safety in the mountains

Attention must be directed to the dangers of remote country travel, you can be a long way from not much, those who don’t venture out will always raise the issue, almost thinking up excuses to avoid the Little Adventure, find some other way to occupy time.

There’s plenty of reasons to be fearful: drowning, hypothermia, dropping off some height, carbon monoxide poisoning in a bivvy, etc. Then again there’s more in civilisation, both dramatic, car crash, or, more seemingly benign, sloth.

NZ weather is changeable and potentially fearsome.

Blizzard conditions are possible in mid-summer and the day can start perfect and crash in savage in an hour. Temperature can plunge in minutes, the wind gale force, the rain torrential, that means overtrou, mittens and beanies need to be close at hand and donned before body temperature drops. Creeks turn into torrents, suddenly treacherous, then again they can go down almost as rapidly: patience is a virtue, better to sit and wait it out and let the flood subside.

Many of the mountain passes retain snow and other than the spring avalanche danger there’s usually some prospect of ice underfoot, of careening down steep slopes into those rocks below. Those crampons and ice axe can be handy despite the extra ballast.

These days there’s always that emergency locator beacon for those in serious trouble: push that button and within an hour, weather conditions permitting, a rescue chopper is hovering noisily above. Worth the weight, particularly for solo trampers or small groups.

There’s a balance between extreme adventure and a pure cottonwool existence and it comes down to this: preparation and reading signs of danger.

Recently people have died on a very popular tramp: the Robert Ridge, on their way up to Angelus Hut. Only a few hours away from civilisation. They did not read the conditions and made poor decisions, like, not turning back when it was clear the situation could deteriorate.

They would have had a better chance of survival had they been carrying a PLB, a personal locator beacon.

These should be activated as soon as serious danger is apparent. A helicopter is sent to investigate, usually within an hour.

Had they done so it is likely that they could have been rescued. And there is no charge for this service.

winter/spring tramping in the South Island → ← tramping costs, it all adds up