Magic wonderland


Avalanche victim lived for Wakatipu’s great outdoors

Avalanche victim Ryan Campbell loved Queenstown so much he’d phone in wonder from “up in the hills”, father Joe Campbell recalls.

Joe, from Auckland, says his 30-year-old builder son – killed in an avalanche triggered while snowboarding outside the Coro­­net Peak skifield boundary last Sunday – lived his dreams in Queenstown.

“He would phone at different times of the day from some of the ridges up in the hills and say ‘You should be here’.”

Ryan, who’d called Queens­town home for six years, convinced Joe and mother Wendy to visit the previous Christmas.

“It was absolutely magical. He took me to just about every goat track there is,” Joe says.

The family, including brothers Nathan, 32, and 28-year-old Fraser – snowboarding metres away when the avalanche hit – held the funeral earlier today at Frankton’s City Impact Church.

Coroner David Crerar’s provisional autopsy says Ryan died from severe chest and lung injuries – the massive weight of snow and ice in the avalanche would have been “almost instantaneously lethal”.

Alpine Cliff Rescue search leader Aaron Halstead pleads for young, local males to stop going into backcountry areas without transceiver safety beacons, probes or shovels – and to get advice first.

“This is what I’m seeing constantly.

“They think it’s OK because it’s their backyard and they’ve skied it many times before,” says Halstead, warning conditions change.

An ill-equipped local man was extremely lucky to escape an avalanche outside Queens­town’s Remarkables ski area two weeks ago, he says. “I don’t want to blame anyone – I just don’t want this to happen again.”

‘Huge zest for life’

Avalanche victim Ryan Campbell – dubbed an adventurous thrillseeker by loved ones – certainly went to the edge.

He made the pages of Mountain Scene in 2003 with then-girlfriend Amy-Clare Howey (formerly Millano), floating plans for porn movies using Queens­town’s world-famous scenery as backdrops.

Neither intended starring but hoped to produce skin flicks as Deep South Productions.
“It’s a celebration of sex,” Campbell declared.

Nothing came of the venture and Howey told Mountain Scene three years ago she regretted the idea, which arose over “drinks and a few laughs”.

The pair, who split in 2006, once lived in his van for six weeks, saving $2500 bond to rent on Queenstown Hill.

“He had a huge zest for life. He would wash himself in the lake in the morning,” his former girlfriend says.