'Snatch and grab' mission saves trapped soldier after week on New Zealand mountain

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By Associated Press  with NBC News World News
Image: Map showing New Zealand's Mount Aspiring
A map showing the location of Mount Aspiring.   -  Copyright  Bing Maps

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — An Australian soldier who dug a snow cave to survive below-freezing conditions for a week on a New Zealand mountain was rescued Friday.

Rescue authorities said they plucked 29-year-old Terry Harch from Mount Aspiring on the South Island in what they described as a "snatch and grab" mission involving three helicopters.

The helicopters also transported out four rescuers who had reached Harch a day earlier and two more rescuers who had been on their way to him.

Harch parked his car last Friday to climb the mountain and was expected back on Monday, authorities said. They said a friend reported him missing that day and Harch also triggered an emergency beacon.

A map showing the location of Mount Aspiring.
A map showing the location of Mount Aspiring.Bing Maps

Authorities said the soldier dug a snow cave to survive before rescuers reached him on Thursday. He was suffering from minor frostbite.

New Zealand Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Mike Roberts said in a statement that it was amazing that Harch was able to stand up and wave when the helicopter arrived.

Authorities said the man had survived strong winds, heavy snow and temperatures that had fallen to 3 degrees when the wind chill was factored in.