Two climbers who were buried in an avalanche and then caught in a blizzard in New Zealand earlier this week survived their ordeal by digging themselves out of the snow, building a snow cave and feeding on just muesli bars.
According to The Guardian, the two men, aged in their 20s, had set out on a three-day ice-climbing expedition in New Zealand’s Remarkables mountain range when they triggered an avalanche that carried them 20 meters downhill. The pair, whose identities haven’t been revealed, then dug themselves out of the snow and decided to call the police, who then alerted the Wakatipu alpine cliff rescue on realising the danger.
“It’s very steep and rugged terrain and it is mountainous and snowy … when storms come out it can be a pretty inhospitable place,” said team coordinator Russ Tilsley.
The blizzard conditions in the region made it impossible for the rescue teams to reach them by helicopters and they failed in their first two attempts. “It was getting late in the day and we decided it was too late to put a team in on foot … we knew we had a beautiful calm morning the next morning, so we spoke to the guys and they were in good spirits, and they decided to build a snow cave,” Mr Tilsley added.
As per the Independent, the two climbers then went back to their camp, where they spent the previous night, and dug out a snow cave under a huge boulder. The two spent the night inside the cave where it was relatively warmer. According to Mr Tilsley, while it was about -7 degrees celsius to -12 degrees celsius overnight on the slopes, it would have been around -1 degrees celsius to 0 degrees celsius in the snow cave.
The rescue team then checked on the men to find if they had enough food for the night. “And the guy goes, well, you know I think we’ve got maybe 10-15 muesli bars,” Mr Tilsley said. However, the pair had almost run out of fuel for their stove – needed to melt the water – which was a “big concern” as trying to melt the snow in the mouth for hydration can use up more energy than it provides.
But after speaking to the duo, the rescue team found them in good spirits and decided to resume rescue operations the next day. The men survived the night and were rescued on Wednesday morning. As per The Guardian, Mr Tilsley said that the pair was little but shaken and they were pretty humble. He added that it was “incredibly fortunate” that the men had been on the edge of the avalanche when it was triggered.
“They were lucky they were there and not 50 to 100 metres into the flow because they probably would have been dead,” Mr Tilsley added. Further, he also went on to say that the men made the right call to retreat and wait for help.