mr Hess had a "strong friendship" with Mr Maier, also of Germany, who was also an experienced, "fit and strong" guide with a "broad smile", the NZMGA statement said.

It is understood Mr Maier worked summers guiding in New Zealand.

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