'I'm lucky to be alive': Jo Morgan shares story of surviving deadly avalanche near Mt Cook

The lone survivor of a deadly avalanche near Mt Cook says she is lucky to have survived.

Jo Morgan, wife of entrepreneur and former politician Gareth Morgan, managed to dig herself out and was rescued. She is safe and has been helicoptered to Christchurch Hospital. 

"I'm just so lucky to be alive. I was buried too," she told Newshub. 

"It took me nearly an hour to dig myself out and set the locator beacon off."

The support from everyone on Wednesday has been amazing, she says.

Two mountain guides died after becoming caught in the avalanche that struck Mt Hicks on the western side of Aoraki/Mt Cook early on Wednesday. 

Police confirmed the men were dead and their bodies are being removed from the scene.

A Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) spokesperson previously told Newshub the men had been found and were receiving treatment, but they later said this was incorrect.

Department of Conservation director general Lou Sanson, who was with Ms Morgan when she made it back to Mt Cook village, told Newshub she did everything right and he was extremely proud of his staff who were involved in the rescue. 

"My main task at the moment is to comfort Jo. She's safe and well, done a textbook recovery out of a pretty signifcant avalanche."

Mr Sanson was in the area heading to Scott Theobald's funeral who was one of three people killed nearly two weeks ago in a helicopter crash in Wanaka.

Many of the staff involved in the rescue knew Mr Theobald and the men killed in the avalanche, he says.

Senior Constable Les Andrew of Twizel told Newshub the trio were roped together when the avalanche hit.

"The survivor stayed near the top of the avalanche by doing a swimming action."

He says Ms Morgan had one arm out of the snow and was able to activate the alarm.

Police confirmed a party of three people were ascending Mt Hicks when they became caught in the avalanche. 

Ms Morgan, an experienced climber, had been posting updates on her climb on Facebook. The latest said the trio planned to leave Empress hut at 2am.  Ms Morgan set off a locator beacon at 6:45am alerting the RCCNZ.

Ms Morgan didn't take up mountaineering until she was 58. She was attempting to climb all of New Zealand's peaks above 3000m. She had completed 22 out of 24.

Her daughter Jessi commented on her post saying "Just an update that Jo is safe and back at Mt Cook village. Thanks for all your support and messages". 

Gareth Morgan has been contacted for comment. 

Three helicopters and the Department of Conservation Mount Cook rescue team attended the incident.

Nick Kingstone of the Mountain Safety Council told Newshub there was a high avalanche warning on the mountain. 

It isn't uncommon for mountaineers to climb in dangerous conditions, he says.

"It's a dangerous environment, going into a mountain, there's no way around that."

The men's deaths will be referred to the Coroner.

Mid-South Canterbury Area Commander Inspector Dave Gaskin will be addressing media on the incident at the Timaru Police Station this afternoon.