30 Oct 2013

Climbers tell of escape from mountain

7:36 am on 30 October 2013

A friend of two mountaineers who escaped a blizzard on Mt Taranaki, in which climbers Hiroki Ogawa and Nicole Sutton died, says they were incredibly lucky to get down alive.

Mr Ogawa, from Japan, and 29-year-old Nicole Sutton were trapped on Mt Taranaki for two nights. Rescuers reached them on Monday to find the 31-year-old had died. They found Ms Sutton alive and gave her medical assistance for some hours but she died in their arms.

John Salisbury and Kirsten Spealer became separated from the couple but managed to descend after spending Saturday night on the mountain.

Peter Cammell, a good friend of the four climbers, has spoken with Mr Salisbury.

He says Mr Salisbury told him he and Kirsten Spealer initially descended off Shark's Tooth on the East Ridge with Hiroki Ogawa and Nicole Sutton at night, but then became separated from the couple.

The former New Zealand Alpine Club president says the climbers became encased in ice within minutes in a process known as 'riming up'.

Mr Cammel says the conditions the group faced would have been like being in a blast freezer.

Ms Spealer slipped and fell but rejoined the party. Mr Salisbury realised it was a dangerous situation and decided to descend as quickly as possible.

Mr Cammell says the two who made it were very lucky to survive.