Climbers 'incredibly lucky' to survive avalanche near Queenstown, rescuers say

Rescuers say two climbers hit by an avalanche near Queenstown this morning are lucky to have survived. 

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1 NEWS spoke to one of the rescuers. Source: 1 NEWS

The pair didn't have their emergency locator beacon with them, but found a small patch of cellphone reception high on Mount Earnsla/Pikirakatahi.

Footage from the rescue shows what appears to be a small black dot in the snow but is actually two friends huddled together, lying shaken and injured after being pushed down steep terrain.

Wakatipu LandSAR rescue team's Aaron Halstead says they suffered serious chest and pelvic injuries.

"We were incredibly lucky we were able to get to them so quickly, they were in so much pain," he told 1 NEWS.

"And his buddy, to keep his friend alive, had to sit with him."

They spent two and a half hours in the snow before rescuers winched them to safety.

"These two were very lucky. They had weather on their side, they landed on a snow bench - 20 metres to their left was a large crevasse, you could have parked a car in," Halstead says.

The men, in their late 20s, set out to climb Mount Earnslaw / Pikirakatahi at first light.

But they left a vital tool at home: their personal locator beacon. They managed to find a tiny window of cellphone coverage instead.

"They were very thankful to see us, they realised very quickly how lucky they were," Halstead says.

"Shock had kicked in. We were just really happy we were there to save their lives."

Summer avalanches are not uncommon in New Zealand; rescuers want the public to know about them.

"They triggered the avalanche they got caught in," Halstead says.

"Basically what it is, is a storm slab avalanche. so they'd been recent new snow as of yesterday - it cleared up beautifully today... but they got knocked off their feet."

The pair are now recovering in hospital, thankful they were found or even seen at 2500 metres above ground.