Injured climber rescued after freezing night on glacier

A view from a rescue helicopter during the Boys Glacier operation. Photo: Maritime NZ
A view from a rescue helicopter during the Boys Glacier operation. Photo: Maritime NZ
An injured climber has been plucked to safety after spending a cold night in saturated gear at the top of a glacier in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

The solo climber, a man in his early 30s, called police on 111 to say he had been injured in a fall on Boys Glacier after activating his personal locator beacon at 5.45pm yesterday.

Maritime NZ senior search and rescue officer Keith Allen said the rescuers were unable to launch a helicopter operation until this morning because of poor weather and low visibility.

When rescuers found the stricken climber in steep terrain at 6000 feet altitude they had to rope together and traverse to his camp to extract him from a dangerous location which was in a potential avalanche path.

The climber's shelter "had been compromised during the night and he and his all of belongings had become completely saturated."

The man was "rewarmed" and assessed by the search and rescue team and had no significant injuries.

The rescue was a joint effort involving Maritime NZ and the Department of Conservation (Doc) Aoraki/Mount Cook Search and Rescue Team.

"[We] called the Doc SAR Team for their local knowledge and expertise," Mr Allen said.

"They were concerned for the climber’s welfare in the cold overnight, with hypothermia and frost bite real risks but determined a helicopter operation could not be launched until morning.

"Working with the DOC specialist alpine rescue team and The Helicopter Line overnight and into the morning, we were able to coordinate the team to the climber’s location Friday morning.

"Weather complicated the operation with low cloud hanging around below the climber, who was at about 6000 feet altitude."

Doc search and rescue project lead Scotty Barrier said the climber did the right thing by using the Doc intentions system at the visitor centre.

"The weather was challenging, and this incident is a reminder for people venturing into unforgiving terrain in the mountains in winter that the environment and weather need the utmost respect."

Maritime NZ Rescue Coordination Centre said anyone with a personal locator beacon should register it so search and rescue officers can contact them or their next of kin if it sends emergency signals.

For information on how to register and a PLB, visit