An Australian soldier trapped by severe weather on a New Zealand mountain for nearly a week has been flown to safety, with rescuers saying he was found just in time.
Lieutenant Terry Harch, 29, was found alive and with mild frostbite on his hands on Thursday night after days of efforts to rescue him from the South Island's Mount Aspiring were frustrated by gales, sub-zero temperatures and snow.
With a brief gap opening up in the weather on Friday afternoon, he was choppered out in what's been described as a "snatch and grab" by the pilot.
He'll be treated at Dunedin Hospital, about 300km away.
Four alpine rescuers equipped with clothes, tents and much-needed food spent the night with Lt Harch as helicopter pilots patiently waited for a window in harsh conditions on Friday.
"It's a great result as we did not want the climber spending another night on the mountain," Rescue Coordination Centre officer Neville Blakemore said.
Southern Lakes Helicopters pilot Sean Mullally told the NZ Herald that Lt Harch was lucky to be alive when help arrived.
"I don't think he would have lasted another night," he said.
Officials say Lt Harch would have used his military training to survive, likely by digging out a shelter in the snow.
They described it as "extraordinary" he was standing and waving when a helicopter spotted him on Thursday.
"[He] has been sheltering for the past two nights at the pass and he has clearly made some good decisions to be able to survive the bad weather, heavy snow and high winds," search and rescue officer Geoff Lunt said.
Lt Harch is an experienced mountaineer and previously scaled Mount Cook for military charity Soldier On.
He was in good spirits when found, rescuers said.
Arriving at the national park last Friday, he is thought to have left his heavier gear behind to make a quick ascent - not unusual practice - before being caught out by the weather.
The alarm was raised on Monday and rescue crews watched his beacon moving around the mountain for days as concerns grew.
More than 30 people have died around the popular national park surrounding Mount Aspiring in the past decade, with mountain safety groups frequently warning of the risks posed by New Zealand's rugged landscapes in winter.