Central North Island police and LandSAR have rescued six people who underestimated the challenges of walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the last week.

On Sunday, a 74-year-old Finnish woman was hiking on the track and called for help when she was so exhausted she could not walk any further.

She began having trouble walking at Blue Lake, near the top of Mt Tongariro.

Her shuttle bus driver said although she was well-prepared and experienced, her legs simply gave out on her while she was walking with her husband.

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Terry Steven, the owner and driver of shuttle service Roam Aotearoa was waiting at the Mangatepopo end of the track for his clients and when they hadn't returned to the bus by 5.30pm after a start of 7am or 8am, he began checking with returning walkers.

He quickly learned that they were in the bush section of the track but still some distance from the end.

He began walking in, called 111 for help after a passing runner told him that the woman had stopped and needed help, then carried on till he met the couple.

A Land Search and Rescue team from Turangi arrived about an hour later with a stretcher and carried the woman out.

"They were four guys, really great guys, fantastic."

St John Ambulance was waiting at the road end and checked the woman out before Mr Steven delivered her back to her hotel. He says although she was obviously very tired, there did not appear to be a medical issue.

ROTORUA DAILY POST
21 Jan, 2018 5:00am
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Steven said people who get into trouble on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing often are not fit enough, or are not carrying enough warm gear, food or water, but that was not the case this time.

"They were deeply surprised that her legs stopped working – she just ran out of the ability to stand up. She was very shocked that it happened.

"She was fit, not overweight, she looked good. We've had people older than that do it and we've had a lot of younger people who have had serious issues."

He said he often has to walk in from the road end to meet people struggling to complete the Crossing after underestimating the effort required, and the situation can quickly turn serious if the weather is poor.

"We're up there 7, 8, 9pm is not untypical, and we walk down with them."

While shuttle operators will check people have the right gear, food and water, those who park at the far end and catch a shuttle to the start don't have anybody checking up on them if they get delayed, Steven said.

"It's quite isolated up there, you're a long way from help and the helicopters can't get in there in bad weather."

Senior Constable Barry Shepherd said the woman was checked over and was able to leave with her husband without medical treatment.

An alarm was also raised last Thursday night when a 43-year-old Wellington woman and her daughter, 14, failed to make it to the end of the track.

They started the hike at 10am and were reported overdue when they had not arrived at the end by 9.30pm.

Shepherd said police were alerted by worried parents and friends calling for help.

Fortunately, a trio of women on the track had come across the pair and chaperoned them to the finish at 11.30pm, he said.

Yesterday, two people were rescued from the summit of Red Crater - the midpoint on the Alpine Crossing.

Two 18-year-old men, one from Auckland and the other from South Africa, were in a group of four doing the Tongariro Northern Circuit when they were overcome by exhaustion and cold.

Shepherd said thick low cloud meant the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter from Taupo was unable to fly to the men, and a four-person LandSAR team from Turangi was mobilised.

The team was flown in as far as possible up the Oturere Valley and continued on foot to find the men huddled in cloud at 1868m above sea level, at the summit.

They received first aid and were helped down to the Oturere Valley.

The cloud prevented any helicopter evacuation, so the rescuers walked out to Desert Rd then drove home, while the trampers spent the night at Oturere Hut.

"Tongariro is an alpine environment, so it is suggested people have a good level of physical fitness and endurance if they are planning on hiking the Crossing.

"It can take at least eight hours, has steep climbs and frequently changing weather conditions.

"Wear hiking boots, take plenty of food and clothing, bring a hat for hot and cold weather and a torch is essential.

"Make sure you are finished before sunset as it's not fun hiking a mountain in the dark if you've not planned for it."

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing attracts people from all over the world and is a memorable achievement, however local police, LandSAR, the Department of Conservation and iwi encourage people to attempt the 19km tramp with some thought, preparation and respect, so it's memorable for the right reasons.