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 into the snow, building a snow cave and subsisting solely on muesli bars.
According The Guardian, the pair, in their 20s, had embarked on a three-day ice climbing expedition in New Zealand’s Remarkables mountain range when they triggered an avalanche that knocked them down. trained on 20 meters of descent. The couple, whose identity has not been revealed, then extricated themselves from the snow and decided to call the police, who then alerted the Wakatipu Alpine Cliff Rescue upon realizing the danger.
“It’s very steep and rugged, mountainous and snowy terrain…when the storms hit it can be quite an inhospitable place,” said team coordinator Russ Tilsley.
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Blizzard conditions in the area prevented rescue teams from reaching them by helicopter, and they failed on their first two attempts. “It was getting late in the day and we decided it was too late to lay off a team… we knew we had a nice quiet 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.
According to Independent, the two climbers then returned to their camp, where they had spent the previous night, and dug 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 around -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 the men to see if they had enough food for the night. “And the guy says, well, you know, I think we have maybe 10 to 15 muesli bars,” Mr Tilsley said. However, the couple were almost out of fuel for their stove – needed to melt water – which was a ‘big concern’ as trying to melt snow in their mouths to hydrate can consume more energy than it provides.
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But after talking 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 Wednesday morning. According The Guardian, Mr Tilsley said the pair were small but shaken and quite humble. He added he was “incredibly lucky” the men were on the edge of the avalanche when it hit.
“They were lucky they were there and not 50 or 100 yards out in the current because they would probably have been dead,” Mr Tilsley added. Moreover, he also went on to say that the men made the right choice to retreat and wait for help.