A Tauranga climber who dug herself out to safety after being buried by an avalanche in the South Island is safe and well.
Bay of Plenty adventurer Jo Morgan was discovered after being hit by the avalanche near Aoraki/Mount Cook on Wednesday.
Jo, mother of Trade Me founder Sam and wife of well-known public figure Gareth Morgan, set off her locator beacon at around 6am.
The experienced climber has been identified as one of three people, including two other professional mountain guides who died as a result of the avalanche.
Police have confirmed their names are Wolfgang Maier, 58, and Martin Klaus Hess, 50. Both were German nationals living in New Zealand.
The trio were attached to the same rope when a wall of snow collapsed, sending them crashing down a slope.
On Tuesday, Jo posted on social media to say that the weather was getting worse.
“It has been bleak up here at the Empress hut the last couple of days,” she wrote, “but a 20 hour weather window has us planning to leave about 2am. Hopefully Mt Hicks feels like visitors.”
During an interview with TVNZ, Jo said the party had set off for their climb at two o’clock on Wednesday morning.
“That's a normal time for climbing,” she explained. “It's not being foolish or anything. We just hit a slope that was unstable and it was laden with the type of snow that obviously avalanches.
“We all got thrown down the hill, tied together, as climbers do. They were buried and I was buried too, but I had my face out so I could continue to breathe.
“I survived and my friends - my very dear friends who I've climbed a lot with - they haven't. I'm absolutely broken.”
“I just feel very lucky that I've survived, through nothing more than luck probably."
Department of Conservation director general Lou Sanson, who was at Mount Cook Village, told TVNZ that Jo’s actions were a “textbook recovery”.
She was buried in snow for around 30 minutes until she was able to activate her personal locator beacon. She then took another 20 minutes to free herself.
“From that 6am response, we were able to swing into action and be on the mountain by 7.30am,” said Lou.
“She described being able to put her arm up and feel air above her somewhere. She was getting cold and then she came to the surface and couldn’t see her two companions.
“She completely freed herself and sought help.”
Jo was attempting to become the first grandmother to summit all of the country’s 3000-metre peaks. This was her 23rd peak and the second-to-last one left to climb.
Speaking to The Weekend Sun earlier this year, she said: “There are 24 peaks in New Zealand over 3000m, and I’ve done 22. Two to go. Then I can retire.”