The wife of the Australian climber killed in an avalanche in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park yesterday has posted a moving tribute to their family's "Captain Awesome".
Nathan Deutschbein, a senior New South Wales police officer and father of two girls, died while descending The Footstool, a prominent, 2764m-tall peak on the Main Divide about 8km from Aoraki/Mount Cook village.
The 40-year-old was a senior constable in the Blue Mountains Area Command.
Wife Skye Deutschbein said on social media, "Our beloved Nathan was in an avalanche on the mountain he was climbing yesterday and did not survive. We are broken and cannot imagine a world without him. He was our Captain Awesome."
In an earlier post, she indicated her husband and two companions were planning to climb 3109m Mt Elie De Beaumont at the head of the Tasman Glacier.
A Gofundme page has been set up to support Deutschbein's wife Skye and their two young daughters.
"Our hearts are utterly devastated for Skye," said page administrator Shalene Roberts.
"We are praying fervently and trusting Christ to comfort Skye and the girls during this tragic time, and we ask that you do the same.
"We also know that many expenses lie ahead for the family, and we would like to try to ease some of that burden.
"The Christmas holiday this year is going to be exceptionally hard, and we don't want financial need to compound the devastation."
The tragic incident occurred around 1.30pm yesterday as Deutschbein and a fellow mountaineer were descending the Eugenie Glacier on the eastern flank of Footstool.
Department of Conservation Aoraki/Mt Cook operations manager Brent Swanson told Newshub the 20m-wide avalanche travelled 300m, pushing the climbers into a crevasse, making their rescue difficult.
A helicopter couldn't land so a DoC staff member suspended on a fixed-line recovered the injured climber and Deutschbein.
The New South Wales Blue Heelers, a group of police officers who represented their state each year in the National Police Australian Football Championships, described him as a "genuine good bloke".
"Thoughts today with the friends and family of Senior Constable Nathan Deutschbein of the Blue Mountains PAC who was tragically killed yesterday in New Zealand," the group wrote on Facebook.
"Known as a really great person who served the community of the Blue Mountains in both general duties and as a police rescue operator.
He will be missed by many."
The Australian police said they were offering support and condolences to the Deutschbein's wife and family.
Sources have told the Herald Deutschbein was an experienced mountaineer, who regularly visited New Zealand to climb peaks in the Southern Alps.
An adventure website run by Deutschbein showed spectacular images from his trips to New Zealand, including of climbing 3033m-high Mt Aspiring and 2627m-high Mt Sealy.
Friends had been posting messages of support for the family and tributes to Deutschbein on Facebook.
"Nathan is going to be so missed. Such an incredible man," one said.
Another wrote of their disbelief saying, "I'm so deeply sorry . I'm having such trouble believing this. Beyond devastated."
Mid-South Canterbury Area Commander Inspector Dave Gaskin said it was difficult to say why the avalanche was set off but it was more than probable the group triggered it while crossing the snow field as the snow conditions were pretty unstable.
Two other people were climbing with the person who died - one had minor injuries and the other was uninjured because he had remained at the hut that day.
Gaskin said police had no details of the mountaineers but understood they were reasonably proficient and experienced.
Gaskin said the mountaineer who was uninjured had stayed behind at the Sefton Bivouac hut because they were sick.
The climber who suffered minor injuries was transported to Twizel for medical treatment.
Deutschbein's death had been referred to the coroner.
MetService reports Mt Cook's weather for today was fine spells, with a chance of a shower or two with light winds and a high of 18C.
Gaskin said there was a risk for loose, wet avalanches at the time above 1200m.
"There are various types of snow pack conditions, so loose and wet is as it sounds,' he said.
"It's quite a slushy, icy mixture, that condition can mean that sort of avalanche can run a lot further than a typical slab avalanche which is nicely bound together."
The Sefton Bivvy area was the scene of a death in September 2013. British man Robert Buckley, 32, was trying to reach the small hut 1660m above sea level with three friends when he suffered a fatal fall on steep ground, 80m short of the hut.
The latest tragedy comes after two mountain guides were killed last month in an avalanche on Mt Hicks that also buried adventurer and philanthropist Jo Morgan.
Morgan was lucky to escape with her life and told media at the time she was "gobsmacked" to be alive after digging herself out.
Her climbing partners Martin Hess and Wolfgang Maier - who were both originally from Germany but had become New Zealand residents – died.
Morgan had been roped to the two experienced mountain guides when the avalanche hit, but she was unable to find them after being sent tumbling up to 200m down the mountain.
"None of us had any control over it."
Morgan was rescued after setting off a personal locator beacon.