Dean Higgins, 60, has been described as a beautiful man who loved his wife Wendy and daughter Sara.

The couple were trekking in Tibet with two friends when the tragedy struck on Tuesday.

Chinese state media said three Tibetans also died in the avalanche and reported that Mr Higgins died “as a result of altitude sickness, poor health and age”.

Family friend Julie Mahony said it was unclear what happened to the company director.

“They were under the snow for about six hours and Dean dug them out of the snow,” Ms Mahony told ABC radio on Thursday.

“They had to get down the mountain to safety and that took approximately eight hours.

“We’re not exactly sure what happened, but he was alive until they got down the bottom.”

However, Keith Caine, who worked with Ms Higgins, said Mr Higgins was only wearing a T-shirt and died of hypothermia.

As he descended the mountain Mr Higgins became unable to walk, Mr Caine told The Australian.

“He had to be carried he was just so exhausted. He was alive at the bottom and then passed away,” he said.

Ms Mahony said Ms Higgins was physically fine and keen to return home to see her daughter.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said officials from the Australian embassy in Beijing were providing her with consular assistance.

Dean and Julie Higgins operated a Mortgage Choice mortgage broking franchise in Adelaide.

Mortgage Choice chief executive Michael Russell said Mr Higgins was a “beautiful man” who loved his wife and daughter.

“He was loved by the entire Mortgage Choice family and his clients as well,” he said.

“He was very dignified and had a great sense of humour.”

Mr Higgins also had a strong connection with the Glenelg club in the South Australian National Football League.

Club president Nick Chigwidden said the couple had been valued supporters and sponsors of the Tigers for many years.

“Dean was an extremely popular member and personality at the Glenelg Football Club and will be sadly missed by many,” he said.

“We will forever cherish our memories of Dean.”