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Respect NZ Weather in the Mountains

27 April 2006

Respect NZ Weather in the Mountains

Any people visiting the New Zealand outdoors must come prepared – that’s the message from the Department of Conservation.

Ruapehu Area Manager Nicola Patrick said the second death of a person walking the Tongariro Crossing this season prompted her to release a warning about the extreme risks that exist in New Zealand alpine areas.

“Some visitors to New Zealand don’t appear to appreciate how changeable our weather conditions are, especially in the mountains. One minute it can be warm and sunny, the next it can be raining with extremely strong wind. It is not an exaggeration and people must be prepared for all conditions.

“That means carrying warm layers of wool or thermal clothing, a woollen hat and gloves and a quality jacket and overtrou. The biggest mistake people can make is to wear jeans – they are hopeless if they get wet.”

Ms Patrick said that while it was unknown at this time what caused the woman’s death, all visitors needed to be prepared in case they had to stop in bad conditions, for a twisted ankle for example.

“The risk of hypothermia is real and if you are older or have an existing medical condition, the risk is greater. Even young fit people can get hypothermia if they do not take the right gear.

We regularly see people walking in alpine terrain in sandals or gumboots, wearing jeans or cotton clothing, and carrying inadequate jackets – if they take them at all.

The other perhaps not so obvious challenge about being in the New Zealand environment is that help is not always that close or that accessible. Low cloud will prevent a helicopter from getting in to evacuate people.”

Ms Patrick said she wanted people to enjoy the Tongariro National Park and other conservation areas, but to come prepared for all weather.

“Most New Zealanders know how changeable our weather is in this country, but I worry about overseas visitors, especially those from large continents where their weather is more naturally stable.

The Tongariro Crossing is a fantastic and challenging tramp with spectacular views when the weather is clear, but don’t go unless you’re prepared. It’s known as one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, but the word walk is a misleading – it is a challenge trek that takes 6-8 hours.”

ENDS

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