'Special' friendship of climbing guides Wolfgang Maier and Martin Hess

A guard of honour is formed as friends and family depart the ceremony, led by Wolfgang Maier's partner Tracey Bell and brother Steffen Maier.
DOUG FIELD/STUFFA guard of honour is formed as friends and family depart the ceremony, led by Wolfgang Maier’s partner Tracey Bell and brother Steffen Maier.

Mountain guides Wolfgang Maier, 58, and Martin Hess, 50, died when an avalanche struck their climbing party on Mt Hicks on October 31. Both men were New Zealand residents originally from Germany.

Speaking at a community service to celebrate the pair’s lives in Tekapo on Sunday, Tracey Bell said her “amazing” partner, Maier, was never afraid to try new things.

Hess, left, and WolfgangMaier both died on October 31 after an avalanche on Mt Hicks, near Aoraki/Mt Cook.
SUPPLIEDHess, left, and WolfgangMaier both died on October 31 after an avalanche on Mt Hicks, near Aoraki/Mt Cook.

“I met Martin and Wolfgang in Lake Tekapo and now I’m saying goodbye to them in Lake Tekapo,” she said.

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“Wolfgang epitomised what all mountaineers looked like. He wasn’t just a guide, he was the guide.”

Tracey Bell says her "amazing" partner, Maier, was never afraid to try new things.
DOUG FIELD/STUFFTracey Bell says her “amazing” partner, Maier, was never afraid to try new things.

Bell said her partner had done amazing things in the mountains.

“Everything just doesn’t seem enough to sum up his life.”

Maier shifted between Tekapo and Europe, but was based in Perth for the past three years, where Bell lives.

Avalanche survivor Jo Morgan shares memories of her climbing companions.
DOUG FIELD/STUFFAvalanche survivor Jo Morgan shares memories of her climbing companions.

Buried under snow in the avalanche on October 31, a third climber, Jo Morgan, struggled for 30 minutes to set off her locator beacon, spent another 45 minutes digging her way free, and survived.

Rescuers arrived about 7.30am and used an avalanche dog to get the men’s bodies out in minutes, but they could not be revived. 

Morgan said Maier was incredibly fit and Hess was “such a nurturing man”.

Family, friends, and colleagues of 58-year-old Maier and 50-year-old Martin Hess gathered to celebrate their lives in Tekapo on Sunday.
DOUG FIELD/STUFFFamily, friends, and colleagues of 58-year-old Maier and 50-year-old Martin Hess gathered to celebrate their lives in Tekapo on Sunday.

“They were both taken so prematurely and had so much more to offer.”

Alpine Recreation director Anne Braun-Elwert said Hess and Maier started working for the company in 2008, although they were were not working for the company during the expedition in which they were killed.

“They soon became good friends,” she said.

Alpine Recreation director Anne Braun-Elwert shares memories of the pair.
DOUG FIELD/STUFFAlpine Recreation director Anne Braun-Elwert shares memories of the pair.

“Both Wolfgang and Martin were more than just employees, they were wonderful friends.”

Friend Jason Watson, who officiated the ceremony, said Maier and Hess had developed a “special” friendship.

Watson said Hess had “tremendous” love for his family.

The spot the avalanche came down on Mt Hicks in Mt Cook National Park on October 31.
GEORGE HEARD/STUFFThe spot the avalanche came down on Mt Hicks in Mt Cook National Park on October 31.

Hess, who was based in Central Otago, had also previously been in the search and rescue team at Aoraki/Mt Cook.

A guard of honour was formed with ice axes as emotional family members and friends, led by Bell and Maier’s brothe, Steffen Maier, departed the ceremony.

A joint funeral for the two men was held in Christchurch on Tuesday.

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