The unforgiving face

Brown thought of the bodies that lay before him in the Hooker Glacier as morbid reminders of the consequences of screwing up.

He bent over and inspected the crushed helmet. Scratched into the plastic was a name: ‘Cousins’.

It was October 16, 1999. What Brown didn’t know was that he was looking at ghosts, lost in the mountain’s ice and rock for almost 40 years. When Alpine Search and Rescue finally recovered the bodies, they also found something else. It was an old German-made Braun camera, housed in a leather case. In it lay a roll of 35mm film, and preserved in its photographic negatives, a mystery that might finally be resolved: who were the first people to scale the Caroline Face, one of the hardest ascents in New Zealand mountaineering?