The death of a tramper on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing will cause many New Zealanders to pause and reflect on the 19km challenge.

A 53-year-old man's body was found on Mount Tongariro yesterday morning, after four men set out at 8am on Wednesday.

The group had been hiking from Ketetahi to Mangatepopo, which is the reverse of the typical route that trampers take. They were not dressed appropriately for the conditions, searchers say.

Only three of the men survived, after the group split up two hours into the hike, and the weather deteriorated into blizzard-like conditions.

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Mostly in summer, people safely make the crossing every day, woefully underprepared.

Having tackled the crossing as part of a well prepared group of four, we saw a couple with a toddler; there may even have been a baby in a backpack.

Most people wore running shoes, some wore leather office type shoes.

A few looked like they had stepped off a tour bus in downtown Wellington or Auckland to shop at Prada or David Jones. Trampers? No, tourists.

A French national in our group did not make it to the bus in the Ketetahi car-park on time. Our tour guide was furious, because it happened frequently, apparently.

We left without her. And checked the news in the subsequent days - there were no deaths reported. The ignorance of people on the mountain was astounding. Some did not seem to comprehend the fitness, clothing or provisions required.

That was summer, albeit with a risk of dehydration, but in a season that lacks the killer cold and unpredictability of winter and spring.

It is human nature to take risks and we are a so-called outdoor nation that hates restrictive environmental regulation that targets humans.

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But if workplace regulations exist to avoid injury and death, why are places of recreation not more heavily regulated to safeguard against poor judgement?

The unpalatable prospect of less freedom in the outdoors, and more rules and regulations seems to be the only solution to stopping people dying on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.