Alaskan hiker falls to her death in New Zealand

Nicole Leman (Photo via Facebook)
Nicole Leman (Photo via Facebook)

A 24-year-old Alaskan died in a hiking accident in New Zealand on Wednesday.  Nicole Leman was the youngest child of former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman. According to news accounts in New Zealand, she and a hiking partner were on a multi-day trek in Mount Aspiring National Park, on the South Island.

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Wanaka Police Constable Dean Harbison flew in with a mountain rescue team to recover the body by helicopter. He says Leman and her companion were making their way up an area called Waterfall Face, which the officer describes as a severe rise,

Waterfall Face, on left. (Photo: David Noble, 2009)
Waterfall Face, on left. (Photo: David Noble, 2009)

about 300 yards above a valley floor.

“It requires kind of an advanced level of tramping (hiking) ability,” he said. “It doesn’t require ropes or any specialist equipment, other than good experience and knowing how to traverse over rough ground.”

According to Harbison, the companion was badly shaken but told investigators the Alaskan turned to speak to him and lost her footing, resulting in a long fall. Harbison says it was fine summer hiking weather and it appears the pair had done all the appropriate research before they set out.

Three hikers on Waterfall Face in Mount Aspiring National Park in New Zealand. (Photo: David Noble, 2009)
Three hikers on Waterfall Face in Mount Aspiring National Park in New Zealand. (Photo: David Noble, 2009)

“The investigation, as such, it’s still in it’s early stages. But on face value, they haven’t done anything stupid,” he said. “They’ve been well prepared. They were tramping together and doing it as safely as they can. It’s just one of those unfortunate things, just a nasty tragedy.”

Nicole Leman was a graduate of Grace Christian School in Anchorage and Letourneau University, where she studied exercise science and ran competitively. On her Facebook page, she said she worked at the Alaska Club as a personal trainer.

Her father was lieutenant governor for four years ending in 2006. Loren Leman told the Alaska Dispatch News the family is taking encouragement from many friends.

“It is painful beyond belief to lose a child,” Leman told the paper.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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