Climbers safe after daring rescue

Two Australian climbers were plucked from a ledge high up in the Remarkables mountain range on Saturday by rescuers hanging from a helicopter.

The climbers had spent 10 hours overnight shivering on the exposed ledge.

The men, who were uninjured, had been attempting the Grand Traverse on Friday afternoon.

But running short of time and with the weather closing in, they made the decision to abseil down the west face of the mountain range overlooking Queenstown.

''They thought they could abseil down to Queen's Dr to escape the situation,'' Chris Prudden, leader of Wakatipu LandSAR's Alpine Cliff Rescue team, said.

''But once they were on the west face, they realised it was a much bigger deal than what they thought.

''So they ended on a ledge, very high up and in a quite exposed position, and spent the night there. They were both very cold.''

The men initially activated their personal locator beacon the next morning, Saturday, but then realised their Australian cellphone would allow them to make 111 calls.

''They used that to get voice comms to police as well.''

The rescue started about 8am on Saturday.

A six-strong team from ACR, Heliworks through the Lakes District Air Rescue Trust, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre, and police were involved.

''We got a team together and went up,'' Mr Prudden said.

''It's what we call a technical rescue, which means effectively there was nowhere to stand.

''We had trouble with the cloud initially, blowing across the face.

''The first clearance we decided to go in and get them with a process called HET, Human External Transport - we basically hang underneath the helicopter.

''You need a No1 pilot to do this, fly in there.''

Scott Theyers, of Heliworks, was the pilot. Both men were safely back down by about noon.

''We hopped in there, put them on and brought them back down. They were uninjured but had an extremely cold night, sitting there shivering for about 10 hours with very little sleep.''

Mr Prudden says the lesson to be drawn is it is not a good idea to abseil down the west face.

''It's quite a long way down. It's all right if you're on bolt lines, but they weren't on one.

''The escape route from that particular position is to continue along the traverse; it gets easier the further you go along, or you can abseil down the east side with a lot more success.''

Authorities could not confirm the men's ages.

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