31 Oct 2018

Jo Morgan on her avalanche survival: 'I'm very, very lucky'

6:45 pm on 31 October 2018

Mountaineer Jo Morgan has described the moment she saw an avalanche coming towards her, saying it was terrifying, like a wave of ice coming down towards you.

Mrs Morgan survived the avalanche that hit near Aoraki / Mt Cook this morning, but the mountain guides she was with were killed.

From her bed at Christchurch Hospital, Mrs Morgan told Checkpoint's Lisa Owen of her ordeal, saying she was still pretty shocked.

She and her two companions had set off climbing at 2am, hoping to climb Mount Hicks.

Mrs Morgan was attempting to become the first grandmother to climb all the country's 3000 metre peaks. This was her 23rd peak and the second to last one she had to climb.

One of her companions had climbed all the peaks with her.

She said they were halfway up a slope when the avalanche took them out.

She said she was lucky to land face up and shouted out for her two climbing companions, but heard nothing.

"It took me half an hour to get my locator beacon out and I got that activated, but I was still totally stuck in the snow" she said.

"And it took me another hour to a half hour to extract myself, so I was out of the snow by the time the rescue crew came," she said.

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Photo: Facebook

Asked by Checkpoint how she knew she was facing up, Mrs Morgan said she could feel when she stuck her hand up it was into air, rather than into something solid.

"I was very lucky that my position allowed me to actually clear my face and take a big breath and think 'wow, let's hope no more comes down and keeps me trapped to."

She said at that stage she didn't know what had happened to her two companions.

"I must admit once I got my upper body out, I looked at the view and I just was gobsmacked. I thought 'isn't this amazing?'."

"And I know that's totally inappropriate but it was just such a beautiful place and the sun was just rising and at that stage I knew there was no response when I'd been shouting out for the boys.

"I'm very, very lucky," she said.