Climber rescued from summit of Mt Cook says personal locator beacon saved his life

An experienced climber plucked from the summit of Aoraki Mount Cook in a spectacular rescue believes his personal locator beacon saved his life.

The 32-year-old was at the very peak of the country's tallest mountain when he made the call to ask for help rather than go home in a body bag.

The man, who would prefer to be known only as Chris, told Newshub while the climbing and weather conditions on that day were really good, "unfortunately mentally I couldn't cope with the situation we'd got ourselves into so I had to push the button and call for help".

Chris and his climbing partner were one of four groups attempting to summit Aoraki Mt Cook on November 4. He had left Plateau Hut at midnight for the seven-eight hour ascent.

This was his second time up Mt Cook, but not even the dawn could ease his concerns.

"You want to have a good positive experience and sometimes that just doesn't happen. We had been climbing in the dark up the east face listening to music to make ourselves feel more comfortable."

He told his partner he wanted off the 3724-metre summit of New Zealand's tallest mountain.

Members of the Department of Conservation's Aoraki/Mt Cook Alpine Rescue Team undertook the rescue, after the SOS alert from his emergency beacon at the summit.

Search and Rescue base coordinator Jono Gillan says "he made a prudent decision to call for help".

With support people at base, and four in the field alongside Helicopter Line pilot Richard Kyd, the rescue mission to locate and retrieve the climber lasted just over two hours.

"It's a steep icy slope with considerable exposure, so while it was lacking other complications in the way of wind or visibility the terrain in itself does dictate a certain amount of respect," says Gillan.

Climber rescued from summit of Mt Cook says personal locator beacon saved his life
Photo credit: Romain Sacchettini

Kyd facilitated the "longline" pickup, after a reconnaissance mission with his support crew.

A relieved Chris was hooked up and lifted several kilometres back to safety, dangling 1500 metres above the Grand Plateau.

Kyd says the rescuers all often work together on such missions and trust each other implicitly.

"It looks gnarly but a lot of pilots usually undertake rescues in riskier conditions," he says.

"The wind from a flying point of view could not have been better, it was very straightforward. If anything it was just an amazing view!"

With summer approaching, Gillan and the Department of Conservation agree it's a prudent reminder to trampers and mountaineers heading out.

"If you're undertaking something new, go with experienced people, make sure your equipment is in order and carry a means of communication that is effective like a personal locator beacon," Gillan says.

Because having the right gear saved this mountaineer of 10 years experience that day, and he simply knew his limits.