Two inexperienced trampers owe their lives to the volunteer search and rescue parties that rescued them from the Nelson Lakes National Park on the weekend, police say.
An Irish woman and a Latvian man, both in their 20s, were suffering hypothermia and stranded in falling snow and freezing temperatures when search and rescue volunteers reached them on Sunday morning.
Inspector Mat Arnold-Kelly said he was in no doubt the trampers would have died if they had not been rescued.
"Given their condition when they were found it is unlikely they would have survived very much longer unassisted," he said.
Mr Arnold-Kelly said the three people - one of them a doctor - in the search and rescue team tramped for about nine hours in the dark to find the pair.
"Just getting to the trampers was extremely challenging. The conditions were atrocious as they tramped up the mountain through the night," he said.
"The efforts they then made to bring them back from hypothermia were outstanding."
Mr Arnold-Kelly said he wanted the public to realise that the search and rescue team were volunteers who gave up their own time to carry out the rescue.
"[They] were prepared to put themselves in a difficult and uncomfortable position for the sake of complete strangers who had made poor decisions.
"We are very lucky to have skilled professionals in our community who are prepared to go to such lengths for other people."
Police interviewed the trampers once they had been transported off the mountain by helicopter and found they did not have adequate equipment, clothing or experience for the tramp they had embarked upon.
Police said anyone who is going into the outdoors should seek advice from the Department of Conservation about their intended route and the conditions they might face.