Preparation key after trampers rescued in freezing conditions


Police are urging trampers that preparation is vital after a party of four people were rescued off Mt Ngäuruhoe in freezing conditions yesterday evening.

A party of eight tourists aged in their late 20's to early 30's began a tramp up the Mountain at about 4pm when they struck difficulties.

Four fell and sustained minor injuries and the remaining four went for help.

During this time the mountain iced up severely and the injured group became stuck, unable to move up or down due to the danger the ice posed.

The four that went for help contacted police at about 5:30pm and a search and rescue operation was initiated.

Police staff, the Taupo Greenlea Rescue helicopter and crew, St Johns Ambulance, and 12 members of the Ruapehu Alpine Rescue Organisation worked together in the dark to locate the four people.

Constable Conrad Smith, of National Park Police said the ice on the mountain was extremely hard and that the only option was to rescue the four by helicopter.

"At this time of the evening darkness had well set in and we managed to locate the party of four using night vision goggles.

Cloud came in adding another hazard on the steep icy slope but fortunately it cleared enough to get the helicopter to them.

"To give an idea of how solid the ice was, one of the rescuers who assisted the four people off the Mountain, used their ice axe to attempt to anchor themselves, however this twisted completely out of shape and was unusable.

"This was a very technical rescue with significant risks and the highly skilled rescue team did a fantastic job given the conditions.

There was no doubt that the four people would have unlikely made it to the morning given how cold it was and the wind chill was well below zero.

All eight people were seen by ambulance staff and the four injured received medical treatment.

"Unfortunately the party of eight were not experienced, unprepared for the elements, and were using gear that was not suitable for the conditions.

"I can't stress enough that being properly prepared could save your life.

Winter is here and winter alpine conditions can be dangerous, and its paramount that the correct gear and experience is required to go with that environment," said Constable Smith.