The close-knit mountaineering community is reeling from the loss of six men within a month, an outdoor instructor says.
Dulkara Martig trained at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Nelson with Martin Hess, one of the two guides who died in an avalanche yesterday.
Mr Hess, 50, and Wolfgang Maier, 58, died yesterday on Mount Hicks, near Aoraki / Mt Cook. The third climber, adventurer Jo Morgan, survived the avalanche.
Their deaths follow those of New Zealand Alpine Team member Caleb Jennings, who died of his injuries in a mountain fall near Arthur's Pass, and of helicopter pilot Nick Wallis and DOC workers Scott Theobold, and Paul Hondelink in a helicopter crash near Wanaka.
Ms Martig said the three accidents in recent weeks claimed the lives of men who all loved the Southern Alps.
"Whenever anything happens it rocks the community, really hard.
"You'll either be good friends with someone who worked with them, or knows them, or you know their partners, or their family."
Ms Martig said Mr Hess, with whom she spent challenging times in the outdoors, was a "little guy with a huge pack and an even bigger heart", and had an "infectious zest for life".
"I met Martin five years ago when we ended up on a NOLS instructors' course in Nelson, and spent 22 consecutive days bush-bashing and camping in the Victoria Forest Park [near Reefton] together.
"The weather was terrible. It rained and snowed and the wind howled. That meant I spent a lot of time hunkering in a tent with Martin and his ridiculous jokes.
"You get to know people pretty quickly and build strong friendships on mountain adventures."
Ms Martig said Mr Hess was well-known for his quirky sense of humour and incredible cooking skills.
"He loved hot pools and would proudly tell you that he featured naked in the New Zealand hot springs guidebook several times."
Ms Martig said the first postcard he wrote to her had a photograph of Mt Hicks on it.
She said underneath all of the banter was a guy with the biggest heart in the world.
"He cared deeply for the people he connected with in the mountains."