Three rescued from Tongariro Crossing in icy conditions

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Three people were rescued in Tongariro National Park today. Photo/supplied
Three people were rescued in Tongariro National Park today. Photo/supplied

Three people were rescued in Tongariro National Park today.

A couple walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing contacted police at 11am, after slipping on ice and falling into North Crater.

The pair, in their twenties and visiting from Slovenia, had started the crossing from the Ketetahi Hut end, and had negotiated around Blue Lake when they encountered the ice.

Neither suffered injuries and were able to walk to the Emerald Lakes where they called police, unable to continue due to the icy conditions.

While the pair had adequate clothing with them, they did not have any equipment such as an ice axe or crampons on them.

Police dispatched the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter with Land Search and Rescue (LSAR) and a paramedic on board.

Taupo Senior Constable Barry Shepherd said low cloud meant the helicopter could not reach the couple.

Two Department of Conservation staff members, based at Mt Ruapehu, set off on food with LSAR rescuers.

The rescue group found the couple safe and well and the group began the walk out to Oturere Hut when they came across a man in his late twenties using rocks to cut steps in the ice to climb Oturere Valley, Mr Shepherd said.

Rescuers used their equipment to help the three reach Oturere Valley where they were picked up by the helicopter.

The group was then flown to Mangatepopo Rd.

No one had suffered any injuries or required any medical attention.

The helicopter then flew back to Oturere Valley to pick up the three rescuers.

Mr Shepherd said he was concerned for the safety of anyone going on the crossing without adequate equipment, including the large number of tourists that visited the area.

"Locals have to ensure they are giving tourists good advice as they may not fully appreciate the extreme conditions this part of the country can experience.

"The mountain was very busy today with lots of people under the supervision of guided tours who know the area well and do a great job.

"I would encourage more people, especially visitors to the area, to seek advice from these people before attempting the Crossing alone," he said.

Mr Shepherd said the group was very lucky in this case.

"Thankfully all three tourists are safe and well, however the day could easily have turned out very differently.

"Going out in New Zealand wilderness without proper equipment is a recipe for disaster."

He said conditions could change rapidly from sunshine and blue skies to cloud and snow, making conditions slippery without proper equipment.

"People are very seriously putting their lives in danger by not having the proper equipment with them," Mr Shepherd said.

Anyone going hiking should seek advice from experienced locals, ensure they have adequate clothing and food and make sure they have the necessary equipment on them.

"While the weather has been fairly mild recently, people have to be aware that it is still winter conditions and, at 1500 meters above sea level, the conditions can be extreme."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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