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UPDATE: Tongariro Alpine Crossing trampers return safely

"UPDATE: Tongariro Alpine Crossing trampers return safely"

The Greenlea Rescue Helicopter was able to uplift all four trampers and all LandSAR volunteers today from Oturere Hut, thanks to clear weather conditions.

The woman has been assessed by paramedics and taken to Taupo Hospital for further assessment.

The other three are safe and well.

Senior Constable Barry Shepherd says all four trampers had travelled down from Auckland on Friday night, generally well prepared for the crossing.

The group consisted of three men and one woman in their late twenties and early thirties.

“It appears that a late start and separation amongst the group meant the trip didn’t go to plan,” says Senior Constable Shepherd.

“Due to its popularity, people seem to underestimate the challenge of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

“Getting caught in a blizzard while not sticking together caused the group to inadvertently separate.

Two of the trampers went ahead of the other two, a couple, as one was having trouble with their crampons.

“It’s easy to speed ahead if you’re experienced but tramping groups should always accommodate the abilities of the slowest member of the group, not their own.

“If you start together, finish together,” he says.

The two who were ahead, after waiting for a period of time, continued to Oturere Hut.

Meanwhile, the couple were still walking but got concerned when, after three hours of walking on a track that was supposed to take one and a half hours, they had not arrived at the hut.

They stopped and called for help at 8:40pm as weather conditions and their own physical conditions deteriorated.

As the helicopter was unable to reach the area, Search and Rescue teams headed onto the track.

Just before midnight the two trampers at the hut contacted Police.

They were concerned for the whereabouts of their friends and headed back out to find them.

Eventually, they found each other and the woman was carried back to the hut due to hypothermia.

“Our key concern with the planning of their trip was the timing.

They didn’t get to the top of Tongariro until 5pm, when it was almost dark, due to their late start,” says Senior Constable Shepherd.

"Then, when they got in trouble, they didn’t call for help until it was very dark and one tramper was unable to walk.

We’d hope people would call for help sooner.”

LandSAR volunteers reached the group at approximately 2:45am this morning and stayed the night with them at the hut.

“All their clothing was wet so although they had all the right gear, they didn’t have it in waterproof packing.

They had adequate food, drink and clothing, until the blizzard hit – a highly likely event at this time of year,” he says.

“We’ve asked them to just share their learnings with their friends who are keen on the outdoors, to ensure others don’t repeat their mistakes.

“The group are thankful to the rescuers and are being quite reflective at this point.

"New Zealand’s outdoor life is beautiful and exciting but unfortunately it can be extremely unforgiving.”

Police urge trampers to ensure they prepared, plan for their trips and remain cautious throughout.

For those who are inexperienced, consider hiking with a guide.

Trampers should give themselves more than enough time to make it to their destination and to turn back to the starting point if necessary.

Police would like to thank Greenlea Rescue Helicopter and the two crew members, the six LandSAR volunteers and other emergency services for their efforts throughout this rescue.

Further advice can be found at the NZ Mountain Safety Council’s website: mountainsafety.org.nz


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