A Christchurch man badly injured in a fall on Aoraki Mt Cook and then rescued in a complicated and challenging mission says there were two moments he thought he wouldn't make it.
In an exclusive interview with Newshub from his hospital bed, Ian Huntsman says three bits of equipment and the incredible bravery of his rescuers saved his life.
In his hospital bed following two surgeries and more to come, Ian Huntsman had a more dramatic start to 2021 than most.
"Hopefully 2021 will be a better year than 2020, because the accident happened on the 31st," he says.
This was how he spent New Year's Eve - wet, badly injured and shivering 1800m up Mt Cook tied to a rock edge.
It was day four of an 18-day traverse through the Alps. He and his climbing partner had stopped to take their crampons off when an enormous boulder came hurtling down the mountain towards him.
"It struck me and then knocked me off the rock rim and sent me hurtling through the air for about 100 metres downhill," Huntsman says.
He landed headfirst down a steep rock face in a stream and was screaming. Climbing partner Wendy Riach had to manoeuvre down and bring him to safety.
"I could still hear him screaming so I knew he was conscious. I called down to him to stay still and that I'd be climbing down to get him," Riach says.
He'd broken his arm in many places, broken his nose, tore his entire leg wide open and now has a blood clot in his lungs.
Riach, who is a former Detective Sergeant, got him to a ledge then spent hours tending to his injuries, trying to stop his hypothermia and tying him to the mountain edge to stop him falling off.
"This is the worst thing I've ever experienced and I've experienced some pretty horrible things," she says.
They set off their emergency beacon which also allowed them to converse with rescuers via satellite text message. They credit that device, Huntsman's climbing helmet and cheap foil blanket with saving his life while they waited through the night on the rock edge for rescuers.
Huntsman says there were two moments he thought he might not survive.
"As I was falling down the hill and going faster and faster and bouncing off things I thought 'this isn't good, I'm not doing well here' and about the two-hour point when I was shivering on the hill."
Both Huntsman and Riach were blown away by the skill, expertise and bravery of the alpine cliff rescue team who arrived in the pitch-black and winched down off the helicopter to the cliff face to rescue them.
"They were amazing, I'm very thankful, I'll be going to see them to thank them as soon as I can, they saved my life," Huntsman says.
"I don't know how they can keep going out like that and putting themself at risk like that for people they don't know," Riach says.
The Rescue Co-ordination Centre says it would have been nearly impossible for Huntsman to survive without a beacon.
"All people who are travelling or going into the wild even on even day trips should take a beacon. You never know when you'll get yourself into a situation," manager Rodney Bracefield says.
"I wouldn't be here without it," Huntsman adds.
But he's very glad he is and says he'll be back in the alps as soon as he's allowed.