The trio have not returned from their bid to reach the 3724m summit of Aoraki Mt Cook, and searchers now fear the weather may not clear sufficiently for an aerial search until New Year’s Day. One aircraft from the Aoraki Alpine Rescue Team attempted a search on Tuesday morning, but was forced back by bad weather.

“Conditions were quite rough for flying, and the weather forecast is for deteriorating weather,” said Senior Constable Brent Swanson, in a police statement.

Australian climber Michael Bishop – believed to be about 40 – and the two unnamed Germans left their Plateau Hut base camp at 1.30am on Monday. They intended to reach the summit via the Linda Glacier route, and were last seen on the glacier’s Teichelmann’s Corner at 4am.

Police reported that the guide who last saw the climbers had described Monday’s climbing conditions as good, but had warned that crevasses were an issue, with high freezing levels and unstable snow bridges.

“We are making further inquiries as to the missing party’s intentions and plans, and closely tracking the weather,” said Sen Con Swanson. “It doesn’t look like there will be good clearance until New Year’s Day.”

Australian special forces soldier Sgt Gary Francis died on Mt Cook in July when he fell down a crevasse during a winter exercise. Earlier this month the mountain claimed the life of experienced 28-year-old mountaineer Stuart Haslett – a member of the Aoraki Alpine Rescue Team – in a climbing accident.