Snow-blind climber lifted off mountain

A snow-blind 27-year-old Canadian man was rescued from Mt Aspiring yesterday, after his father in Australia alerted Wanaka police that his son seemed to be in trouble.

The man was watching his son's progress on the mountain on Friday night via an internet GPS service called Spot Tracker.

Wanaka Senior Constable Emma Fleming told the Otago Daily Times yesterday the Canadian had reached the summit of Mt Aspiring alone on Friday.

However, about 10pm that day, the man's father alerted Wanaka police that his son had not moved for five hours.

Snr Const Fleming said bad weather prevented any immediate attempt to rescue the man, although a rescue was planned for Saturday.

A helicopter and LandSAR Alpine cliff rescue team was dispatched to the Mt Aspiring area but could not reach the man.

"They had a couple of attempts but the weather was just not co-operating," Snr Const Fleming said.

"The avalanche danger was high and there was "a lot of snow around".

At noon on Saturday the man hit the "help" button on his GPS device, indicating a non-life threatening emergency.

Using the Spot Tracker information, police could see the man was moving backwards and forwards in a small area near Mt French at the end of the Bonner Glacier, but he had missed "the exit point" on the descent and was clearly lost.

"He had become stranded in bad weather and couldn't negotiate his way down initially because he was lost, but then subsequently, having dug himself a snow cave, he became snow-blind.

"So there was no way he was going to be able to get himself out."

Snr Const Fleming said the man knew the police were searching for him because he had heard the helicopter.

Then, early yesterday, as the weather improved, the helicopter and LandSAR team carried out a "snatch and grab" operation to lift the man to safety.

Police understood he was not highly experienced in New Zealand climbing.

The man was taken to the Wanaka Medical Centre for treatment. His condition was unavailable last night.

Snr Const Fleming said there had been quite a number of climbers on Mt Aspiring recently. Nineteen reached the summit on one day.

-mark.price@odt.co.nz

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