It wasn’t quite dawn on the mountain when a wave of ice and snow tumbled down on them. Jo Morgan and the two guides she was roped together with had set out for the summit at 2 a.m. and she’d just messaged her husband “All is OK.”
But it wasn’t. Both guides died in the avalanche early on Wednesday on Mount Hicks, while Ms. Morgan managed to survive after being almost completely buried in snow and then punching and wriggling her way free over the course of about an hour.
An adventurer and philanthropist from one of New Zealand’s most well-known families, Ms. Morgan described her ordeal in an interview with Radio New Zealand.
“It’s a terrifying thing,” she said. “It’s a bit like the surf coming down on you. Just a huge big wave of ice coming down the slopes toward you.”
She said she got lucky and landed with her face in a hollow at surface level and one hand free, while her body was buried.
She said she shouted out to her friends, and heard no reply. She then began the painstaking task of freeing herself. It took her 30 minutes to grab and trigger her locator beacon to alert rescuers, and another half hour or more to wriggle out of the snow.
New Zealand Police on Thursday identified the guides who died as Wolfgang Maier, 58, and Martin Klaus Hess, 50. “I’m absolutely broken,” Ms. Morgan told Television New Zealand. “Two of my very dear friends lost their lives today, under tragic circumstances. I just got really lucky.”
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