A 29-year-old Australian soldier Terry Harch survived three nights alone in sub-zero conditions after he was trapped on Mt Aspiring. He was rescued on Friday after rescuers reached Harch on Thursday afternoon, but poor weather hampered helicopter rescue operations until Friday afternoon. Harch, an experienced climber, was found after someone in the United States picked up his beacon signal and called New Zealand’s Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCCNZ).
RCCNZ search and rescue officer Neville Blakemore said the Southern Lakes Helicopters’ pilot described the rescue as ‘a snatch and grab’. The helicopter flew around the area for about 10 minutes when it appeared Harch heard it and walked out of either a snow shelter or the bergschrund – the first crevasse at the top of the glacier. RCCNZ rescue member Jeff Lunt told Radio New Zealand that he believed the man’s army survival training saved his life. Lunt also said that Harch had ‘clearly made some good decisions to be able to survive the bad weather, heavy snow and high winds.’
Harch climbed the mountain last Friday and was expected back on Monday. A friend advised police on Monday that Harch was missing and the climber triggered his beacon about 12:15 pm that day. Wanaka Land Search and Rescue spokesman Phil Melchior said Harch had done very well to survive. “To be stuck in these conditions up, well above the permanent snow line, for as long as he’s been up there, you’ve got to know how to look after yourself to survive there.”
The rescue brought down a tent, change of clothes and some hot food for him. Wanaka LandSAR alpine rescue team leader Davie Robinson said they found him ‘cold, tired and dehydrated’ but conscious. They were expecting an unconscious person so given how long he had been out and the gear he had. Harch had narrowly escaped death. 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.