Chilean climbers came off Mount Aspiring yesterday in remarkably good shape after spending four nights cuddling together in a snow cave high on the mountain.
"I was trying not to think about death. I was trying to think about good things," Matias Prieto, 23, said.
Mr Prieto and his friend and climbing companion, Rodrigo Condeza, 30, were coming down the northwest ridge of the mountain after summitting via the southwest ridge on Sunday, when they decided to dig in about 6pm because of deteriorating weather.
Their sleeping bags were back at French Ridge hut, but they had down jackets and waterproof gear with them, plus a selection of peanuts, biscuits and noodles. They also had a cooker which they used to melt snow for drinking water.
During the next four days, the weather never cleared enough for them to consider leaving the snow cave. The weight of new snow meant that by the time they were rescued at 8am yesterday the roof was starting to bow.
Mr Rodrigo said the conditions were "very freezing", especially at night. "I was very worried about my family because if they lost me it would be a hard time for them," he said.