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Climbers continue quest after avalanche

Tuesday 22 Jan 2013 12:21 p.m.

Despite a narrow escape from one of the largest avalanches to ever occur on Aoraki/Mount Cook, many climbers have continued on with their quest to reach the top of the mountain. 

Around a dozen people were in a hut on the grand plateau when a massive rock and ice fall ploughed down the mountain and stopped just above the group yesterday afternoon.

The climbers say the noise of the avalanche was deafening and sounded like a 747 jumbo jet heading straight for them.

“The debris flow of ice and rock rumbling down was tremendous and huge and very, very loud,” says Arthur McBride of Alpine Guides.

“The hut's on a rise so that helped slow the energy of the slide but it was still enough to give those inside a bit of a fright, that's for sure.”

The debris that now streaks down the mountain face is a mammoth 3km long and half-a-kilometre wide. That makes it the largest avalanche to occur in the area since 1991, when essentially the top of Aoraki/Mount Cook fell off.

“One of our guides, he's been guiding and climbing the area for 30 years and it's probably the most significant rock fall, apart from the Cook event, that he's seen,” says Mr McBride.

Plateau Hut's now been closed. Its occupants were helicoptered out overnight, many of them to other areas of the mountain to continue the climb.

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