Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Spring Storms Make For Dangerous Tramping

A river in flood can be a terrifying thing.

It may be going on fall for many of you, but down here spring is in the air and we are basking in the delights of daylight saving time. It's so tempting once the longer days arrive to head for the hills and enjoy some quality time in the bush. But with spring bringing some intense weather this year, it has led to unexpected adventures for some.

One recent even has a happy ending. A Scottish man went tramping in the Tararua ranges, but got into trouble when he slipped and fell down a steep slope. To climb back up to the track with an injured leg he had to ditch much of the weight in his pack, and he was unable to walk out.

Although he managed to raise the alarm the next day (nobody has said how he did this - but it's possible he had cell reception in the area) the winds were gusting up to 150 km/h so a helicopter rescue was out of the question. Teams were sent in on foot to locate him. He spent a second night in the bush, having made himself a little 'nest' out of flax on a sheltered ledge.

By the time he was found he was in the early stages of hypothermia, but rescuers got him to a backcountry hut where they looked after him overnight until a helicopter flight was possible. Rescuers were impressed with his mental toughness, and believe that's what got him through the experience.

The other recent spring storm story does not have a happy ending. A woman in her fifties, who was an ecologist and botanist (and therefore should know a thing or two about the natural environment) was out tramping in Egmont National Park with her daughter. Despite a warning from Dept. of Conservation staff about the possibility of rising river levels after heavy rain, she attempted to cross a swollen stream.

The stream was waist-deep and moving fast after a night of heavy rain. The rain had arrived ahead of the predicted time, and the two trampers decided to continue on their planned route rather than taking an alternative track that would not cross the stream.

Wearing a heavy pack, the woman was swept off her feet while her daughter was helpless to save her. Rescuers found the woman's body 500 metres downstream.

River crossings claim more trampers' lives in New Zealand than any other kind of accident. People seem to forget that a river that was crossable yesterday, may be impassable today. Hopefully the unfortunate woman's death with serve as a timely reminder during these unpredictable spring rains.

Windy Hilltops was also inspired to write a post on river crossing after this unfortunate event.


Mike said...

Wow, that's a really impressive photo. Can I ask where it is?

According to the Wairarapa Times-Age, he apparently walked around for about 3-4 days with almost nothing except the essentials and presumably injured in some way, first trying to find a track and then somewhere with cellphone coverage while trying to preserve his battery at the same time.

Maple Kiwi said...

The photo is of the Evans River. I seem to have neglected to credit it - but it's from the NZAC, Wellington Chapter.

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