Mountain rescues prompt police warning

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Ruapehu is fun but stick to the designated areas if you don't have the skills and equipment for going into the back country warn police.
Ruapehu is fun but stick to the designated areas if you don't have the skills and equipment for going into the back country warn police.

Mt Ruapehu skifield visitors should stay inside the designated areas unless they have the skills, experience and equipment to be self-sufficient in the back country, police warn.

The message follows an incident last week in which police had to use a helicopter to rescue two people, unprepared for back-country conditions, who had ventured past skifield boundaries.

With big weekend crowds, boundaries could be difficult to monitor. So many people flocked to ski Mt Ruapehu in Saturday's dazzling weather that the road to the Whakapapa ski area had to be closed. There were 5000 people at the Turoa ski area, and 4600 at Whakapapa that day, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts marketing manager Anna McLaren said.

"Skifield areas are staffed by ski patrols, and they put a lot of effort into making sure there are appropriate safety measures in place," said Constable Conrad Smith, of National Park Police.

"This includes roping off cliffs, ensuring there is adequate avalanche control and providing first aid and rescue responses for people who need it."

When venturing out into back country, there are no safety measures in place, and if you are unprepared, you are putting your life in danger, Mr Smith said.

Anyone planning such a trip should carry an avalanche probe, avalanche transceiver and shovel and know how to use them correctly, he said. This equipment greatly increased chances of rescue should an emergency occur.

Police also advise people to travel with someone else, as the gear is of no use for lone travellers.
Police also strongly recommend checking the NZ Avalanche Advisory website and talking to ski patrols about the conditions before heading out.

"Going out without up-to-date information and proper equipment is a recipe for disaster," Mr Smith said.

"This is especially true in areas like Mt Ruapehu, which experience extreme conditions and a changing landscape due to the elements."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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