An Australian climber was rescued on Friday after being stranded on a New Zealand mountain in freezing conditions for almost a week, a feat of survival that was described as "extraordinary".
Terry Harch entered the national park last Friday and left his equipment behind as he set off for a quick ascent of Mount Aspiring on the country’s South Island.
But the 29-year-old was caught out by severe weather and was left trapped on the 9,950 foot mountain, where he endured winds of up to 60 km/h, freezing conditions and at times heavy snow.
Rescue teams had been searching for the soldier ever since he activated his emergency beacon at midday on Monday.
A helicopter team eventually found him "standing and waving" at 5pm on Thursday. Despite suffering "with slight frostbite", he was said to be in good spirits.
Australian soldier, Lt Terry Harch, has finally been located – waist deep in snow – on Mt Aspiring last night. Harch was due back from a hike on Monday, but when he didn't return a search began. Kiwi rescuers are hoping to get him off Mt Aspiring today. @9NewsAUS pic.twitter.com/8Vwp8j0GRs
— Seb Costello (@SebCostello9) August 2, 2018
Geoff Lunt, the senior search and rescue officer, said Mr Harch would have likely used his skills learned in the Army to survive.
"We think he dug himself a snow dug-out shelter and that’s helped in his survivability over these last few days," he told Radio NZ.
Mike Robert, another member of the New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCCNZ), described his survival as "extraordinary".
"The pilots did an amazing job to fly in and out, despite the low cloud [on Thursday]," Mr Roberts was quoted as saying by the ABC.
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Four members of the Wanaka Alpine Rescue Crew stayed with Mr Harch overnight as they waited for the weather to clear.
Rescue authorities said they plucked him from the mountain on Friday in what they described as a "snatch and grab" mission involving three helicopters.
The helicopters also transported out the four rescuers who had reached Mr Harch a day earlier and two more rescuers who were on their way to him.
"The climber has been sheltering for the past two nights at [Quarterdeck pass] and he has clearly made some good decisions to be able to survive the bad weather, heavy snow and high winds," Mr Lunt said.
"The rescue team left with the climber had provided warm clothing, tents, food and were well-equipped with emergency gear to keep the party dry and warm for what, is hoped to be, their last night on the mountain."
Mr Harch had left food and provisions at a hut on the mountain before continuing the climb.
"A lot of climbers leave a lot of their equipment and clothing at a base camp and then make a fast ascent on the mountain that they’re climbing and then come back down again," Mr Lunt told Radio NZ
"I’m sure he was suitably equipped to carry out that, but as to what happened, we’ll find that out later."