An Air New Zealand Plane Flies Over Mount Victoria
IN PHOTO: An Air New Zealand plane flies over houses in Mount Victoria as it approaches Wellington airport, October 7, 2011. Reuters/Marcos Brindicci

Three climbers, one Australia and two Germans, last reported to be in New Zealand's Mt Cook, are now feared dead as the search party was called off. Michael Bishop, a 53-year-old doctor from Sydney, and German climbers Johann Viellehner, 58, and son Raphael, 27 had failed to return from their expedition.

New Zealand authorities were notified after the three did not return as expected. According to the Daily Mail, one of the people who had last seen the three climbers alive was David McKinley, an experienced mountain guide. Authorities had called off the search after two helicopters found no trace of the climbers on the 3,724-metre mountain.

The New Zealand police issued a statement and said that the situation was "grim." It was previously hoped that the three men had survived the storm and would have been spotted by helicopters. However, no sign of them was found and police believe they died in Mt Cook. Bad weather had hampered search efforts earlier in the week.

The guide who saw the three men last had advised them to be aware of the warm temperature. He told that it did occur to him that he did not see the men when he expected. McKinley said the climbers were not out in dangerous conditions at that time.

Bishop's son, Joshua, was hoping that his father had been safe somewhere in a cave and sought shelter from the storm. In a Daily Telegraph report, he said he has many stories of his father having to build igloos or carve out snow caves to avoid when bad weather arises. He said he had faith in his father's experience and banked on the fact that he was with two other experienced climbers. Joshua spoke to his father on Christmas and found out that he was going to Mt. Cook.

According to reports, the Christchurch alpine cliff rescue team has abandoned the search, while the rescue team from the Department of Conservation was on standby at Mt. Cook village. In July, a 44-year-old Australian soldier died on Mt. Cook after falling in a crevasse during a winter exercise.

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