Three people rescued from a mountain in the Nelson Lakes area this evening huddled together in a make-shift snow cave as they waited for help.

Emergency crews were called to the scene after the trio raised the alarm via an emergency locator beacon about 5pm.

The Rescue Coordination Centre was alerted before the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter was dispatched.

"The signal was tracked to an area between West Sabine Hut and Travers Saddle. However, due to a poor signal, the helicopter crew had difficulty locating the party of three," a spokesman said.

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Duty pilot Barry McAuliffe told the Herald tonight the trio were later found further up the mountain, in a snow cave they had built in an attempt to keep as warm as they could.

The group of friends - a 26-year-old Australian woman, a 30-year-old Wellington man and a 21-year-old man from Mapua - had been walking the Travers-Sabine Circuit and had simply under-estimated the conditions.

"They'd basically found themselves in waist-deep snow and with daylight fading fast, they were running out of ideas.''

McAuliffe said the trio were "very appreciative'' when rescuers arrived and a St John intensive care paramedic attended to them.

They were uninjured and were later flown to Nelson.

"They were just extremely cold and exhausted,'' he said.

"We just warmed them up and had some hot drinks before they left.''

Rescue teams managed to get the trio off the mountain about 8pm.