A pair of Auckland climbers who are stuck a cave on the upper slopes of Mt Taranaki may have to hunker down for another freezing night if the weather does not improve.
Half of a group of four climbers missing on Mt Taranaki descended with no help from search and rescue teams at midday.
A 29-year-old woman and a 31-year-old man are still holed up in a snow cave they dug on the mountain and are waiting to be rescued.
Taranaki area commander inspector Blair Telford said the rescue operators were still hopeful the weather would clear in time for a helicopter to reach the climbers before it got dark.
He said another eight alpine rescue members from the Ruapehu Alpine Rescue Organisation (Raro) had been sent up the mountain this afternoon.
"We're basing them at the Tahurangi Hut."
Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter pilot Mike Parker said they had flown up to around 1800 metres this afternoon but visibility and conditions were poor.
"It's going to be tough to hover and winch them in or up."
Mr Telford said the climbing group was part of the Auckland Alpine Club.
"They are quite experienced, especially the male, and they are well-prepared."
Kiwi Outdoors Centre owner and outdoor pursuits specialist 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.
Mr 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."
Mr Telford said earlier today a 65-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman had walked down the mountain under their own steam.
"They came down as search and rescue were following their EPERB signal."
He said the men had shown up at the North Egmont Visitor Centre and been taken to Taranaki Base Hospital.
"They've got some mild hypothermia and some cuts and bruises to their hands."
Bad weather had been preventing the search and rescue teams from heading up Mt Taranaki on foot to find the four climbers who became stranded last night.
An airforce helicopter and the Taranaki Community Rescue helicopter had both been called out but could not be used because of the weather, he said.
The group was part of a tramping club and appeared to have been reasonably prepared.
"They've got some gear with them."
Senior sergeant Thomas McIntyre said the top priority was finding the group and helping them deal with the freezing conditions.
"The cold is the biggest issue for them at the moment."
A search and rescue effort was launched at 10pm last night after the group of four did not return from their summit attempt.
Mr Telford said the group had been split up and the two who dug the snow cave were in contact with police by text message.
The other half of the team had set off their emergency locator beacon.
He said the pair in the snow cave were uninjured but keen to be found.
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.
Mr Telford said the search had been hampered by bad weather overnight and conditions meant the helicopters had been of limited use.
He said the group of four had been half of a party of eight who headed up the mountain yesterday.
"The other group of four has returned to the hut and realised the others have not returned and raised the alarm."
Mr Telford said emergency services were in contact with the families of the missing climbers.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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