Wilderness trampers urged to beacon up

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 19/05/2014
beacons
KITTED OUT: Trampers Cliff Peady, of Australia, left, Herman Pontow, of Germany. and American Mason Noyes of USA, look forward to walking the Milford Track out of season but are well prepared and have each taken a personal locator beacons with them in case they run into trouble. 

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Off-season trampers are being urged to be prepared before heading into the wilderness and a personal locator beacon is an essential piece of equipment, tramping experts say.

Tracknet owner Clint Tauri, who delivers trampers to the start of their adventures, said his company demanded that customers had a personal locator beacon with them before they got a ride.

Carrying the lightweight and life-saving device was especially important when the crowds and hut wardens were off the popular Great Walks in the south.

"When the Great Walk season finishes, the tracks like Milford Sound don't close and we can still drop people off who want to tramp them," he said.

Many tourists still wanted to get the wilderness experience and at a time when they had the tracks to themselves.

"Having a personal locator beacon could prove a life-saver if anything does go wrong," Tauri said. "I have a close friend who would have probably died if he was not carrying one."

His mate was on a hunting trip when he punctured a lung.

Coughing up blood and unable to move as darkness approached, he activated his beacon.

"Within an hour, a rescuer was being lowered through the tree canopy. My friend said it was ‘the prettiest sight' he had ever seen," Tauri said.

"He was in a bad way and would not have lasted the night."

For anyone looking for a remote experience, paying to hire a personal locator beacon was a small price for peace of mind.

Search and rescue co-ordinator Senior Sergeant Brian Benn, of Dunedin, said a beacon took the "search" out of search and rescue.

The experienced southern SAR member said on many occasions searches and rescues he had led had a happy ending because of a beacon, but it had to be on the person to make it effective, he said.

"There have been incidents where people had all the gear but it ended up going down with the boat or pack instead of being with the person in trouble." 

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