Japanese mountain guide Kiyoshi Ikenouchi, 49, died just hours before rescuers reached him on Aoraki/Mt Cook this morning, while his companion Hideaka Nara, 51, was airlifted alive to Christchurch.
Police Inspector Dave Gaskin said rescuers confirmed this morning the pair were unaware of the supplies that had been dropped to them.
But it may not have made much of a difference in the end, as the pair were already very well equipped, he said.
"Indications are that, if anything, they were over-equipped and that may have been one of the reasons why they were very slow in the first two days of their trip."
DOC area manager Richard MacNamara said the week of waiting had been very stressful for the waiting search team.
It was "extremely hard" to know that Mr Ikenouchi died within hours of rescuers reaching him, he said.
"The only good thing to come out of it is that at least there is some closure for the family."
SEVEN DAYS IN FEROCIOUS CONDITIONS
The pair endured seven days at 3700m on the country's highest peak in ferocious weather conditions which prevented earlier rescue attempts.
Good weather this morning allowed the rescue to go ahead but rescuers found Ikenouchi, the guide on the expedition, dead on the mountain.
Nara was airlifted from the mountain and suffered frostbite to his hands and face. He was able to walk to the helicopter.
Constable Paul Swanson said Nara was talking to an interpreter but was very unwell.
Mr Ikenouchi - who helped in a rescue on the mountain five years ago - is the 69th climber known to have died on New Zealand's highest peak, and the seventh Japanese.
Ikenouchi and Nara are understood to have lost their tent on Wednesday and may have lost a sleeping bag as well, leaving only one between them.
The pair were in contact during the night but lost verbal communication about 1am.
But when daylight and a rescue helicopter arrived this morning, Ikenouchi was discovered dead.
The men spent last night in the open as their tent either became buried in snow or blew away, said Gaskin.
The pair were attempting Mt Cook's Grand Traverse, climbing from the Hooker Valley to the South Peak, summiting from there, before heading down to Plateau Hut.
The slow progress meant they were caught out by a mountain storm and forced to bivouac at high altitude.
The conditions finally cleared this morning and the rescue team flew in by helicopter at 5.30am.
The position where the climbers were holed up meant a rescuer had to hang from a long rope beneath the helicopter and scoop up the climbers in separate trips.
"It's pretty perilous sort of stuff," said Gaskin.
Thanks to Stuff for latest information.