Two men have survived being swept down Mt Taranaki by an avalanche of snow, dumped just three metres apart after a 500-metre plunge down the mountain.
One of the men's hands poking out of the snow may have save his life, as his mate saw the hand and rushed to dig him out as he came close to suffocation, Fairfax reports.
The pair, aged 40 and 37, are recovering in hospital following their ordeal on Sunday, when they had been trying to reach the summit.
The men were carrying a GPS unit and were able to call police.
The Taranaki Community Rescue helicopter dropped two search and rescue operators and a St John paramedic to the men before they were winched off the mountain.
Helicopter crewman Mike Johns said the men were not attached to each other and the avalanche had channelled them down a narrow valley.
They were well-prepared and had the proper equipment, he said.
The avalanche surprised a lot of people familiar with the mountain, he said.
"There hasn't been a lot of snow up there and there hasn't been many people picking avalanche conditions."
The two climbers suffered mild cases of hypothermia and moderate leg, chest and arm injuries.