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Alpine regions carry higher consequences, says MSC

Chief executive of the Mountain Safety Council (MSC) Mike Daisley is deeply saddened by the recent fatality in the Central North Island and is urging anyone considering tramping in this region to prepare for alpine conditions.

The word ‘Alpine’ was added a few years back to what we know as the ‘Tongariro Alpine Crossing’ for a reason.”
“Many people may not know there is still deep snow on the ground in many places as well as potential avalanche paths in this region.”

Daisley mentioned that even the difference between Taupo and Red Crater, the track summit, can catch people unaware.

“Taupo is at around 360m above sea level, and Red Crater is at around 1800m. That leads to a ten-degree drop in atmospheric temperature as you climb to the summit. So if it’s 15 degrees in Taupo you need to be ready for 5 degrees at the summit.

“Then, you’ll need to factor in ‘wind chill’ of 1 degree for every 10km/h of wind. It’s not uncommon to have 50km’h+ of wind in exposed places, so there’s another 5 degrees less to add to the equation.

“If you wrap all of this together you’ll need to be ready for zero degrees on the track when you’re standing in Taupo with a coffee in a tee shirt in 15 degrees if there’s a 50km/h wind at the summit.

Daisley said it was too soon to know exactly how this incident happened, but that sticking together as a group is the recommended policy.

“We’re working with Police and with the Coroner’s office in due course to ascertain exactly how and why this group got separated.

“People who get separated from their group make up a mere 5% of the total tramping fatalities in the last ten years. Hypothermia contributed 6 of the 57 fatalities during that period.

“The real tragedy is that this incident appears to have been preventable, and should serve as a stark reminder to all people exploring alpine regions of New Zealand that when things go wrong in this kind of environment the consequences are often very high.

“If this had happened at lower altitude there would have been a higher chance of surviving this ‘unexpected night out.’ Sadly, his family and friends are now grieving.

“MSC is continually focused on understanding how these incidents happen and working with our partners to reduce them in the future.

“We extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends.

For more information as well as free resources and guides to help you stay safe in alpine regions, head to www.mountainsafety.org.nz

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