A missing elderly English tramper was found dead on the snow-covered slopes of Mt Taranaki yesterday, his 71st birthday.

David John Morrison was found wrapped in a survival blanket and buried in snow, said Senior Sergeant Doug Geraghty, of New Plymouth,

The retired university lecturer from Cambridge, England, failed to return to the North Taranaki camphouse after heading out alone on a day trip to the summit on Tuesday.

Mr Morrison was last seen about 1.30 pm by another tramper, who had warned him against continuing to the 2518m summit. Mr Morrison was dressed in light clothing and had no alpine equipment with him.

Weather on the mountain deteriorated on Tuesday night and on Wednesday conditions were described as atrocious by searchers, who were forced off the mountain by deep snow, rain, strong winds, low cloud and poor visibility.

A helicopter and 14 ground searchers had looked for Mr Morrison yesterday morning.

He was found close to where he was last seen on Tuesday, Senior Sergeant Geraghty said.

"It's always sad when someone dies under those circumstances but he was an outdoors man and that was his thing, getting involved in tramping and climbing," he said. "So although it's a tragedy, he died doing something he enjoyed doing."

Mr Morrison had planned to travel to Australia next week. He had arrived in New Zealand on October 11.

Police were notified that Mr Morrison was missing about 10 pm on Tuesday, after he did not return to the camphouse, where he had left his personal belongings and a note about his planned route.

His brother, who lives in Christchurch, has been notified and his son is flying from England.

He was a university teacher of modern languages and the history of language before retiring.

"He has always liked tramping," said his brother. "He does quite a bit in Europe and England. Mostly he does it on his own. He's a solitary tramper."

- NZPA