Police have now recovered the bodies of two Kiwi climbers they had to leave in Fiordland overnight after finding them at sunset at the bottom of a cliff.
The pair were reported missing yesterday afternoon and had been overdue for 24 hours, Sergeant Tod Hollebon of Te Anau Police said.
"A search by helicopter yesterday evening located the climbers at the base of a climbing face where they had clearly suffered a fall," Hollebon said.
A Southland police SAR team recovered their bodies today in an area below Marian Peak in the Darran Mountains, Fiordland.
The two were Otago-based climbers, both members of the New Zealand Alpine Team, on what has been described as one of New Zealand's most difficult climbs, reports the Otago Daily Times.
The alpine team's website says it is made up of New Zealand alpine climbers who volunteered their time to mentor a future generation of alpine climbers.
It takes applicants aged between 18 and 25 and provides three years of training to further their climbing skills.
The Darran Mountains is a popular climbing area for advanced climbers.
A New Zealand Alpine Team member said the area the two men were climbing was one of New Zealand's bigger mountain faces.
"It's really as difficult as it gets in terms of rock climbing in New Zealand.''
The two climbers had left Homer Huts near the Milford Road on Saturday. They were intending to head from Barrier Knob to Barrier Peak, before descending into Marian Valley and then climbing Marian Peak.
Police are contacting next of kin.
Southern Lakes Helicopters owner Richard Hayes flew the chopper that searched for the climbers last night.
He was called to find the pair after they were reported overdue by a third climber.
Hayes first flew to Homer Huts to pick up the man who raised the alarm.
"He gave us an indication of where they were attempting to climb and traverse so we flew that route and started at the bottom of a virtually vertical cliff band, at the southern aspect of Mt Marian," Hayes said.
"We had a result right at the bottom of Mt Marian at the head of Marian Valley itself."
The bodies of the climbers were found around 6pm as the sun was setting. Police were on board but the terrain was so tricky it was decided to wait till daylight to recover the bodies.
Hayes flew the police Search and Rescue team out again today and hovered over a big rock where he dropped police off. About an hour later he returned and choppered the victims' bodies back using 60ft longlines.
The company does plenty of search and rescue work in the area around the Darran Mountains, Hayes said.
"It's very popular with the climbing fraternity."