A young scientist plunged 400ft to her death after her climbing rope snapped, an inquest heard.

Lauren Worrell, 28, would have been alive if she hadn't used the "weathered" rope, a New Zealand coroner said.

The tragedy happened as she and her boyfriend Richard Graham climbed back down Castle Rock on August 19, 2018.

Coroner Michael Robb said: “As Ms Worrell descended a rock face ledge it appears she slipped putting load on her climbing rope.

“The rope she was attached to was weathered and snapped, which caused her to fall approximately 120 metres to her death.”

Mr Graham told the hearing she was four to five metres below him on the ledge when she slipped out of his view as he prepared his gear, stuff.co.nz reports.

Lauren Worrell would have been alive if she hadn't used the "weathered" rope, a coroner said

The coroner's report said: “He heard a scream which stopped when he heard a thud and immediately thought the worst.”

He called emergency services and “it was at this point he noticed that the fixed rope had snapped”.

Two nearby climbers said they heard a noise above them like a rock tumbling, then a “snap” or “pop” followed by a short scream.

Auckland Rescue Helicopter scrambled to Lauren Worrell's fall

“On looking up Worrell was seen falling through the air with a full length of rope which appeared to be coiled around her body.”

They made their way to where Worrell was lying to find that despite significant injuries, she was still breathing.

“They did their best to reassure her but at no time did Worrell respond in any way.”

Shortly afterwards she stopped breathing and despite CPR efforts she was declared dead at the scene by emergency services.

The inquest heard Worrell had about three years’ climbing experience in her native US and New Zealand.

She lived in Auckland with her partner and the pair had climbed Castle Rock before.

Mr Graham said he believed the rope was “more than capable of holding a person’s weight, although he noted it was heavily weathered”.

He said it was normal practice for a climber to hook their own rope on to the bolts drilled into the rock face, though he did not notice whether Worrell had done so for her descent.

Constable Brian Connors, who has 36 years’ experience with search and rescue, examined the anchor points at the rock face where the rope had been attached and said he believed “the rope should not have been used as an anchor point by itself”.

Coroner Robb ruled that Worrell would likely still be alive if she had not relied the rope, but also noted the risks inherent in rock climbing.

“I recommend that all climbers use their own rope systems and do not rely on ropes affixed to rock faces as a single point of safety,” he said.