Communication the key for trampers

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 11:15 04/01/2014

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People venturing into the bush overnight are being urged to take multiple forms of communication with them after five trampers had to be airlifted out of the Tararua Ranges.

The trampers had been delayed when their chosen route was impassable. With no way to contact friends or family, the alarm was raised when they did not finish their trip on time and a search and rescue operation was launched.

Andy Brooke, the officer in charge of Palmerston North police search and rescue, said while this incident was resolved "fairly quickly" it was a timely reminder to be prepared when entering the bush.

"A personal locator beacon would have alerted authorities that there was a problem at a certain location which could have reduced the search time.

"A satellite communication device such as a SPOT or inReach would have enabled the group to advise their contacts that they were OK, but running late, and of their location."

The group were overdue in the Otaki Forks Area when the alarm was raised with Palmerston North police search and rescue on Thursday night.

The Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter, with a Levin search and rescue member and paramedic onboard, took to the air and eventually found the group at Penn Creek Hut.

They were unhurt but were airlifted out of the ranges because their gear had been soaked and it was getting late.

Palmerston North Tramping and Mountaineering Club president Anne Lawrence said people should take beacons or satellite devices if they felt the need to.

The club has personal locater beacons it can loan to both members and non-members, she said.

"If you have one you're likely to be safer than if you don't, but lots of people tramp perfectly safely without them."

Personal locator beacons send the user's GPS co-ordinates to the New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre and are to be used in emergencies only, she said.

Products like SPOT and inReach have the same function but also allow users to send their GPS co-ordinates to friends and family to say they are safe but delayed.

Such a facility would have come in handy for the five trampers rescued this week.

Mr Brooke said the group had been following a river on Wednesday to get out of the bush but came to an area that was too difficult to traverse.

"They made the very wise decision to turn back. They spent the night on the track on the way back to Penn Creek Hut and continued on to the hut [on Thursday]."

They were drying out their gear at the hut, intending to go back to Otaki Forks via Judd Ridge yesterday, when they were found by the helicopter team.

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Volunteers from Horowhenua LandSAR were on standby to walk into the area.

- Manawatu Standard

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