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Adventurer digs out of New Zealand avalanche but two guides die

Jo Morgan was trying to reach the summit of Mount Hicks on the South Island.

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Jo Morgan (Television New Zealand via AP)

Jo Morgan (Television New Zealand via AP)

Jo Morgan (Television New Zealand via AP)

A well-known adventurer has dug herself out of an avalanche on a New Zealand mountain, while two guides climbing with her died.

The three were roped together as they tried to reach the summit of Mount Hicks on the South Island.

“I’m absolutely broken,” survivor Jo Morgan told Television New Zealand. “Two of my very dear friends lost their lives today, under tragic circumstances. I just got really lucky.”

She said they had reached a slope that was unstable when the avalanche started. “They were buried and I was buried but had my face out so I could breathe,” she said.

Yes I wish I'd done more training, but have decided I excel in sufferingJo Morgan, before the avalanche

Police said the bodies of the two men have been recovered. Their identities were not released pending notification of next of kin.

Lou Sanson, director-general of the Department of Conservation, told Radio New Zealand that Ms Morgan managed to activate a locater beacon after about 30 minutes and managed to free herself after another 20 minutes.

He said Ms Morgan told him she had one hand free when the avalanche ended and was able to remove snow from her mouth.

She had earlier written about her climb on Facebook. On Sunday, she wrote that they were having a rest day after making it to a hut on the Hooker Glacier.

“Mt Hicks lords over us as we hope for a weather window before our rations are done for,” she wrote. “Yes I wish I’d done more training, but have decided I excel in suffering.”

On Tuesday she wrote that it had been bleak at the hut but a break in the weather had them planning to start a summit attempt at about 2am on Wednesday.

New Zealand’s Rescue Co-ordination Centre said it got a notification from Ms Morgan’s locator beacon at about 6.45am and rescuers dispatched two helicopters and two climbing teams that included an avalanche dog.

Ms Morgan is married to well-known businessman Gareth Morgan, who launched a political party that unsuccessfully contested New Zealand’s 2017 election.

The couple’s son Sam Morgan is one of the nation’s most successful entrepreneurs after he founded the online auction site TradeMe.

Mount Hicks is about 10,500ft high and is in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

PA