Watch CBS News

Climber survives 2,000-foot plunge down side of dangerous New Zealand mountain: "He is exceptionally lucky to be alive"

A climber who plunged 600 meters (nearly 2,000 feet) down the side of one of New Zealand's most dangerous mountains was "exceptionally lucky" to survive after landing on snow, police said Monday.

The man was part of a group of climbers approaching the snow-capped summit of Mount Taranaki on New Zealand's North Island when he lost his footing and slipped.

"Having watched their fellow climber slide down the mountain and out of view, another member of the group climbed down to try and locate them," police said.

Senior constable Vaughan Smith said the unidentified climber had sustained minor injuries during his fall on Saturday afternoon. The climber lost his ice axe and crampons during the fall, police said.

"Thanks to recent spring weather, the ice had softened, and the snow caught the climber's fall. He is exceptionally lucky to be alive," Smith said in a statement. "These are challenging areas and when things go wrong there are often serious consequences."

The climber slipped in the same area where two other mountaineers fell to their deaths in 2021. A French climber died after plummeting from the same peak in 2016.

Climbing Mount Taranaki demands "special skill and preparation" due to the risk of avalanche and the chilling sub-zero temperatures, according to New Zealand's conservation department.

The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council describes Mount Taranaki as challenging for climbers all year round, warning of its reputation as one of the country's "deadliest mountains."

Police urged climbers to have the correct equipment when attempting to climb the mountain, adding that taking a distress beacon "could save your life" since New Zealand's mobile phone coverage is unreliable in the backcountry.

"Failing to be properly equipped could result in a very different ending to Saturday's story," police said.

Photo taken on June 22, 2021 shows a view of Mount Taranaki in New Zealand. Lu Huaiqian/Xinhua via Getty Images
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.