GPS alerts dad to climber's plight

JESSICA MADDOCK IN WANAKA
Last updated 05:00 20/11/2012

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A Canadian climber rescued from Mt Aspiring at the weekend survived because he did everything right, police say.

Sergeant Paul Crosswell, of Wanaka, said the 27-year-old climber reached the summit of the mountain on Friday.

He was coming down on Saturday when the weather closed in and he became disoriented and made a snow cave for shelter. His father was following his progress from Australia, using an internet GPS service called Spot Tracker.

He became worried when the equipment showed his son had not moved for several hours and contacted Wanaka police.

"We assessed his movements. There were two options - he'd either come to grief or he'd hunkered down out of the weather," Mr Crosswell said.

The LandSAR alpine cliff rescue team attempted to rescue the man using a helicopter on Saturday morning but were unsuccessful because of the bad weather.

Soon after, the man sent his father a text message saying he was cold, wet and lost. He also activated the distress signal on his tracking device.

"So we knew he was still alive but he couldn't make his own way down," Mr Crosswell said.

The weather cleared on Sunday, allowing the rescuers to winch the man to safety. Mr Crosswell said the man had all the right equipment for an unexpected night on the mountain.

However, he said it was unwise to climb alone at high altitude, particularly at this time of year when there was a lot of snow.

The man's level of experience was unknown, Mr Crosswell said.

He was suffering from dehydration and snow-blindness and was treated at the Wanaka Medical Centre.

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