by Greta Yeoman
International trampers have been the subject of 65% of search and rescue efforts in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park over the past decade, statistics show.
A new Mountain Safety Council report shows 94 people exploring the national park’s tramping tracks between July 2007 and June 2017 required search and rescue teams.
Region’s deaths comparatively low
Two trampers died in the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park during 2007-2017 due to falls. Both were overseas trampers, Mountain Safety Council data shows.
Six New Zealanders and four international visitors died on Queenstown Lakes tracks; nine internationals and two New Zealanders died in Southland; and seven New Zealanders and three internationals died on tramping tracks in the Tasman region.
Nationally, 35% of trampers who required search and rescue were under 25. Forty-nine percent of fatalities were solo trampers, and male trampers accounted for 70% of deaths.
Over 10 years, 57 trampers lost their lives in an accident – 21 were men tramping alone.
None of this data included mountaineers or climbers, and excluded all accidents or fatalities in which people had been required to use technical equipment such as crampons, ice axes and ropes to ascend a mountain, an MSC spokesman said.
One in three search and rescue efforts were for trampers on the popular Sealy Tarns/Mueller Hut tracks.
Department of Conservation Aoraki operations manager Brent Swanson said the park’s Alpine Rescue Team was “adequately funded and staffed”.
The Doc-managed team worked closely with police and Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand, the lead agencies for all search and rescue operations in New Zealand, Mr Swanson said.
Mountain Safety Council communications manager Nick Kingstone said part of the issue with the number of international trampers involved in SAR incidents was people were often unprepared for the park’s alpine climate.
While the tracks themselves were not necessarily as difficult as others in the country, the fast-changing weather in the alpine area could catch people out.
“The consequences are stronger.”
Mr Kingstone said the report showed outdoor continue making improvements in passing on information about the risks of the alpine outdoors.
“[Those areas] do have higher consequences.”
This risk was highlighted on Monday evening, when a team of eight Search and Rescue staff were called to locate two missing trampers in the Hooker Valley, after the pair became disoriented when it got dark.
They were found later that evening.
The Mountain Safety Council report Are We There Yet? estimated 9600 people walked the two-hour Sealy Tarns track between July 2016 and June 2017, and 3100 trampers carried on further up the track to Mueller Hut.
By comparison, about 85,000 people were estimated to have walked the reasonably flat, three-hour return Hooker Valley track.