Two people have been killed while Kiwi mountaineer Jo Morgan has miraculously survived after a major avalanche in the South Island this morning.

Morgan survived the 5.30am avalanche on Mt Hicks in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park by digging herself out of snow - and setting off a personal locator beacon.

Department of Conservation director-general Lou Sanson told the Herald Morgan had "done all the right things" and having her personal locator beacon (PLB) by her side "has undoubtedly saved her life".

Morgan, who is married to economist and philanthropist Gareth Morgan and is the mother of Trade Me creator Sam Morgan, was an "experienced climber", Sanson said of his friend.


Police senior constable Les Andrew said the deceased were two men - both mountain guides.

Newstalk ZB has reported the two guides were both very experienced and one was believed to be German.

How it happened
October 28 - The three mountaineers make it to Empress Hut at the top of Hooker Glacier, in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, a short distance from where they would attempt an ascent of 3198m Mt Hicks.

October 30 - The trio remain at Empress Hut due to "bleak" weather, Jo Morgan says in a Facebook post. At that stage they had plans to attempt an ascent of Mt Hicks about 2am the following morning. "Hopefully Mt Hicks feels like visitors," Morgan wrote.

October 31, 5.30am - An avalanche on Mt Hicks strikes while the trio were ascending.

October 31, 6am - Morgan manages to dig herself out of the snow and set off a personal locator beacon, which alerts the Rescue Co-ordination Centre.

October 31, 7am - The rescue team makes it to the site of the avalanche, but it is too late for the two male mountaineers.

October 31, 9.16am - Morgan's daughter Jessi posts an update on Facebook saying Morgan is safe and back at Mt Cook Village.


October 31, 10.13am - Police confirm two people - both mountain guides - died following the reported avalanche on Mt Hicks. Their bodies had been removed from the scene and police were informing next of kin.