A New Zealand woman has had a miraculous escape after digging herself out of an avalanche that killed two guides in the South Island’s Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.
Survivor Jo Morgan is described as “strong but shattered” after digging herself out of the snow and setting off a locator beacon to alert rescuers.
The avalanche happened on Harper Saddle on Mount Hicks as Mrs Morgan – an experienced climber – and two guides were climbing early on Wednesday.
New Zealand police say the dead men were both professional mountain guides. Police are notifying their families and have not released any names.
Mrs Morgan’s husband, Gareth, is a prominent philanthropist in New Zealand. He is a former Reserve Bank of NZ economist and politician.
Police confirmed early on Wednesday that New Zealand’s Rescue Co-Ordination Centre was alerted by the beacon set off by Mrs Morgan.
Department of Conservation director general Lou Sanson told the New Zealand Herald she had carried out a ”textbook recovery of an avalanche victim”.
”Clearly her personal locator beacon was close to her body,” he said.
”She was able to get help – get the Rescue Co-ordination Centre involved at six o’clock.”
”We were on site not long after 7 but tragically too late for the other two victims.”
Mr Sanson said he was ”absolutely shattered”. He said it was clear Mrs Morgan had been in an avalanche and had been able to “fortuitously dig her way out of a really complex situation”, website Stuff has reported.
Mount Hicks, 3198 metres, is in New Zealand’s Southern Alps within the Mount Cook National Park.
Avalanche Advisory New Zealand has warned of rapidly changing volatile spring conditions in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park area in recent days. A spokesman said a high degree of caution was advised until Thursday morning.