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A glacier guide from Franz Josef was caught in a glacier avalanche in the remote Landsborough Valley yesterday, but managed to 'swim' through the icy waters and is lucky to be alive.
The 23-year-old Tauranga man, who is currently working for Franz Josef Glacier Guides, was part way through a nine-day solo tramp in some of the most rugged alpine terrain in New Zealand when he was caught up in a glacial avalanche at the head of the Landsborough Valley, on the West Coast side of Aoraki-Mount Cook, about noon yesterday.
The NZCC West Coast Rescue Helicopter was contacted by the Rescue Co-ordination Centre just before 3pm after being notified remotely that the tramper had managed to set off a tracker beacon, which then sent a text message.
Helicopter paramedic Rick Knight said the terrain was "horrendous".
The tramper "got taken out" by the avalanche but miraculously came out the other side.
"It was a big one. He got taken down about 100m, but he managed to swim through it," Mr Knight said.
On the way from Greymouth the helicopter uplifted two members of the South Westland alpine cliff rescue team from Fox Glacier before flying to the avalanche site to mount the rescue.
"We managed to find him in the middle of the avalanche debris," Mr Knight said.
The avalanche survivor was suffering a significant knee injury and injuries to an arm, but was otherwise plucky and well.
He was flown to Grey Base Hospital early last evening suffering from a smashed knee cap.
"He got away with it pretty well - it could have been a lot worse."
Mr Knight said the man was apparently five to six days into a solo odyssey when the accident happened and he had originally intended to walk out through the Copland Pass into the Karangarua Valley, south of Fox Glacier township.
- Brendon McMahon