With the cold spell upon us it's timely to remind those using the outdoors to take extra care when venturing out. This was highlighted by an incident which occurred yesterday in the Whirinaki Forest Park south east of Murupara.
Two off-duty Police officers heading out for an overnight hunting trip located a pair of American tourists at the Plateau Road end of the Whirinaki Track. This was following the dumping of snow which had fallen during the day and preceding night, leaving several inches on the ground.
The pair of tourists had walked in from the northern end of the park, spent the night at the Central Whirinaki Hut, and had intended to go to another hut but had been hampered by the cold conditions, and the many river crossings they encountered, which had left them wet and tired.
When found by the off-duty officers it had been their intention to walk back to their vehicle at Minginui via the forestry roads. They had not realised this was more than 50 kilometres, and that without some local knowledge it would been almost impossible to successfully negotiate the maze of roads, especially given they were all now under a coating snow.
The area is very remote, and especially at this time of year you can go all day without seeing another soul.
The pair were well equipped with good gear and plenty of food, but the prospect of spending a night in the open in conditions such as this may well have had serious consequences. They were very fortunate that the Police officers had a satellite phone with them, and were able to call to get assistance for the pair, who were picked up by the Murupara Police and driven back to their car.
With conditions such as they are, and with cold weather being the reality for the next month or so, I would stress that those going out be well prepared. At this time of year, it doesn't take much to turn what at any other time of year could be a benign incident into a life threatening emergency.