An Australian climber trapped for a week on a freezing New Zealand mountain was rescued on Friday after a remarkable feat of survival in a ferocious storm.
Terry Harch, a 29-year-old soldier, was located on Thursday after a "long and drawn out" search operation when a rescue helicopter spotted him waving from a slope on South Island's Mount Aspiring.
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Rescuers from New Zealand's national search and rescue organization (RCCNZ) said there were "grave concerns" for Harch's safety after he triggered his emergency beacon on Monday, the day he was supposed to come off the mountain.
An emergency team finally managed to reach Harch late Thursday, but wind, snow and cloud conditions prevented a rescue until a weather window opened up on Friday, allowing rescuers to conduct a "snatch and grab" operation. Harch sustained minor frostbite but otherwise was well.
"It's a great result as we did not want the climber spending another night on the mountain," rescue official Neville Blakemore said in a statement following the operation Friday.
Rescuers, who said Harch was unlikely to have survived another night alone, praised his survival skills.
"The climber has been sheltering for the past two nights at the pass and he has clearly made some good decisions to be able to survive the bad weather, heavy snow and high winds," search and rescue official Geoff Lunt said Thursday.
Lunt also told a local news organization that it was possible that Harch used his army training to survive, building himself a "snow shelter."
Helicopter pilot Sean Mullally said initial missions up the mountain did not detect any sign of Harch.
"We flew around to see if we could spot him, and on about the fourth round the paramedic saw an arm waving," Mullally said.
"He is very lucky to be alive. I don't think he would have lasted another night," Mullally told the New Zealand Herald.
Over the past decade more than 30 people have died in and around Mount Aspiring National Park, one of the country's most popular playgrounds for adventure-seekers, local media reported.