Two climbers are lucky to be alive after being caught in an avalanche on a mountain in the Southern Alps early on Friday morning.
The pair had been climbing on Mt Earnslaw, the largest mountain at the headwaters of Lake Wakatipu in Mount Aspiring National Park when an avalanche struck 2500 metres up the mountain.
Rescue Helicopter Pilot Graeme Gale said it was fortunate they were able to alert emergency services.
"One of them got a message out on a cell phone to raise the alarm initially, which is in a very sketchy area because we were using Sat phones to be able to communicate," he said.
The Otago Rescue Helicopter was able to retrieve the climbers and transport them to Queenstown Lakes District Hospital. One of them was in moderate condition while the second had minor injuries.
"They were very lucky where they ended up. It could have ended up with fatalities there," Gale said.
Standing at 2830 metres, Mount Earnslaw is relatively popular with climbers, particularly at this time of year.
Tom Harris from the Mountain Safety Council said Friday's incident illustrates how climbers need to be aware of the avalanche risk even in the middle of summer.
"It's possible to have dangerous avalanche conditions at any time of the year if you have the right combination of weather snowpack and the slope that you're one."
Something these rescued climbers now know all too well.