Ben Hill is a reporter for The New Zealand Herald

Routeburn Track death: DOC avalanche warning for remote hut

A tramper says conditions had been "pretty bad" on the Routeburn Track where a Czech tramper waited for a month after her partner's death.

Dunedin tramper Barry Walker was on the track last weekend, in the vicinity of the Lake Mackenzie warden's hut where the woman from the Czech Republic had been holed up since early August.

"The snow was basically a metre high, we went from Glenorchy through to the Falls hut, and then up to Lake Harris.

"I'm not at all surprised that she was caught there... she was basically trapped between two high points of snow a metre deep, and she did the right thing by staying there.

Conditions on the track were "pretty bad", he said.

"The reason that nobody's probably been through, our plan was to do the trip this weekend from Te Anau and DOC said don't go that way because there's an avalanche warning.

"We had planned to go through Mackenzie, and 22 people would've found her at Mackenzie, but because DOC told us not to go there we didn't."

Walker suspected the Czech trampers had taken a risky path.

"It's very easy to slip there and it's very easy to get off track, and they were on the highest point. She did the best thing she could.

"The extraordinary thing really is that nobody went through and found her, and that's probably because normal people wouldn't go round the saddle because it's too risky, and DOC was advising people not to go that way.

"She was very lucky but she did the right thing."

A spokesman for the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council said if the trampers were more informed they potentially wouldn't have got into strife.

"It would've been terrifying for her to be out there on her her own, in that sort of terrible weather."

He commended her for staying put in the hut, saying it was the best way to ensure she survived the ordeal.

"Anyone that sets off on one of these walks needs to let someone know where they're going."

Overseas visitors were particularly encouraged to seek local advice before embarking on a tramp.

"You want everyone to make it back home, and the sad thing about this particular event is that is that not everyone did."

He said there were measures people could take before they began tramping to ensure their safety, including taking personal location beacons.

"It's certainly a tragic event, and our thoughts are with the family and friends of those involved after what's happened."

- NZ Herald

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