A pair of climbers stuck on Mt Taranaki are hunkered down in snow caves with search and rescue teams at the ready in case there is a break in the weather.
Four climbers in a group of eight from an Auckland alpine club were reported missing on Saturday, but two of them - named by TV One and TV3 news as John Salisbury, 65, and Kirsten Spealer, 38 - walked out on Sunday at midday.
They were taken to Taranaki Base Hospital and were recovering from mild hypothermia.
The remaining two climbers, a 29-year-old woman and a 31-year-old man, are suffering a second icy night on with slopes with rescue attempts hampered by poor weather.
About 30 people have been involved in the rescue attempts, including 15 alpine specialists working from Tahurangi Hut near the summit.
Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter pilot Mike Parker said they had flown up to around 1800 metres this afternoon but visibility and conditions were poor.
Police spokesman Blair Telford said the pair were experienced trampers and well-prepared.
Telford said the group had been split up and the two who dug the snow cave were in contact with police by text message, and had told police they were uninjured.
He said emergency services were in contact with the families of the missing climbers.
Kiwi Outdoors Centre owner Rob Needs said an alpine and cliff rescue team had been sent up the mountain last night.
"They got turned back about 2,200 metres because of the weather. Those people might not be at the summit but they are high up."
Mt Taranaki is 2,518m high.
Needs said the group had only arrived at the summit at 7pm last night. "From what I understand they took the East Ridge track, which is quite a technical route up."
The airforce and an alpine team from Ruapehu have been called in to help police, ambulance, the Taranaki Alpine Rescue team, and the Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter with the search.
Search and rescue ground crews were ready to go as soon as there was a break in the weather, a SAR spokesman said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Pals and playmates (pictures)
Reacting to a sudden cancellation
New Zealand's best deck built yesterday
Appreciating Tony Allen
The meaning of blogging