Climbers praised for decisions

Queenstown Alpine Cliff Rescue (ACR) volunteer Karl Johnston on board the Otago Rescue Helicopter...
Queenstown Alpine Cliff Rescue (ACR) volunteer Karl Johnston on board the Otago Rescue Helicopter during the rescue of two climbers from Mt Aspiring yesterday. Photo: supplied
Two climbers have been commended on their decision-making after being rescued from Mt Aspiring early yesterday.

Queenstown Alpine Cliff Rescue (ACR) team co-ordinator Russ Tilsley said the pair, two Australian men in their early 30s, had run into trouble on their descent of the 3033m peak on Thursday afternoon.

"One of the areas they were to descend they hadn’t come up that way. It’s called ‘the ramp’, and it’s a big snow slope."

The snow in that area, about 2400m up the mountain, had become soft in the afternoon heat, posing an avalanche risk, Mr Tilsley said.

To make matters worse, one of the climbers had become partially snow-blind.

Rather than attempt a risky descent, the pair decided to take refuge in a snow cave for the evening, before activating their personal locator beacon (PLB) at 3am yesterday.

The rescue effort involved two volunteers from Queenstown ACR on board the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter, which departed from Queenstown at about 3.45am, Mr Tilsley said.

Initial attempts to reach the climbers were marred by low cloud, which forced the helicopter to land temporarily at Aspiring Hut to seek a break in the weather.

When rescuers reached the climbers about 7am, the pair were found “fit and well" and were subsequently dropped off at their vehicle in the Raspberry Flat carpark.

“They were very relieved and very thankful for the service," Mr Tilsley said.

The two climbers appeared to be well-equipped, and he commended them on their decision-making in a challenging situation, he said.

“They did the right thing and made the right decisions."

He encouraged anyone heading into the mountains this climbing season to ensure they checked the weather beforehand, had an appropriate level of climbing experience, and were carrying the right equipment for the environment.

“PLBs save lives and we recommend that everyone getting out into the outdoors and into the mountains should have a PLB on them."