Two climbers who fell to deaths on Taranaki Maunga were unprepared, coroner says

Taranaki Maunga.
Taranaki Maunga. Photo credit: Getty Images.


A coroner has found two climbers were unprepared and on a dangerous route when they fell to their deaths on Mount Taranaki.

The two men, who were experienced climbers, decided to summit the mountain in May 2021, while visiting New Plymouth for work.

They drove to the Dawson Falls carpark after finishing work on 4 May, with one of the men sending a text to a family member saying they had reached the summit at 9.23pm.

A short time later, emergency services received a call to say one had fallen, but the line cut out. Both men were later found dead 300m below their last known position.

Coroner Ian Telford found they died from injuries sustained in an accidental fall.

The coroner asked the Mountain Safety Council to investigate. The council found that although experienced, the men did limited planning and had underestimated the difficulty of the climb.

"Taranaki Maunga is considered an advanced tramp or hike in the summer months. In the winter, it should be considered a mountaineering trip. The assessors consider that the pair approached the climb as a day walk, rather than a mountaineering trip," the council's report said.

Conditions were dark, icy and snowy at the time, it said.

"Despite knowing this, the gear they took suggests that they had not sufficiently planned to deal with the full extent of the difficulties posed by those conditions," the report said.

"Further, the route they took is not often used for ascending or descending the mountain and its use is actively discouraged by the Department of Conservation due to the gradient and environmental conditions in this location."

It was unclear why this route had been taken. A number of recommendations were made.

"Taranaki Maunga is very accessible and is a popular climb in summer months. This has led many to underestimate its seriousness in winter, or even when weather or conditions deteriorate. Trampers and climbers should recognise that Taranaki Maunga is a very serious mountain requiring solid planning and decision making at any time of year," the Council said.

It also said "climbers and alpine trampers should consider decisions around travelling in the dark with an increased level of caution, particularly in unfamiliar environments."

Other recommendations included seeking local advice, taking a cautious approach to trips and choosing appropriate footwear and crampons.