Trampers out safely after 'extreme storm'

Milford Track trampers arrive back safely at Milford Sound yesterday after experiencing some of worst flooding seen on the track for years. Photo / Olivia Caldwell
Milford Track trampers arrive back safely at Milford Sound yesterday after experiencing some of worst flooding seen on the track for years. Photo / Olivia Caldwell

After being stuck in flooded conditions for an extra night, 120 Milford Track trampers arrived in Milford Sound yesterday exhausted, unshowered, but upbeat.

More than 400mm of rain in Fiordland on Monday and Tuesday forced the trampers to bundle up for an extra night between the three Department of Conservation huts at Clinton, Mintaro and Dumpling.

Doc programme manager of visitor assets Annie Wallace said "an extreme storm" had seen rivers alongside the track burst their banks and make it too risky for walkers to continue on New Year's Day.

No-one was in any danger throughout the ordeal and all were either helicoptered out, or walked from the track before being taken by boat to the Milford Sound terminal

However, one French woman had to be airlifted out from the Kepler Track near Te Anau with hypothermia.

Mrs Wallace said water on some parts of the Milford Track would have gone well above the trampers' heads, so the decision to keep them inside overnight was an easy one.

"This was by far the biggest flood we have seen."

While food in one of the huts was down to a minimum by the third day of the walk, rangers supplied 40 trampers with canned food from emergency kits.

"Everyone had high spirits and were enjoying each others' company."

Canberra couple, Michael and Margaret Thompson, said they had never experienced rain like it, witnessing about 550mls in just 24 hours.

"It came down pretty hard," Mr Thompson said.

When the rain intensified on New Year's Eve the trampers were still an hour from Dumpling Hut and had no choice but to walk through the downpour.

"It was hard, but it was OK. As long as you had your wet weather gear you were fine.

"Most of us didn't see the New Year through; we were too tired."

Dinner included a can of tomatoes followed by a dessert of porridge and honey.

Doc's only concern now is the "unknown damage" to Milford Track, Mrs Wallace said.

- Otago Daily Times

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 20 Apr 2014 03:07:05 Processing Time: 729ms