Four Latvian climbers killed in New Zealand

Four mountain climbers from Latvia—including one of the country’s best-known—have been found dead on Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak, local authorities and media report.

The three men and one woman “had suffered massive trauma indicating a fall of at least 300 metres,” Constable Brent Swanson of the New Zealand Police said in a press release. They most likely were roped together, but rescuers found one climber unroped.

The climbers were identified as well-known alpinist Teodors Ķirsis; his daughter, Evija Ķirse; Ilmārs Bernāns and Aivars Proženkovs, Latvian media reported. New Zealand Police confirmed the identities in a Dec. 11 press release.

The four Latvians appear to have been visiting New Zealand on a climbing expedition. A climbing guide spotted the four early on the morning of Dec. 10 and notified authorities, police said.

Mt. Cook has claimed the lives of numerous climbers over the years, according to The New Zealand Herald. In the past several days, two other climbers had to be rescued after getting into trouble.

Visiting climbers not accustomed to the changing weather conditions on the mountain’s upper slopes have particularly been susceptible to running into trouble, the newspaper reported. But police said the weather on Mt. Cook on Dec. 10 was “beautiful, sunny with clear skies.”

In Latvia, President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga issued a statement expressing her condolences to the families of the four dead climbers.

At 3,754 metres above sea level, Mt. Cook is one of the world’s tallest peaks. Also known as Aoraki in the Maori language, Mt. Cook is part of the Southern Alps on New Zealand’s South Island.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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