Bulldozer reaches snowbound 4WDs on the Old Man Range

By Lynda van Kempen

Aerial view of some of the recently stranded four wheel drive vehicles being escorted off the Old Man Range. Photo / Joy Bennett
Aerial view of some of the recently stranded four wheel drive vehicles being escorted off the Old Man Range. Photo / Joy Bennett

A mission to recover the 13 4WD vehicles buried in snow on the Old Man Range looks to have been successful.

A bulldozer driven by ''an experienced operator'' at Harliwich Holdings managed to push through a path along Waikaia Bush Rd, office administrator Christine Bennenbroek said this afternoon.

All but one of the vehicles had been reached and were being driven out, Fairfax reported.

Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper said he had heard that vehicles should be recovered by Sunday night. One of the vehicles could not be started, but he believed the crew was working to bring it down with the others.

The council originally put a curfew of 5pm on the recovery operation, but it has been extended to 8pm, he said.

The salvage mission began at dawn yesterday and reached the buried vehicles this morning.

The vehicles belong to a group of 4WD enthusiasts from Southland who had to be rescued a fortnight ago after spending almost 20 hours stranded when a snowstorm hit the area, 1300m above sea level, near Roxburgh.

The condition of the vehicles was being assessed this morning before any attempts to retrieve them got under way.

A salvage attempt with a bulldozer a week ago was stalled after the Central Otago District Council said the group did not have consent to ''do work'' on the council road.

Since then, the council has worked with the group and given permission for this weekend's operation, provided the group followed an agreed safety plan, which included closing the road below the snow line, during the salvage.

Ms Bennenbroek said there was ''a lot more snow'' in the area since the first salvage attempt a week ago and cutting a path was a slow task.

''They're taking it slowly but carefully and because they were going uphill to get there, it was slow progress.''

The weather was fine and sunny and a hard frost last night would have made a good, hard base for the track, she said.

Several support vehicles were following the bulldozer. The operation had to stop before dark each day.

GPS was used to follow the road, which was buried in several metres of snow.

There was no estimate on how long the actual recovery of the vehicles might take.

- Otago Daily Times

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