It is with great sadness that we report the passing of two team members Conor Smith and Sarwan Chand. Over ANZAC Weekend Conor and Sarwan were climbing in the Darran Mountains (Fiordland). They had been attempting a route on the South Face of Marian Peak. Based on an examination of the scene we believe that while climbing the leader fell before being able to place gear after the belay. This resulted in a factor 2 lead fall, pulling the team off the wall. According to others in the area at the time, conditions for climbing in the Darrans were unusually good for late-April, with warm temperatures, dry weather in the preceding week and no snow or ice on their route. Conor and Sarwan had traversed Barrier Peak to reach the upper Marian Valley and were planning to climb Marian in two stages, bivvying on a large halfway ledge.
Conor and Sarwan both joined the NZAT in late 2015. They were both well liked and respected members of our team. They were experienced and competent mountaineers with many successful ascents in New Zealand and overseas. Conor excelled as a rock climber while Sarwan had a long list of successful ice and alpine ascents.
To lose two of our friends and teammates together in this way is devastating for us. Our thoughts are with their family and friends.
We know that mountaineering carries inherent risk, nevertheless it is what we love. We are committed to seeking out any lessons that can be learned from this tragedy. Our Team, along with independent experts, will be carrying out an internal review of this accident as we do in all such cases. This accident has also been referred to the Coroner, and we expect their investigation will help us to shed light on what has happened.