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Missed turn leads to night out for tramper

NEIL RATLEY AND NICCI MCDOUGALL
Last updated 14:03 04/03/2014

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A 40-year-old tramper spent a night sheltering under a rock after missing a turn-off on a walking track near Glenorchy.

Senior Sergeant John Fookes, of Queenstown, said the English man was reported missing on Sunday night after he failed to return from his day tramp on the Lake Sylvan- Rockburn-Sugarloaf-Routeburn circuit near Glenorchy.

He was found cold but unharmed yesterday morning.

He had missed a turn-off on the track and instead of his intended route, continued several hours in the wrong direction. This forced him to spend the night under a rock in the Rockburn valley, Mr Fookes said.

The man, who lives in Australia, was travelling in New Zealand with his wife and child and had been dropped off by his family at the Lake Sylvan car park at 6.45am on Sunday, he said.

When he failed to arrive at the Routeburn Road end on Sunday evening his family contacted police.

A helicopter and crew equipped with night vision and infrared equipment searched for him in the early hours of yesterday but they were unable to find him.

Weather conditions were poor with snow flurries on alpine sections of the route and rain, wind and cloud, he said.

Two ground teams of search and rescue volunteers went into the route from opposite ends and yesterday morning met at the junction of the Rockburn Track and the Sugarloaf Pass Track.

They continued up the Rockburn Track and at 9.30am found the man about a 20-minute walk further along the track.

About 14 people were involved in the ground and air search for the man.

Mr Fookes said it was a timely reminder that weather at this time of year was changeable.

If people were going on an extended day trip or overnight they needed to make sure they had suitable clothing for the changeable weather.

People also needed a good understanding of their route and to make sure they had a decent map and the ability to read it, he said.

Police also "strongly encouraged" people to carry a personal locator beacon, Mr Fookes said.

The man was "reasonably well equipped" with a Department of Conservation map and was adequately clothed.

Senior Sergeant Steve Aitken, of the Southern District Command Centre, said people should also check weather forecasts and always make sure someone knew of their intended route. 

 

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