Two mountain climbers were in a hospital Friday recovering from a 2,000-foot tumble down a steep mountain slope on New Zealand’s South Island.
Climbing guides who watched the mishap through binoculars at first thought they had witnessed a rock slide, police said. They then realized it was two climbers falling down the mountain.
The climbers - Mark Ryan, 26, and Keith Morrison, 33, both of Wellington - were not well enough to talk about their accident Wednesday near the summit of Mount Aspiring in the Southern Alps.
Ryan has two broken legs and Morrison suffered back injuries. Both were progressing favorably, hospital officials said.
Police Constable Grant Keeble said the two men were “very lucky” to be alive considering the distance they plummeted down the snow-covered, southwest face of the 9,840-foot mountain.
The pair were within half an hour’s climb of the summit when they fell down the steep slope.
The two climbers were roped together. Ryan was unconscious after the fall, rescuers said, but some time later Morrison had started walking to get help.
About 10 minutes later rancher Charlie Ewing arrived in his helicopter and flew Ryan to a hospital, where his condition was stabilized.