A former NZ Olympic hockey player and her British partner who were feared missing in a deadly snowstorm in Nepal are believed to be safe and in touch with their families.
Kiwi Lisa Walton and Lizi Hamer were thought to be among dozens of people who are still missing after an avalanche struck near Annapurna, killing at least 32 people.
APNZ and the Herald on Sunday have been told that Walton made contact with her family this afternoon and at least one of the couple's friends.
Walton, lives in Singapore but grew up in Christchurch, had set off for the Annapurna Range with Hamer earlier this week. Several days ago Hamer shared her excitement at taking on the trek. "L&L adventure - Trekking in Nepal," she wrote on Facebook, accompanied with a photograph of a backpack at her feet.
Friends and family had expressed on Facebook that the couple had not made contact with anyone outside of Nepal this week.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Fairfax Media: "Our understanding from the itinerary is that they were not in the affected regions of Nepal the day the blizzard occurred.
"In addition, our Honorary Consul [in Nepal] understands that the area where they were later scheduled to trek is in the lower levels of the Annapurna region and there have been no reported problems in this area."
Friends had said that Walton and Hamer were the kind of people who would drop everything to help with a rescue operation.
Before hearing the news that Walton and Hamer were safe, fellow hockey star Mandy Barker had said: "We all in the hockey community know the news and we hope that something good will come at the end of it. We've heard there's bad cellphone coverage out there, so we try to think of the positives at this stage.
"Certainly, our hearts go out to their families. It must be a really hard time for them, a really worrying time."
Black Sticks teammate Anna Lawrence said Walton was "incredibly strong" and fit.
"She's a fabulous person," Lawrence said. "I just hope that her and Lizi, who's also very fit and strong, are using all of that to help them through wherever they are now."
Miranda Dimopoulos, a close friend of Hamer and Walton, said earlier today that the lack of contact could be explained by poor-quality cellular phone networks and limited internet access.
She said Hamer and Walton were also registered with the Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal (TAAN).
Annapurna, at 8091m high, is the world's tenth-highest mountain. The Annapurna circuit is a 205km, horseshoe-shaped trail.
The circuit gave trekkers "an opportunity to walk through the naturally rich terrain of Nepal while experiencing some of the most beautiful mountains in the country," the Washington Post reported.
A British police officer who survived the storm revealed guides were telling trekkers to continue onwards despite the increasingly dangerous conditions.
Sergeant Paul Sherridan from Doncaster was trekking on the slopes of the Annapurna range in northern Nepal earlier this week when the area was hit by heavy storms.
He said his fellow walkers were left stumbling through "an abyss of nothing" as they struggled through waist-high snow falls looking for shelter. He said guides should have known the conditions were going to turn and prevented them from going higher up the mountain and further away from safety.
Lisa and Liza: Their friends and relatives heard from them today. Photo / Facebook / Supplied
Sgt Sherridan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he had walked into "an absolute position of fear and sheer terror" as he tried to descend the mountain.
He said: "Somebody shouted - and I believe it was one of the guides - 'Move forwards! Move forwards!' But as we moved forwards, conditions worsened and we became involved in blacked-out conditions where the ground became the same colour as the sky and it was difficult to see which way was up and which way was down.
"The queue became larger and larger and slower and slower. I pushed my forwards through the snow, gasping for air. I pushed and pushed past the people who were orderly queuing and I managed to join a group of people who were making progress that I believed to be down the hill, though I didn't know for certain."
Extremely fit: Lisa Walton in action during the Olympic Hockey Qualifier match in 2003. Photo / Dean Purcell
"As I descended this abyss of nothing, I realised that the people I was following didn't know where they were. It was at that point that I realised I had gone from a place of safety into an absolute position of fear and sheer terror.
"I looked around and I saw a Nepalese boy and his face was frozen. There was sheer glass ice hanging on his cheek. I went across to him and I said, 'Your face is frozen' and he said 'I know' and he began to cry and we both began to cry. I didn't know whether or not this Nepalese boy was going to survive. The injuries to his face were horrific.
"There was a Spanish woman stood next to me who looked as horrified as I did and I looked at her and put my arm on her and said, 'Don't worry, we're not going to die, we're going to live today. We're all going to live.' She grabbed me and we all cried together in a huddle on the side of the mountain."
Officials confirmed that at least 32 foreign and local trekkers died during the blizzards which struck northern Nepal earlier this week.
Authorities said they have recovered the bodies of Canadian, Indian, Nepalese and Slovakian hikers, however they expect the death-toll to rise further as rescuers search more remote areas.